The Rise of Reality Television Essay

Reality television has touched the lives of millions worldwide, proving itself to be a global phenomenon among television series genres. As the future of the television consistently evolves, reality television programming has claimed its spot among networks’ daytime and primetime lineups. This series genre that has proven successful with ratings in the past is constantly being upgraded and adapted into higher forms of entertainment. Reality television allows individuals to explore the depths of human behavior, allowing viewers to choose from a variety of personalities to watch.

Reality television promotes viewer-program interaction and involvement, often resulting in the viewer being able to affect the outcome of a program. Reality television also has the power to bestow fame, fortune, or love unto individuals chosen to participate in the program taping process. The power that the television possesses is extremely influential among society. Television personalities, such as news anchors, the cast of series’ (scripted and unscripted), actors in commercials, to cartoon characters can impact an individual’s impression of the world.

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Broadcasting networks worldwide arrange contracts with such personalities, essentially paying them to fill screen time. After decades of producing scripted embellished programs, with the exception of documentaries, broadcasting networks developed a new form of entertainment; reality television. By using the information gained over the prior years, networks found a way to produce shows at a cheaper cost, fill time gaps on their stations, and cut back on budget costs while generating a profit from niche audiences.

Reality television has become a controversial topic among viewers, with the majority of society deeming it as a negative change facing the future of television. Others may argue that viewers are stuck in their old ways, and can’t enjoy the beauty of exploiting human behavior. “On broadcast television, 15 of the top 20 highest-rated programs were unscripted shows. The shows all had familiar names, like ‘America’s Got Talent’ on NBC, ‘Big Brother’ on CBS, ‘The Bachelorette’ on ABC and ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ on Fox. What viewers say they want and what they really watch are not the same thing. It’s clear people have their favorite pastime reality shows, and they’re watching them,’ said David F. Poltrack, the chief research officer for CBS. ” (Carter, 2010) Many believe that reality television has become a global phenomenon overnight, but that simply isn‘t true. Reality programming has actually been around since the 1930’s, when television had become the dominant mass medium over radio. As television’s popularity increased in this era, established radio star Allen Funt transformed “Candid Microphone” into “Candid Camera, “in 1948.

In the following years, networks would develop and produce thousands of scripted programs, while simultaneously creating niche audience groups among viewers. Some of the people who played the roles of characters on television series would become rich, and famous. These actors had become a valuable tool to broadcasting networks, because they helped generate profit, and would hopefully boost popularity margins. But producing scripted programs is expensive, include paying actors, and writer fee’s, along with other miscellaneous costs.

Networks created unscripted programming otherwise known as reality television to counteract the opposition. About 40 years after “Candid Camera” was aired, Fox created “Cops,“ and ABC developed “America’s Funniest Home Video’s. ” While targeting a youthful audience, MTV brought “The Real World” to life, where seven adolescent strangers would live together and have their lives taped. Over the next few years, networks realized the potential among unscripted programs, especially since the cost of production would be considerably cheap.

Instead of paying actors, and script producers, networks would handpick seemingly entertaining people to play themselves. On May 31st, 2000 the reality television show “Survivor” abandoned 16 people on an island, and they outwitted, outplayed, and outlasted each other for a chance to become a millionaire. Within two years reality programming had become a staple among American television, spawning shows where contestants could compete to become noticed, for financial gains, and for romance potentially for decades to come. Fame is a motivation for people who are applying for reality television shows.

When television networks promise to give non-actors their “15 minutes of fame,” the possibilities are endless. Reality television genres vary in concept. A soap-documentary reality show has proven to produce the highest paid reality television stars. “Kim Kardashian topped the list as the world’s highest paid reality TV star. The 30-year-old socialite, who appears alongside her family in the hit show ‘Keeping Up with the Kardashians‘, topped the list after earning $8 million in 2010. Former Hills star Lauren Conrad came second, taking home $6. million, while Kim’s sisters Khloe and Kourtney also made the list after each earning $3. 3 million. Other stars to make the list include former dental assistant turned Playboy model Kendra Wilkinson, mother-of-eight Kate Gosselin, former Real Housewives star Bethenny Frankel, Audrina Patridge, and Jersey Shore star DJ Pauly D. ”(www. tvnz. com, 2010) With the given information it is clear that soap-documentary reality television shows can generate fame for non-actors, bringing them fortune. Most of these reality television actors get paid for appearances as well, also generating a profit for themselves.

