Reality television burst onto the entertainment scene in the early 2000’s. Idols and Big Brother changed what audiences thought was possible, allowing the average Joe to be a voyeur into true-life dramatic events. The popularity of the shows was unprecedented, and so, inevitably, it wasn’t long before just about every network under the sun was attempting to get their own piece of the pie.
The result was an obvious one; a flood of so-called reality television. From Survivor to The Bachelor, the shows came thick and fast, attempting new angles and new themes, but always leaning on the angle that the show was reality. Some of them saw success, while others suffered obscurity in the face of massive saturation.
Reality Is A Pain
In show business there is a popular rule that says don’t work with animals and children. This is due to the fact that it is near impossible to control animals or children, which can result in hours, or even days of lost effort. The crew is ready, cameras set up, but the action is simply not happening. It is a nightmare, given that every hour wasted is costing a fortune.
Reality television is the extension of this dilemma. If nothing interesting or dramatic is occurring, the entire show can be a complete waste. Cameras are rolling, but who wants to see a person, no matter how real they are, sitting around playing pokies, reading a book, or doing something else that isn’t exactly a spectator sport? Hence, although reality television is still incredibly popular, shooting it can be a nightmare.
Create The Drama
What reality shows need is drama and good content in order to be noticed. So, naturally, with producers pumping money into shows not willing to take a gamble, parts of the shows were soon being scripted, but still wearing the disguise of being 100% reality television. Today the majority, if not all of reality television shows, are entirely scripted.
In 2010 a participant on the popular show House Hunters came forward to reveal that virtually everything she had been involved in was scripted. She explained that she had been told to lie about her backstory in order to create drama, and even knew exactly which house she and her husband were going to buy before filming on day one had begun.
Similarly in Storage Wars, David Hester, one of the most popular contestants, confessed that virtually the entire show was staged. The crux of the Storage Wars is everyday people buying abandoned storage units, hoping to find items of value. Hester confessed, however, that the producers planted items of value in the units in order to increase the drama.
Who Still Believes?
It is argued that few still really believe that reality television is actual reality. At least these days, anyway. The style of show has simply evolved, changed, and taken on a new form. The only surviving factors of genuine reality television shows are the format in which the show is presented. Which is to say; events unfolding, and the contestants involved talking directly to camera, commenting or adding more on what has unfolded.
Still, this format remains highly successful, with a long list of popular productions that draw in viewers by the thousands. The Apprentice, MasterChef, X Factor, Keeping Up With The Kardashians, The Amazing Race and many more continue to run season after season, with no sign of their popularity fading any time soon.
So, if the format keeps drawing in the viewers, there is no real reason to adapt. Most are probably keenly aware that the events unfolding are no longer what could be referred to as reality, but who really cares anymore?