Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Core Post #4- TV & Reality

Chad Raphael starts the last paragraph of his article with “Nonetheless, Reali-TV is still with us and is not likely to go away” (138). As evidenced by the growing number of reality TV shows, no matter how absurd, reality TV is not going anywhere any time soon. Raphael’s perspective on the economic origins of reality TV was interesting as most times articles on reality TV focus more on the content and not how it began. Raphael states that emergence of reality TV was “in response to the economic restructuring of U.S. television” (125). Hollywood always at some point has a financial crisis that needs to be fixed by producing cheap content. In film, it was Blaxploitation films in the 70s and with television it was reality TV shows. Reality shows were/are cheap to make because it “can be developed more quickly than fictional programs partly because they do not rely on lining up talent and writers” (130). This is quite evident with the slew of reality TV shows currently in circuit.

There are so many reality TV shows that at this point it’s hard to keep up with them. Some popular shows have been Jersey Shore, America’s Next Top Model, Survivor, The Real World, American Idol, The Real Housewives of (fill in a city), and so many more. I want to focus on Raphael’s point that reality TV shows were popular because they were so cheap to make. I think one show that exemplifies how cheap and simple it is to continue to make reality TV shows is The Real Housewives franchise. Since the premiere of the first one, Orange County, in 2006 an additional 8 shows in different cities have been created. This shows how cheap it is to make a reality TV show, but also that there’s an audience for it as networks are continuously developing new shows. Though according to Raphael, the genre decline in the mid-1990s it seems that it’s making a strong comeback. Raphael also notes that “reality shows have a short shelf life” (137) but many seem to last at least 3-5 seasons tops. Some defy the odds and last up to 10 or more seasons. An example is America’s Next Top Model, which ran for 22 seasons and will possibly be rebooted soon due to its popularity. Even though reality TV shows were made in order to make money without having to spend much, they have become a big part of society and an economic asset to many studios.

Here's also a link to an article on the cost of reality TV programming and its results


  1. This makes think of conversation last week about how quality TV is really just means catered to affluent white people. That being said, has there ever been a quality reality show? Is it solely because of its bare production values that there is not much quality associated with reality television? Is it the content of the shows that do not appeal to wealthy whites? The closest thing I can think of quality reality tv would be docu-series like The Jinx or Making a Murderer, yet they do not so neatly fit into the reali-tv because of the money put into both their production and post-production, as well as being on exclusive venues like HBO and Netflix. Also, these are places where reality tv does not play well. Anyone is free to chime in with thoughts or examples of quality reality tv.

    1. This 2014 article from Deadline breaks down affluence and viewership for non-sports primetime broadcast TV (http://deadline.com/2014/06/tv-series-most-watched-rich-educated-viewers-787403/). The surprising thing, which even the author is somewhat shocked by, is that The Bachelor ranked #1 in high indexing homes (150K+ households), while The Bachelorette came in at #3 (followed by Shark Tank, American Dream Builders, Dancing with the Stars, and The Amazing Race).

      I'd suppose that affluent audiences are probably watching more SVOD programing than broadcast television, but it's still interesting that the top indexing primetime broadcast show is not only a reality TV program, but is one with particularly minimal production value. In terms of high quality reality TV, I can't think of much, but I'd say that competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway do their best to create a sense of "prestige."

  2. I personally don't watch that much reality TV, but if I do, it's to be fascinated by the lives of certain people or to laugh at how terrible they are. I definitely understand the proliferation of reality TV in America because of economic concerns, as Chad stated in his essay, but I'm still trying to understand why it remains so prevalent. This is an old, but interesting article examining why America loves reality TV. https://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200109/why-america-loves-reality-tv

    An examination in the article reads that "Reality TV allows Americans to fantasize about gaining status through automatic fame. Ordinary people can watch the shows, see people like themselves and imagine that they too could become celebrities by being on television." So basically, ordinary people watch it because they like the thought that they too could achieve automatic fame/celebrity status with little effort. It may or may not be true for some people, but I thought it was interesting..