When MTV introduced audiences to “The Real World” in 1987, reality television was in its experimental state. Many asked, “Can a show dealing with real life subject matter, interracial tension and sex draw an audience? Will there be more TV shows in the future using the reality-based theme?”The answer was obvious: of course.
Several years ago, the Screen Actors Guild of America (SAG) went on strike, on the basis of low salaries, unsafe working conditions and a lack of creativity from the Hollywood studios. The strike, which lasted about a month, sent broadcasters and television stations scrambling to find programs to air in order to keep a loyal audience.
Shortly after MTV’s ground-breaking series gained notoriety, other networks and channels followed suit, creating their own reality shows, like “Boot Camp,” “Who wants to marry a multi-millionaire,” “The Amazing Race,” “Fear Factor,” “The Osbournes,” “The Bachelor” and its twin sister, “The Bachelorette.”
CBS’s “Survivor” became the most well-known reality based TV show of the past five years. On the show two tribes compete in games and survival contests to win players immunity. Later on, as the contestants deal with the hardships of the environment and each other’s attitudes, they must play a game of cat and mouse to gain each other’s trust, hoping not be voted off in the council meetings at the end of the show.
Each season the show’s locations and games get more interesting. The competition leaves one to wonder, as each contestant becomes more determined to win at all costs.
Another reality show on CBS, “Big Brother,” puts a group of people in a house, isolated from the world to compete in various games to win the title of “Head of Household.” Before the end of the show, two people are nominated for eviction, with the HOH ultimately deciding on the next show who will leave the Big Brother house.
During a one episode of “Big Brother,” a roommate, wielding a knife and standing behind another female roommate, pressed the knife against the woman’s throat, asking if “it would be OK if I killed you?” The person was immediately removed from the house.
On the last season of “The Osbournes,” the rock star was injured on an all terrain vehicle. It was the highlight of the season, although the actual accident happened several months earlier and the public’s need to see what happened drew viewers to the episode. The show returned MTV to groundbreaking status thanks to the “I’m in my house” attitude and the profane and colorful language used by the family.
Television viewers now demand to see the blood, the violence and the behind-the-scenes of what the real world has to offer. But have reality TV shows crossed the line? Has the red line of decency been discolored with the next round of new shows around the corner? FOX ‘s Temptation Island, in which unmarried couples are encouraged to cheat on their partners, drew protests even before it even aired. The question of whether reality TV is cheapening television and American morals in general has been raised again.
“Just when you think they can’t push the lowest denominator on television, it keeps getting lower,” said Tom De Lisle, a veteran television producer and writer who has worked in Hollywood. “They’re taking taste down with them.”
The reality based television show format was supposed to last as long as the SAG strike, but since the formula to create a reality TV show is a simple one, there will be more, unoriginal, senseless and otherwise worthless programs in the future. Other reality based shows are beginning to show up on networks who are more interested in a ratings boost and the money and press that comes with it, than informing and entertaining the television viewer. The Hollywood community lacks the creativity and originality to bring more comedies and dramas to the small screen instead of reality TV.
While many consider a few reality TV shows as “informative,” I feel that they are simply a disgusting look at human society.