Thursday, May 3, 2012

Carnivalesque - The Travelling Blog Show: Reality Shows - Love 'em or hate 'em?

Our topic for discussion today: Reality shows – love ‘em or hate ‘em? Why are they so popular?
Our participants:
Karyn Good -
Janet Corcoran -
Joanne Brothwell -
Hayley E. Lavik -
And today's host Jana Richards -

Jana:  I honestly don’t get it. Why are viewers so fascinated with shows like Survivor that glorify double dealing, conniving and general bad behavior? Why would anyone want to watch others self-destruct like the subjects of Celebrity Rehab? And please, please tell me why I should watch self-indulgent shows about the Kardashians, or the Housewives of anywhere, or God forbid, The Jersey Shore? Is this what passes for entertainment these days?

I know why these shows exist. They’re cheaper to produce than fictional dramas or comedies. But at least there is honesty in fiction; it’s not pretending to be real. Everyone knows there’s little reality in reality shows.  But despite knowing this, many people are drawn to these shows like moths to a flame. Is it because we enjoy feeling slightly voyeuristic by sneaking a peak into these people’s lives? Or are they such train wrecks that our lives look really good in comparison?

I have to admit I enjoy watching the singing/dancing/designing type of reality competitions. I’d given up watching American Idol a couple of years ago because I got tired of Simon Cowell’s snarky comments and Paula Abdul’s odd behavior. I started watching it again late this season at my daughter’s recommendation, and I like that the criticism appears more constructive and useful instead of simply hurtful. Dancing with the Stars is a lot of fun, when they have contestants who can actually dance. The current season is one of the best I’ve seen since there really hasn’t been anyone with two left feet who really stinks. Project Runway can turn into a huge bitch-fest between contestants, but it’s amazing to see the creations they come up with in such short time periods.

Maybe these competitions are this decade’s version of the variety show, similar to The Ed Sullivan Show of the sixties, or The Carol Burnett Show of the seventies. But why does it have to be a competition? Can't we have entertainment without someone always have to win or lose? 

If we don’t like reality TV, we have only ourselves to blame. They wouldn’t be on the air if no one was watching.

Karyn:  Some I hate. I don’t know why I should concern myself with the housewives of here or there. And I’m disturbed by this trend of showcasing women, who because of their sheer extravagance and shallowness are perceived to be interesting and worth following around. Dare I say the word ‘Kardashian’? Where are the reality shows portraying women training for the Olympics? Female soldiers in war zones? The realities of being young, homeless, and female? No, instead we have Toddlers and Tiaras.

I watch nothing that involves judging things be it singing, cooking, or whatever. I don’t enjoy seeing people get voted off or handed a rose. (Please, no hate mail.) But I do watch a couple of them. I love The Little Couple. Pawn Stars, because I’m awed by the knowledge base of the owners. I love watching old relics become new again on American Restoration. Every once in a while I take in an episode of Say Yes to the Dress.

Hayley:  I'm not well versed in reality tv. As I've encountered it, it seems to break down into competition shows, transformation shows, and shows about people screaming at each other. I'm...not really into any of those. There's something about the format of reality tv that just never sustains my interest. I'll check something out for a good premise -- like Survivor of course, back in the day, and I liked the idea behind the Voice -- but I never actually stick around.

If I've watched something through, and particularly if I've enjoyed it, it's because I had someone I liked and wanted to win. As with all forms of storytelling, it comes down to a good character. If I can't find one quickly, I move on to more narrative tv.

At this point, I’d love to see a reality tv show about behind the scenes on reality tv. How much things get manipulated, forced into story arcs, misrepresented. I’ve seen some hints of things on the one show I do watch that make me wonder what went on in the background.