You morons really believe that “reality” TV is real? What about rasslin? Nascar? Daytime Soaps? Breaking Bad? Fox News? NONE OF IT IS REAL and if you think it is, then maybe you don’t have the perception necessary to discern reality from fantasy.
The term “reality television” has been around since the 70’s with shows such as Real People or even the PBS documentary series An American Family but the term has metamorphosed so much in the last 30 or so years that what was “reality” TV in the 70’s has no real correlation with the “reality” of today. The point that most exemplifies our modern definition of “reality” television was America’s Most Wanted in 1988 on the then new Fox network. Prior to America’s Most Wanted, “reality” television could be summed up in numerous ways from daytime talk shows to documentaries even to hidden camera series such as Candid Camera but America’s Most Wanted opened the floodgates which as we saw never really closed and in fact were taken of the hinges and hauled away. What America’s Most Wanted did that was so revolutionary (if you wish to apply that term to something as vapid as ushering in “reality” television) were the lurid reenactments, the hyperbolic writing with the static and even toned line delivery by John Walsh, all of which would be emulated by the myriad of knock offs that sluiced out the following year. After America’s Most Wanted hit the air, every network was on the lookout for some kind of “reality” programming from a hospital series that acted as voyeur (Group One Medical for example) to the very “news” series that actually called themselves (sigh) “reality news” instead of the more common moniker given to them… tabloid TV. Shows like A Current Affair, Inside Edition and Hard Copy both embraced and rejected the term “tabloid” when it came to describing them and they took a liking to “reality news” which, frankly, is kind of an oxymoron isn’t it? I mean isn’t news reality by definition, at least shouldn’t it be?So, you had “reality” programs starting to take over the airwaves on all of the major networks and even independent TV stations making localized versions of America’s Most Wanted (Chicago’s Most Wanted, New York’s Most Wanted etc…). You had COPS on the Fox network creating it’s own brand of knock-offs and this is where the “reality” on television we know today really started, although even at this time it was honestly civilized compared to what would be coming in the following years.
There are really 6 types of “reality” TV with a multitude of sub-genres buried under each one (7 if you count sports as a kind of “reality” program).
There are the daytime talk shows which were given fame by the likes of Donahue, Oprah, Sally Jessie Raphael and Rikki Lake. The more extreme offshoots would of course follow and of these there were late night versions of the talk show with the rise of Morton Downey Jr, Jerry Springer and Geraldo (Rivera).
The “day to day life” or “watching someone spiral into oblivion” is the most popular style of “reality” show signified by Teen Mom, Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, The Osbournes, The Biggest Loser or Celebrity Rehab. Again there were offshoots which got more debased and crass like Sister Wives, Operation: Repo or Rock Of Love aka A Bus of Whores and VD.
The news “reality” ones as I pointed out above where full of graphic reenactments of already torrid crimes, sleazy scandals and broken people, which they considered were news, A Current Affair, Inside Edition, Hard Copy and even Entertainment Tonight all fall under this banner.
The contest shows are the ones who’s light rose the highest in the late 90’s when the “reality” term was redefined as to overtake what was formerly known as the game show. Survivor, The Amazing Race, Hell’s Kitchen or American Idol fall into this. American Gladiators started this trend in 89 and it really picked up by the late 90’s. Some of these in the contest category cross over into the other categories as well, such as The Biggest Loser is both a contest show and a “watch someone spiral into oblivion” show. In essence the contest shows are just a more extreme, “reality”, version of sports that are not really sports.
Tabloid/Manufactured conflict are really the same thing with slightly different approaches. Scare Tactics, The Real World, Road Rules, Big Brother, Wife Swap, Trading Spaces, Hardcore Pawn or American Chopper. This type of “reality” is engineered by the producers to create conflict within something where no real conflict existed prior. It is all manufactured and plays up the tabloid aspects more and more.
