Examining the Relationship Between Reality TV and Us

I was fortunate that talented writer Steve Kamps was willing to create an article for my blog specifically to celebrate Reality Show Rundown Month,
my series of interviews with former reality show contestants. Reality Show Rundown Month was an idea inspired by my new reality show-themed mystery novel Sink or Swim, Where Reality TV Turns to Murder. For more information on Sink or Swim, and the interview schedule which features contestants from Survivor, Top Chef, Beauty and the Geek, Shark Tank, Bachelor Pad and I Love New York, please visit this link.

Steve’s article makes a wonderful addition to this series as it examines the relationship that television viewers have with reality TV and how reality shows have evolved over the years. Here are his words below.

If you ask anyone what they think of reality TV, you will get a lot of different perspectives on the subject. Most common will be “no” because of the image that many people perceive about the subject: it’s stupid. These opinions are not invalid, but sometimes these opinions are only voiced to fit in. Inversely, many people also only watch reality shows in order to fit in. Maybe it’s what everyone talks about at the office. Either way, you can’t downplay reality TV; there is a reason it is still around.

Reality TV sprang up in the late 90’s and early 2000s. One of the first shows was Survivor. I remember that my dad and I would watch it together every night. I can’t say that I agreed with everything that went down on the show. I consider myself a very loyal individual, who could never backstab another individual in order to win a large cash prize, or at least I don’t think I can. One of the reasons why people watch these shows is for just that reason: drama.

This is a real situation. The drama is real. What was being said in front of the camera was so savory, it kept viewers coming back for more every episode. This wasn’t a sitcom or written drama, this was real people. Real people who had regular jobs and had regular lives outside of this documentary. The competition was real. Individualism. It began with a team, but ended with one lone survivor. Who was it going to be? Obviously the one with the least scruples of engaging in dirty strategy. And we bought it. Why not? We also formed relationships with these people. We hated those conniving schemers and encouraged the straight arrows. It was like a real good versus bad. And sometimes we won and sometimes we lost. Incredibly brilliant in keeping viewers to the last episode.

Reality TV also gave us the chance to be stars. As I stated above, these were real, regular people who made it on TV and sometimes they retained their new celebrity. For example American Idol contestant Kelly Clarkson. American Idol is a great example of this. In the beginning of each season, viewers get to see the weeding process. The three judges go through the auditions and choose who is going to perform on the show for the rest of the season. This filled the chasm between A list celebrities and the normal person.

Unfortunately, we as a people have an unstable fascination with celebrities. We all want a chance to be one and live the penthouse life. And after this show, so many other shows sprang up, including America’s Got Talent. This show in particular is even more interesting because viewers get to see any sort of talent. From those who aren’t so talented and those who are ridiculously talented.

The last thing that Reality TV has that keeps us coming back is the dose of real people living real life. I’m not talking The Simple Life! When William Hung gave his performance and Simon Cowell laughed at him, we were surprised how well Hung took it. He was happy that he at least tried and he said he had no regrets. Things like that really hit hard. The underdog at least giving his all and whether he succeeds or not, still seeing the sunny side. It was a very mature reaction considering all the others who stomped off thinking Simon didn’t have a clue.

There are also many shows that show people doing amazing things for people who can’t do things for themselves. Holmes on Homes did an episode where a man was living in an unstable house with his children and he was unable to make the changes that needed to be done. Holmes fixed the entire home and it looked amazing. That story really hit me too. Just another good man doing a good deed for another.

Whether you like reality TV or not, it’s irrelevant. It’s here to stay and there will be plenty of good and bad moments to see. Hopefully if you haven’t seen any, you will give it a try. You might be amazed to see some of the character that real people have.

Thanks, Steve! Check out the full Reality Show Rundown Month interview schedule, with clickable links to the interviews as they become available, here.

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