Reality TV invades homes

By on October 10, 2002

It is the night of the week you have been waiting for, the night when you can just sit back and watch television. Suspense has taken over your body as you wonder if the characters you have grown to love would make it through another day.
These characters have become a part of everyday conversation and thought. As you flip the channel to your favorite reality television program, did you ever wonder why reality Television is so appealing?
Programs such as “Survivor,” “Temptation Island,” “Big Brother,” “The Real World,” “The Bachelor,” “Beg, Borrow, and Deal” and “The Great Race” are some examples of what society is tuned into.
When watching these shows, viewers feel they are a part of the situations, not just in the audience. Viewers speak to the screen and discuss their feelings to the characters in an intimate, vulnerable and emotional fashion.
Reality television shows allow viewers to become attached to the characters and imagine themselves in the given situations.
The shows are addictive. Even though the shows are highly monitored, the outcome is unpredictable to audience members, which mirrors real life.
Other than celebrity specials on “Fear Factor,” most of these shows deal with ordinary people.
“They are fun,” said student Kristina Hickey. “They are interesting. They are real.”
College students are especially attracted to these shows because the shows present peer models in a readily accessible format, according to Liam O’Brian, associate professor of mass communications.
“There are so many conflicts and dramas that occur within the show that you can not help but watch it week after week,” said student Craig Blakaitis. “It is like high school condensed into a half hour.”
Most reality shows are originally British. “Survivor” is adapted from a show from the British Broadcasting Corporation called “Cast Away.” BBC wanted to know if we were still pioneers, and arranged this experimental show.
The program was based on a group of approximately twenty people who were stranded on an island north of Scotland for a year. The members of the group was made to grow food by themselves and survive in an empty old house.
Some people left the show and problems arose, enticing viewers.
A British producer then conducted the idea into a game show type manner and turned it into “Survivor,” which is now approaching a fifth season.
Following “Survivor” was a snowball of reality television shows with broad audiences.
“Temptation Island” portrayed various couples, who decided to test their relationship and see if they would give into the temptations.
Ideas of trust, control and risk were elevated, encouraging viewers to relate to the characters by envisioning their own relationship in an uncertain environment.
Participants in these shows range in age, race, religion, class and sexual preference, allowing spectators to relate to them in a personal way.
Reality shows are also intensely scripted soap operas, where the danger level is highly orchestrated, but still realistic. An increased risk and threat is present, even though the situations are manipulated.
Because the predicaments show college age students facing danger, many peer viewers believe that they can attempt the same stunts.
“‘Fear Factor’ makes me feel that I am invincible,” said Jared Loss, student.
Sex is used to sell everything, including this new wave of television.
Student Ed Clemens tunes in weekly for what he describes as “the hot chicks”. The attractive casts tend to serve as an image viewers wish to portray.
“The Bachelor” uses sex as an overall theme for the television show, depicting an eligible bachelor as a perfect candidate for marriage, based on his looks.
The shows also give society an opportunity to find people they like.
“They are literally judging a book by its cover,” said O’Brien.
The participants also provide a feeling of accomplishment. ESPN’s new reality show, “Beg, Borrow, and Deal,” includes a scavenger hunt style as characters travel around the world without money.
“The Mole” is the most intellectual reality show, also based on a prize result. Fourteen people attempt to make money by winning challenges and avoiding the mole that is out to sabotage the group.
Reality shows challenge participants’ physical, emotional and mental strength as they attempt to win the game.
ABC’s “The Great Race,” the most expensive reality show to date, included thirty-five people who raced around the world to see who could finish first.
Another outcome of reality television is that it may inspire people to travel, see new things and be more open-minded.
“It teaches those successful some good lessons and those lessons include integrity, invention and adaptability,” said O’Brien. “If you demonstrate integrity, invention and adaptability, you’ve got a pretty good chance of being a survivor.”


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