A Reality TV Check: Review of Reality TV
Is Reality TV for Real? Is it Actually Real or Obviously Scripted?
- Reality TV Not a New Phenomenon
- The Loud's - "An American Family" and The Osbournes
- Are Outcomes Created and Lives Made Worse?
- Heavily Scripted for Ratings
Reality TV Not a New Phenomenon
Many people think Reality TV has been the exclusive new phenomena of the New Millennium. Before we end the 00's, or Zed, Oh's Oh's, The Naughts, decade if you will reality TV has been around a lot longer than you think. Try in the past 50 years for starters. Baby Boomers will remember the zany show "Candid Camera" where unsuspecting people off the street, literally, were given a challenge unbeknownst they were being filmed for a limited and restricted prosperity.
This was before TiVo's, camera phones and You-tube, which now has an infinite and easily obtainable legacy for the subject matter. The equivalent to the historic "Candid Camera", which first came to television in 1948, would be the New Millennium, pioneering the reality show genre, "Survivor". Prior to the overly-critical and cheesy "American Idol", what some have said was the New Millennium's version and answer to "The Lawrence Welk Show", was a more kinder and much gentler Ted Mack, who acted as both Ryan Seacrest and Simon Cowell in his talent show aptly named "The Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour".
The Loud's - "An American Family" and The Osbournes
In the early 1970's a revolutionary pioneer reality show titled "An American Family" was about the Loud's from Santa Barbara, California. It was controversial for its time in that you literally saw the break-up of the family unit with the mother wanting to go out and work, their son Lance having his gay lifestyle revealed on national television, and the parents going through divorce proceedings.
Nearly thirty years later "The Osbourne's", Rocker Ozzy and his wife Sharon along with their children, have become the 21st Century version of the Loud's. This later spawned countless other relationship-type reality series where dramas have become almost routinely expected, thereby losing its shock value.
Are Outcomes Created and Lives Made Worse?
Which leads me to my next point is Reality TV shows, past and present, truly real? It sounds like an oxymoron. You would think if they, the show's producers, say it is real, then it must be. Is it truly "spur of the moment" fun or drama that you saw on "Candid Camera" or "Survivor"? Did the viewing audience truly decide the winners of the "Ted Mack Original Amateur Hour" or "American Idol"?
The Ted Mack show did have people mail in postcards to vote for their favorite performer. The winner was decided the following week. Would the families of the Loud's and the Osbourne's have had as much drama, changes, and tears in their lives if the cameras weren't on them 24/7? Is it all really spontaneous or is it scripted? That is the question.
There was a TV commercial back in the 70's and 80's for Memorex cassette tape. In the commercial they would have a singer or musician "live" and then a tape of the same person singing or playing an instrument. They beg the question "Is it real or is it Memorex?" In other words, was it "live" or was it coming from the high quality of the Memorex cassette tape you just heard?
Heavily Scripted for Ratings
I believe it may be a combination of both factors: real and scripted, but a heavier leaning towards being scripted. It's all about television ratings now and back then. The producers edit the vast amounts of footage that is filmed to go in any direction they choose. This was certainly done fifty plus years ago. It isn't a recent phenomenon now, which is being debated regularly at numerous reality TV forums online. If you have seen the eye-opening film "Quiz Show" from 1994 you will never look at game shows, talent shows, reality shows, etc. in the same light ever again. Television has a way of repeating itself.