Reality Television

In the contemporary society, television reality shows can no longer be called reality. Shows that are depicted as reality are as scripted as the renowned World Wrestling Federation (WWF) shows. Probably driven by the desire to make as much as what is made from reality shows, the producers employ shortcuts and still depict the shows as reality. Looking at the issues surrounding what are termed as reality, one wonders whether reality television will be in existence in the years to come. As will be explained in this essay, the content included in reality shows, the manner in which it is produced, and the selection of characters is far from reality.

The manner in which content for the so-called reality shows is produced raises questions on whether they are indeed reality. In some cases such as Reality Housewives and The Bachelor, the producers take and air only a week’s most dramatic events. Such week-long filming is, in turn, transformed into a supposedly reality show running for thirty minutes to one hour. A lot of content is thereby eliminated and in some cases, it is content that is capable of changing the direction and impression of the entire show. This in turn means that what the audience gets to see is not necessarily the reality. The shows also give an unrealistic impression regarding the time it takes to complete a single shot activity. For example, an activity may be depicted as having been completed in 24 hours whereas the crew took weeks to complete it. They may then give an unrealistic budget of the expenses involved in the activity whilst masking the time cost (Crouch). It can thus be concluded that only a small, if any, content of the so-called reality shows depict what is real in life.


According to Rupel, the term "unscripted" is nothing but a fallacy. It is true that the film-makers hardly write scripts, but they do look for and cast individuals with the desired character traits. When auditioning for a show, producers will scrutinize the characters, strengths, and weaknesses of those applying so that they can pick those who will bring out the best in their shows. In addition, some of them even do extensive background checks on those auditioning and even make them do physical and psychological examinations to ensure that they are the most suited to the role. However, whereas it is the desire of every producer to produce content that fetches the best price in the market, some of the methods that are applied contradict the very idea behind reality television.  

After getting the desired talent to deliver the content to the audience, producers subsequently edit the scenes to make them what the audience would like to watch. In fact, some of them are taken through many footage hours to create a thirty-minute to one-hour show. In doing this, the plot lines are crafted, and the footage twisted and tweaked so that the story can be shaped into what is desired. For instance, when producing the Biggest Loser, contestants are made to walk up to the scale several times to allow for capturing of all the angles. This kind of manipulation, it turn, raises questions on how such a show can be termed reality.

It is also worth noting that every show’s story-telling is made to remain consistent and true to the preceding episodes. For instance, different clips are often picked and edited to make them sound like a single conversation and in some case, the meaning drastically changed. It is also possible to create complete sentences from pieces of words and fit them into a conversation (Crouch).  From the simple definition of a reality show, it is highly unlikely that the current story-telling would perfectly follow the previous one. This is because such would be the case only if the characters have been informed on how they are supposed to behave and what they are supposed to say. This is, in turn, not characteristic of reality shows thereby putting on dispute whether such shows are actually reality as they are called. 

The tendency to cook scripted content and air it as reality can be understood in terms of the benefits accrued from reality shows. This far, reality television has been an incredibly cost-effective way to come up with original programing. When almost every aspect of the budget is put into consideration, reality television emerges cheaper compared to scripted television. Such aspects include the required crew, the talent, the location, as well as the sets, as affirmed by Strommen. For instance, most of the people brought on board in the shows only get their expenses catered for after which they are probably given a small daily stipend.  This makes such a show considerably cheap. Moreover, the popularity of top reality programs is sufficient to attract key advertisers and some of them even go ahead to enjoy strong DVD sales and syndication success. It is thus not hard to understand why many producers will be attracted to reality programing. Unfortunately, they do not go the honest way in creating their programming.

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The content and the characters in the supposedly reality shows further put into question the nature of these shows. Notably, those who are starring are real people. They are required to make the audience feel better about its own troubled life and inspire it into believing that it is possible to achieve almost anything. After witnessing a randomly-picked individual losing 200 pounds on a show known as The Biggest Loser or another one revolutionize his restaurant all courtesy of Gordon Ramsay, the audience members tend to feel that there is still some hope in their lives. However, this is not necessarily the case. It has been established that the reality of many such shows is more troubling than the Nirvana "reunion."

What is depicted in the shows is not as easily attainable as shown. Restaurateurs incapable of adequately operating a business do not transform into J.D. Rockefeller just because a Scottish makes them see how things ought to be done and gives them a new menu that is not even readable to their cooks. In fact, only about one third of the restaurants “rescued” by Ramsay manage to remain open on their own, and the number minimizes with time. For example, in the show’s first two seasons that ran between 2007 and 2009, Ramsay did rescue 21 restaurants. Interestingly, only two of these are still open today.

In conclusion, it no longer makes sense to call some of the modern-day “reality” television shows reality. From casting of the characters to editing the scenes, it is clear that the shows are designed into what the audience desire to see. Whilst this is the case, the shows still enjoy the benefits that come with reality shows including cheaper production costs, being able to attract many advertisers, and even making huge DVD sales. It is also worth noting that what is depicted in these shows is not necessarily what it is, or at least what it remains to be. Rather, it appears that everything is manipulated to bets fit what the market is looking for. Considering this trend, it is likely that in the future, there will be no single “real” reality shows.

Oct 12, 2020 in Research
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