By Dave Stancliff
Popular reality shows on television are about as real as the tooth fairy. I hope this doesn’t come as too harsh a shock to hardcore fans seeking escape from their own reality. It’s just an uneasy fact.
Take the highly-rated Survivors show. It’s format was originally created by Charlie Parsons and first broadcast in Sweden in1992. It came to American television in 2001, and made an immediate hit.
The initial series carried by CBS went up against ABC’s “Who wants to be a millionaire” and both sparked a program revolution that shows no sign of letting up. Survivor has been called “the mother of reality TV.” .
Rumors of episodes “being fixed” began early. Mark Burnett who created the American version, made headlines (San Francisco Chronicle 3/30/2001) when one of the show’s first contestants, Stacy Stillman, filed a lawsuit claiming the show was rigged. The case never came before a judge.
In 2001, CBS sued Fox, claiming their new military-style reality show “Boot Camp” was a copy of Survivor. Fox sued CBS, claiming Survivor was a rigged show. When I talk with some people who enjoy the Survivor series, they say it might be rigged, but they don’t care. Plenty of viewers believe everything they see is real.
Because I believe reality shows are a waste of time, I had no idea how many are currently broadcast. I turned to www.realitytvworld.com and found a complete list as follows:
American Idol, The Amazing Race, America’s Next Top Model, The Bachelor, Beauty and the Geek, Big Brother, The Contender, Hell’s Kitchen, Project Runway, Nashville Star, The Biggest Loser, The Real Housewives of New Jersey, the Celebrity Apprentice, The Hills, Top Chef, The Real World, and Wife Swap.
Losers, geeks, and swapping wives; is it any wonder television is often called the Boob Tube? With programing like this, there should be warnings before each broadcast. You know, like movies that should be rated.
The warning could read, “Caution - Watching this program can turn your brain into a cantaloupe,” or something equally dire. Try as I might, I can’t find any redeeming qualities in viewing reality television.
From what I’ve read, hard-core reality fans can be found across the world. That’s kinda scary when you think about it. Some would say, so what? It’s entertainment just, like WWF Wrestling.
Have you ever talked with a hard-core reality fan? They’re usually not too interested in what’s happening in the real world. Kinda like Republicans! They see, but they don’t get it.
I can remember television in the seventies when you could find reality Japanese Game Shows on some odd channel now and then. They were so ridiculous, I laughed and told people, “At least American television isn’t that stupid. You could never get Americans to do such crazy and humiliating stunts.”
Talk about eating my words! Just look at NBC’s Biggest Loser. If that isn’t a case of viewer sadism, I don’t know what is.“Step right up folks and laugh at the fatties!”
Please don’t tell me these shows are empowering, or I’ll think you need your head examined. Being called a geek or a loser is not positive reinforcement.
The days of normal cooking shows have given way to “Hell’s Kitchen,” and “Top Chef.” Think food Nazis as judges, and episodes where chefs lose their tempers, throw things at their staff, and verbally abuse each other.
Do people watch reality shows to see others humiliated and paraded around like freaks? What they spawn sometimes spills over into radio shows, such as ’s popular rants against liberals and anyone who isn’t a ditto-head. Limbaugh said of the Survivor series, “Segregating contestants into tribes is not going to be fair if they are divided by ethnicity.” He claimed blacks, especially black males, were more likely to drown in pools than whites, and the swimming competition wouldn’t be fair. Rack that one up to the reality of racism, one of his calling cards.
As it stands, while our television programming becomes more real (think extreme) we can look forward to a reality show like the 1975 movie “Death Race 2000,” where players/drivers of fast cars get points for running over people and killing them!