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"Reality television" is a general term, covering various television programs that claim to be more "true to life" than
purely fictional dramas and situation comedies. The typical reality show features ordinary people, i.e., not
professional actors, who are placed in apparently unscripted, and therefore unpredictable, situations. The unique
format of reality television gives it a spontaneous quality that has attracted huge audiences, and a lot of debate,
around the world.
In the U.S., the popularity of reality television has increased dramatically since 2000, when the show Survivor
started on CBS. Survivor, which sets groups of contestants from different backgrounds against each other in
seemingly hostile wild environments, popularized a competitive format for reality. Other influential reality shows
soon followed, including American Idol, a hugely popular singing contest, and The Apprentice, a business-themed
Not all popular reality shows have been based on the competitive format, however. Some have involved filming the
everyday lives of regular people or celebrities, while others have focused on other themes. Although the different
types of reality shows might appear distinct from each other on the surface, they often share common production
techniques, and they can attract praise or criticism for very similar reasons.
Supporters of reality television shows argue they are generally more representative of "real life" than scripted
television programs, which are often criticized for keeping to predictable dramatic formulas. Fans of reality TV
believe that reality television is more relevant to them than fictional television. They also praise competitive reality
shows, such as American Idol and The Amazing Race, for encouraging the talents of previously "undiscovered"
contestants and pushing them to perform at their best.
In addition, supporters of reality television describe it as a refreshing change from scripted entertainment, which
often follows a predictable formula. They describe the competitive format of many reality shows as energetic and
exciting, and praise programs such as American Idol for allowing ordinary people to demonstrate their talents and
potentially find fame and success. There is nothing cruel about reality television, supporters assert; reality shows
simply reflect real life more honestly than fictional drama. In short, reality shows are stimulating, fun and harmless,
supporters claim.
Critics of reality television, on the other hand, argue that it often treats its subjects cruelly. For instance, failed
American Idol contestants are sometimes subjected to humiliating comments from the judges, while competitors on
Survivor are often placed in uncomfortable or potentially dangerous situations. Critics have also attacked other
reality shows, such as MTV's The Real World and CBS's Big Brother, for exposing their subjects to serious
emotional stress. At their worst, reality shows exploit their subjects, encourage voyeurism and lower the standard of
American television and American culture as a whole, critics assert.
Furthermore, critics of reality television argue that it exploits ordinary people who are usually not prepared for so
much media attention. Reality show contestants are often humiliated and exposed to mental or physical harm, and
watching their suffering is just voyeurism, critics claim. They further assert that reality shows are completely
manufactured and therefore dishonest in their presentation of "real" events. Ultimately, television programs with a
script are more socially relevant and intelligent than reality shows.
Despite their controversial nature, reality programs will not be disappearing from our screens any time soon,
television experts predict. Although some reality shows have recently done very badly in the ratings, such as Fox's
On the Lot, several others are attracting huge audiences, including American Idol and ABC's Dancing with the Stars.
Reality television, in all its various forms, has clearly become a fixture on today's television schedules.
One reason the reality genre is doing so well at the moment is that television networks require low-cost reality
programs to balance higher-cost drama and comedy. Another reason is that reality TV has one attraction, which it
shares with fiction. We, as viewers, hope to find something relevant to our lives in these programs. However,
observers remain divided on the question of whether reality television is capable of being relevant. On the one hand,
critics argue that the reality genre is cruel, stupid and worthless, and on the other, supporters believe that reality
television can amuse and perhaps even educate us. Many viewers, though simply think that that reality television is
entertaining, and that quality alone is enough to keep them watching.
By Mark Fullmer, September, 2099
Adapted from: www.writing.markfullmer.com
Guiding Questions
1. What is “reality television?”
2. What are the main ideas of supporters of reality TV?
3. What are the main ideas of opponents of reality TV?
Media both in America and around the world seem to have discovered that so-called "reality" shows are very
profitable, resulting in a growing number of such shows in recent years. Although not all are successful, many do
achieve significant popularity and cultural prominence. That does not mean, however, that they are good for society
or that they should be shown on TV.
