When Philo T. Farnsworth invented the electric television, he probably did not think that it would be used to show people eating bugs, finding husbands based on votes of viewers, or living on deserted islands. But that is exactly what you can see any given night on television now. This newest form of television programming fad is the reality television genre. Reality television is now on every station, every night, everywhere. The web page Fact Monster credits the beginning of reality TV as beginning around 2000 when a little reality game show called Who wants to be a Millionaire hit television screens. Millionaire saw the rebirth of game shows but also started the most popular television genre in years. Some say that MTV’s The Real World was the first popular reality based show, but until Millionaire there were no popular reality shows on networks or primetime.
Fact Monster cites is CBS’ Survivor as the next show to that rose to TV stardom “boasting out-sized ratings, out-sized egos, out-sized personalities, and out-sized conflicts” where contestants are stranded on a desert island and kicked off one by one each week. As with anything that seems to get ratings, soon there were many knockoffs to follow. In 2001 reality TV continued to dominate the airwaves. Fact Monster refers to how “for the first time in eight years, NBC's “Must-See” Thursday night lineup did not reign in the ratings. Survivor II: The Australian Outback consistently beat Friends.”
In their article “‘The Osbournes': Genre, Reality TV, and the Domestication of Rock 'n Roll” Rick Pieto and Kelly Otter define the reality TV genre, saying “that it is in essence one that finds its most valuable content in the unabashed display of individuals willing to be put on display as they part with their privacy, dignity, and composure. The genre is fairly clear, yet the formula in the shows varies so as to keep it fresh and increasingly bizarre to maintain its audience. Young women compete for a husband on camera by attempting to win the affection of a bachelor in six weeks; individuals compete for money by conquering their fears and consume live insects or allow themselves to be submerged under water for as long as possible; and couples test the strength of their relationships by subjecting themselves to the temptation of desirable strangers. Love, fear, and confli...
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...ey will do next, in what way they will push the envelope. Some go too far, Fox’s show Married by America (a show where contestants are chosen spouses by telephone voters) was recently fined by the Federal Communication Commission for a broadcast that aired sexually charged scenes. Others are turning to a more feel good approach, like ABC’s The Biggest Loser, a weight loss challenge show that is receiving high ratings.
While I disagree with some of the tactics used by reality television shows, it appears that they around to stay. Networks are adding more and more reality programming to their lineups, and I suspect they will run the trend into the ground before they give up on it. Like with any form of television I believe people just need to take everything they see open eyes and realize that it has been edited and made to look a certain way. Still, it can be terribly entertaining at times.
"Infoplease Television Timeline." Fact Monster.
© 2000–2004 Pearson Education, publishing as Fact Monster.
28 Nov. 2004 .
“The Osbournes': Genre, Reality TV, and the Domestication of Rock 'n Roll.”
Pieto, Rick and Otter, Kelly. Counterblast.org.
28 Nov. 2004 .
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