They expand their capital by writing books, creating their own brand lines, or even opening up their own business establishments like “Survivor” fan favorite Stephanie LaGrossa who opened up the restaurant “GiGi” in Philadelphia. Reality television promises potential fortune to their participants. Shows like CBS’s “Big Brother” have strangers live together, and then vote each other out one by one in this game that comes along with a $500,000. 00 cash prize. “Survivor” which is hosted by award winning Jeff Probst takes castaways to live in exotic locations for a maximum of 39 days.

The winner of this show can win a $1,000,000. 00 prize. “Dancing With the Stars” allows celebrities to show off their moves, and helps them re-launch their careers. “’Dancing With the Stars’ outdrew the final game of the World Series in the ratings as 19. 6 million viewers watched the ABC reality show. The two-hour installment of the dancing competition which celebrated its 200th episode by bringing back dozens of former contestants boosted ABC to No. 1 on the night. Fox ranked second over all with its World Series coverage. ” (Toff, 2010) The lure of fortune can take several shapes, and come in different packages.

In the reality television show “The Swan” normal looking women are able to transform their image with extensive plastic surgery procedures, dental restructuring, and by being kept on strict diets. Aspiring models can stomp down the catwalk, trying to win a contract with a top modeling agency. Fashion designers sow until their fingers fall off in “Project Runway,” as competitors create ensembles in a series of tasks to make it to Bryant Park, and show off their collection to the world. “Some would even argue that reality TV can be good for you.

For Instance, ‘Extreme Makeover: Home Edition’ builds houses for needy families. There has been criticism that these families are exploited for strong ratings and cheap tears, and that in some cases, they may be left in a different but still bad situation. Nonetheless, sheltering people who might otherwise be homeless is generally considered a social good. ” (Haggerty, 2010) Reality television has also introduced the public to the concept of finding true love Television just wouldn’t seem as epic if there were not people fighting for love in modern programming. In 2000 “Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire? airs on Fox. The controversy of this show acted as a channel for the future creation of love based reality series to emerge. VH1’s show “Flavor of Love” stared rapper Flava Flav who had had sexy women live in a mansion and fight for his love, and just fight. After a season full of scandalous drama, Flava Flav picked “Hoopz” over “New York. ” It didn’t work out so well with Flav and “Hoopz” but “New York” got to have her own spin off show called “I Love New York. ” This technique allows viewers to create a long term relationships with a show, simultaneously with the network.

As rating affect profit, it is important for networks to strategically maneuver individuals as they see fit. Networks understand the connection that individuals have with observing other humans behaviors. It is a fascinating concept that love could be found on reality television. Although the matchmaking process on reality television is said to be flawed, the marriage of Trista and Ryan from “The Bachelorette” is proof that you can find love on reality television. Although “Survivor” is not a romance based program, former castaways Rob and Amber met on the show and were later married.

Because Rob proposed to Amber on the season finale, the networks allowed audiences to follow their relationship as they traveled around the world together on “The Amazing Race. ” The casting processes of reality television are vigorous and complex. Networks hold open casting calls, encourage video application submissions, or hold special contests when choosing a cast. Auditions allow face to face interaction with a network representative and a potential contestant. Individuals are given an opportunity to make a lasting first impression on the networks casting team, usually in under a minute in the first round of casting.

The network may ask to interview you on or off camera. Many networks collect homemade video submissions. In this process an individual sends in a video to the casting department of a network in hopes of being picked to be on a show. If the casting department likes you, they will contact you. But if they don’t like you, they will not request a call back, and your submission will become their property. Thousands of people nationwide compete to be on reality television shows but only a few are chosen. A way around the lengthy process of auditioning is to find a loop hole.

