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 - http://karyngood.com/blog/
Janet Corcoran - http://jscorcoran.blogspot.ca/
Joanne Brothwell - http://www.joannebrothwell.com/blog.html
Hayley E. Lavik - http://www.hayleyelavik.com/
And today's host Jana Richards - http://www.janarichards.net/

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.

13 comments:

  1. K - not sure what happened, perhaps my e-mail to Jana got lost in Cyberspace - but I did have an opinion on this topic. I'll just copy/paste it into the comments section for now :)

    Hate ‘em…no, wait – love ‘em…sigh! I admit, I do watch reality TV – not the Housewives or The Couples, but the dancing and singing and weight loss ones. Why? Well, I enjoy dancing and singing and like to see someone getting a big break (the wanna-be multi-published best-seller in me) or the person who can’t dance learning something so foreign to them and succeeding. Even the weight loss shows – the challenge overcome with hard work and determination. But maybe the reason I watch, the reason a lot of people watch reality TV, is very much connected to our topic last week (Carnivalesque: Social Media) – everyone wants to know what everyone else is doing. How are their lives different from ours – and, maybe, watching that gives us a sense that our lives are pretty darn normal (and sometimes a little dull). We follow celebrities on Twitter and Facebook and read their blogs – why wouldn’t we watch their shows?

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    1. Sorry Janet! Perhaps you sent it to the email account I forgot to look in for the past 3 days. Sorry to be so unorganized today!

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  2. I loved the Carol Burnett show! And I would watch a reality tv show about the making of a reality tv show! I do want to know how much of it is scripted and how much is authentic or even spontaneous. And why do people do it? And how much do they get paid? That's the real question I want the answer to!

    Confession: Sister Wives. I forgot about this one. I admit it, I'm fascinated by this concept. Maybe because I've never been good at sharing. And I just don't understand the overall why. There would definitely be a snoop factor fascination to this one.

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    1. Another Carol Burnett fan right here - wish they would show it again!

      And I would definitely watch a reality tv show on the making of a reality tv show. 20/20 did a Behind the scenes with Dancing with the Stars - fascinating!

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    2. The Carol Burnett Show was awesome!Do you think some of the entertainment type reality shows today substitute for the variety shows of yesterday? The networks do stuff like America/Canada's Got Talent and make it into a competition instead of serving up an actual variety show that showcases talent like the old Ed Sullivan Show did. Do you think people will only watch these talent shows today if it's a competition and if there's a possibility of being able to mock someone (I'm thinking the auditions in American Idol) because some of the competitors are so awful?

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    3. I think reality TV is a relation of the old variety shows. Except now the emphasis seems to be on the whole transformation of a performer and less about their actual performance. As in life changing events as Janet mentioned above, except it's also a competition. It's that whole concept of survival of the fittest that leaves me cold.

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  3. Okay, I'll admit I love Survivor, The Amazing Race, American Idol, and The Bachelor. Geez, maybe I should watch less TV. It is kind of fun watching people do really stupid things. I call it research into human nature... Research, folks, not a waste of time. LOL One of my books actually started on a reality dating show. It was a blast to write. See, justifiable TV watching!

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    1. Hi Jannine, that's a really great point. Reality tv shows are great for getting some authentic research in on how people talk, react, how to infuse conflict into a story. Definitely the conflict, hah! People take a small remark so personally and then it snowballs into an entire season's worth of conflict. Great fuel for our stories there!

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    2. Research? I like it! And a great premise for a book, Jannine - and so appropriate with the popularity of The Batchelor!

      Love Amazing Race...I'd be out as soon as I had to propel down something or climb a cliff or bungee jump - we (The Husband and I) would be the couple that everyone cringes at because I'm pretty sure he'd be yelling at me to just do it already and I'd be curled in a fetal ball crying my eyes out!

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    3. Interesting ideas Jannine! I hadn't thought about it as research before. I haven't watched a lot of The Amazing Race, but enough to know my husband and I would never sign up for it and live to tell the tale!

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  4. I'll say, Jannine! My husband and I watched the first season of The Amazing Race. If my husband and I attempted this we'd be divorced by the second leg of the race! But watching for the sake of research does have possibilities. Especially, if you're interested in learning about people behaving badly! Or perhaps lessons in extravagance? Or odd job descriptions. It might be fun to write about a hero who's an alligator hunter :)

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    1. You should so write a story about an alligator hunter, Karyn!!

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  5. nice idea.. thanks for sharing..

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