Laugh At The freak is the final one that exists as a header category. In Laugh At The Freak the producers present the viewer with someone so “weird” that the entire reason you watch is for exactly how insane it all seems to you as a normal and you as that normal get to feel superior to someone else. Hoarders, My Strange Addiction, COPS, Duck Dynasty, Extreme Cheapskates or Real Stories of the ER (although in the case of that one it is mostly reenactments rather than “reality”). Here Comes Honey Boo Boo also is one of those cross category items as it falls well into this area as well.
Now, lets signify that reality has no place in “reality” programming just as facts have no place within religious organizations. Reality (as in real reality) is quite boring frankly and that is why a movie can be a “true story” when 80% of the story on the screen presented is simply fabricated and “reality” TV is no different. You have to make it more interesting for the viewers because if you don’t, someone else will and you then fail at your job. Look at wrestling for example… you have real wrestling like the Olympics shows us and you then have rasslin from the WWF(E). The real thing is quite dull so they jazzed it up, co-opted the word and made it a hit. “Reality” TV is the same thing, showing real people cooking in a kitchen is repetitive and plodding, but add a foul mouthed brit, ethics free producers and a network with bottomless pockets, mix well and you have a decade long “reality” show. At some point “reality” TV became all about “gotcha” TV and yet somehow retained the designation of “reality” when in fact ALL (ALL damn it) “reality” TV is scripted. I want to make a “reality” show out of a “reality” show. Think about it, my show is a production crew that follows around the production crew of another “reality” show. Cameramen, following around cameramen, boom ops booming boom ops, scumbag producers sabotaging scumbag producers. In the end you would have 2 shows for the network (this one and the one they are following around) and would be sellable as one package. It’s so genius that it would never work.
But yes, “reality” TV is fake, fake, fake. In fact in some cases cop shows are more real than “reality” shows. There is no reality to be had on TV, not even in the “legitimate” news, I worked in a newsroom for a decade, what you see on the news is edited, mixed, sound checked and written the same as The Shield or Duck Dynasty. Yeah, Duck Dynasty. 5 years ago these “hillbillies” were straight up yuppies, with nice short hair, polo shirts and houses that look like something a drug kingpin on Miami Vice would have lived in… then “reality” TV came calling and the show’s creator needed an angle so the redneck version of these shysters was born. It’s all scripted, it’s all manufactured, and it has absolutely no “reality” to it.
Why don’t you hear about this kind of thing more? Why do only stars from older “reality” programs or seasons speak out? Why do only fired and “disgraced” production people get a voice in this matter? Well that would be because of the confidentially clause that is standard in all contracts, and these clauses usually have a five year stipulation on them (it used to be a 5 year stipulation, in fact now most contracts have a 7-10 year confidentially rider added). I have seen these contracts for myself, I have asked to be on a reality program and the reason I was not on it? The contract. I had issues (MANY) issues with the wording and some of the clauses in the contract they wanted me to sign. I talked over these issues with a producer who assured me that everything would be fine, just sign, that nothing would adversely affect me, just sign, that it would all be good for me, JUST SIGN THE DAMN PAPER. Needless to say I did not sign as some of the things that they REQUIRED of me were things I was not about to sign on*. So after all of that not willing to suck the corporate cock bullshit it was determined that was “not a suitable participant” and let me stress, they were completely gung ho about me being on the show until I started having issues with the contract.
Why do so many people think that “reality” is reality? What does “reality” TV even mean anymore? Does the term have meaning anymore or it simply a descriptor the same as “supernatural” TV or “soap opera”? I think the latter is closer to the truth as “reality” has lost all meaning in not just this avenue but in all avenues of media and pop culture. “Reality” matters not when perception rules the day. “Reality” TV is allowing into society that which you would never allow in real life… this is the true irony of “reality” TV.
*What where those things? Oh, little things, like faking footage and playing things up as larger than they were for the camera, like they wanted me to record an episode of Lost In The Static that they would shoot… and then THEY would end up owning that episode as it was “created for the show”, like that they would have had full autonomy in the final edit to make me look as bad as they wanted (and they wanted to “gotcha” me too, I saw the part in the contract where I had to talk to a shrink ON CAMERA).