Some networks hold special contests that allow individuals to surpass the first round of auditioning and move right on the call back phase. In 2010 “Survivor” is teaming up with “Sears” for the second time in a competition that allows “Survivor” fans to submit a one minute audition tape. The ten finalist video submissions will then be compiled into the networks main website, and then individuals can vote on their favorite. The contestant with the most votes moves directly on to the final stage of the auditioning process.

Robert Galinsky, the founder of The New York Reality TV School understands how difficult the process of being chosen for a reality show is. “The mission of The New York Reality TV School is to train and develop non-actors, and actors through the spectrum of experiences a reality TV contestant will face: from the audition, in the many interviews you’ll go through and the actual show. We are about finding and hi-lighting what makes you unique, building your confidence, and examining how you package yourself so you can best get cast on the show of your choosing.

We train students to be exciting confident members of Reality TV casts and to have a strong understanding of the specific technical principals and professional aspects of acting and how it translates to being cast on a Reality TV show. ”(www. newyorkrealitytvschool. com, 2010) As a reality television show enthusiast, I decided to apply for “Survivor” on December 3rd, 2010. While indulging myself in my past experiences with realty television, I knew that I had to stand out of the crowd in order to gain an advantage on my competition who where also auditioning.

The previous year I had auditioned to become a member of the cast for “Big Brother. ” Since it was my first audition I didn’t know what to expect, and wound up seeming nervous. I decided that I was going to need a gimmick to gain an edge this time around. So the night before the audition in I drove to the lakes where I knew I could find large tree branches. I picked the largest branch I could find, and threw it into the back of my truck, and later hauled it all the way to the Hilton Casino where the audition was being held..

As I strapped the branch onto my back with twenty belts, I walked into the casino, with a playing I-pod dock in my hand belting out the musical tunes. As I entered the auditioning room, hundreds of eyes glared at me. As I stood in line I realized that everyone looked so plain. Here I was dressed as at tree, and everyone else was dressed in normal clothing. I strategically dressed this way because I knew from the “Big Brother” audition that you have less than one minute to make an impression on the network.

I figured that if I get nervous then at least I will be dressed so uniquely that it would be impossible for me to be unnoticed. As I stepped in front of CBS’s camera the representative asked “Why should you be on Survivor? ” I told them that “If they were going to bring me to the jungle, that I would bring the jungle to them. ” After a few short seconds it was over. Now I just have to wait to see if the casting producers will call me to the second round of auditioning. It is clear that reality television has claimed its spot in the hearts of broadcasting networks, and society.

Although reality television is put through a variety of editing processes, it can be argued that scripted programming processes are similar. Although reality television shows can create negative stereotypes like “The Jersey Shore” guido’s and guidette’s, the hit HBO series “The Soprano’s” exaggerates Italian behavior also. “And then there are the stereotypes. Are all girls obsessed with cloths and spray tans? Are all boys obsessed with getting toned abs? That’s what many of the most popular shows would have you think. Plus, some experts say these shows send a dangerous message: that being stupid and selfish is fun.

It can make you rich and famous! After all, Snooki has bragged that even President Obama knows who she is. ” (Johnson, 2010) Human behavior is a concept that varies from individual. It can be argued that watching an episode of “Dexter,” where the main character is a serial killer, can be more dangerous than watching “Hoarders. ” In fact these unscripted documentaries like “Hoarders,” and “Intervention” can shine light on issues that may not be normally observed in society. Reality television is a source of entertainment that keeps on giving.

Not every show is a ratings hit, but they still fill gap time in networks schedules. They are cost efficient, and allow normal people to feel like stars. Reality shows can lead to fame, which leads to money. Reality shows also encourage interaction, from choosing who will be the next “American Idol,” to choosing what contestants on “Big Brother” eats for the specific week they live in the camera filled house. It is a phenomenon that is not going to go away. Instead of having a negative attitude towards reality television, individuals should start learning how to accept and appreciate it.