The first thing to keep in mind is that "Reality TV" is nothing new - one of the most popular examples of this sort of
entertainment is also one of the oldest, "Candid Camera." Originally created by Allen Funt, it showed short clips of
people in all manner of unusual and strange situations and was popular for many years. Even game shows, for a long
time a standard on television, are a sort of "Reality TV." Today's programming, however, goes much further. The
primary basis for many of these shows, although not all, seems to be to put people in painful, embarrassing, and
humiliating situations for the rest of us to watch, laugh at and be entertained by.
These reality TV shows wouldn't be made if we didn't watch them, so why do we watch them? Either we find them
entertaining or we find them so shocking that we are simply unable to change channels. So what causes us to get
entertainment from the suffering of others? Perhaps we are simply happy that these things aren't happening to us, but
that seems more reasonable when we see something accidental and spontaneous in real life rather than something on
TV deliberately planned for our amusement.
These TV programs are produced for no other reason than to embarrass people, humiliate them or scare them.
Comments from various reality TV producers often fail to demonstrate much sympathy or concern with what their
subjects’ experience. They are treated as a way of achieving financial and commercial success, regardless of the
consequences for them. Injuries, humiliation, suffering, and higher insurance rates are all just the cost of doing
business for these TV producers.
One of the attractions of reality television is the supposed "reality" of it - unscripted and unplanned situations and
reactions. One of the ethical problems of reality television is the fact that it isn't nearly as "real" as it pretends to be.
At least in dramatic shows one can expect the audience to understand that what they see on the screen doesn't
necessarily reflect the reality of the actors' lives; the same, however, cannot be said for heavily edited and planned
scenes on reality shows.
These shows are edited and manipulated to create images that look real, But they are really a construction. The
whole enterprise of reality television relies on stereotypes. It relies on common characters, easily identifiable
images. Why do these stock characters exist, even in so-called "reality" television that is supposed to be unscripted
and unplanned? Because that's the nature of entertainment. The show is made more dramatic by the use of stock
characters because the less you have to think about who a person really is, the more quickly the show can move on.
How do stock characters appear in "unscripted" reality shows? First, the people themselves contribute to the creation
of these characters because they know, even if unconsciously, that certain behavior is more likely to get them more
time on the program.
Second, the shows editors encourage them to behave in that way.
Reality television shows are not documentaries. People are not put into situations simply to see how they react - the
situations are manufactured, they are altered in order to make things interesting, and the program is heavily edited
into what the show's producers think will result in the best entertainment for viewers. Entertainment, of course, often
comes from conflict - so conflict will be created where none exists. If the show cannot create conflict during the
filming, it can be created in how the final version of the program is put together. It's all in what they choose to show
to you - or not show, as the case may be.
If a production companies creates a show with the intention of trying to make money from the humiliation and
suffering which they themselves create for unsuspecting people, then that seems to me to be immoral. I simply
cannot think of any excuse for such actions - pointing out that others are willing to watch such events does not
relieve them of the responsibility for having arranged the events and caused the reactions in the first place. The fact
that they want others to experience humiliation, embarrassment, and/or suffering and simply in order to increase
earnings is itself unethical.
Finally, what about the reality TV viewers? If you find that you are entertained by the suffering and humiliation of
others, that's a problem. I suspect that people's ability and willingness to take pleasure in such things may result from
from the increasing separation we experience from others around us. The more distant we are from each other as
individuals, the more we fail to experience sympathy and empathy when others around us suffer. The fact that we
are seeing events not in front of us, but on television, probably helps this process as well.
I'm not saying that you shouldn't watch reality TV programming at all, but the motivations behind being a regular
viewer are ethically suspect. Instead of just accepting whatever media companies try to feed you, it would be better
to take some time to reflect on why such programming is made and why you feel attracted to it. Perhaps you will
find that your motivations themselves are not so attractive.
By Austin Cline, July 2010
Adapted from: www.austinclineonline.com
Guiding Questions
1. How are reality TV shows different from other television programs?
2. What is wrong with the way most reality TV programs are made?
3. What is ethically wrong with watching reality TV?
Do you want to be the next reality TV star? Do you have genuine talent? Are you driven and unconcerned of being
in the public eye? Reality TV shows need new participants for each renewed season, giving you a chance to decide
whether or not you'd like to give it a go. This article will help you to decide whether you want to be a reality TV
star, and provide some steps on how you can improve your chances of becoming a participant in a reality TV show.
1. Think carefully before you leap! Being on a reality TV show is about being exposed. And that exposure is to
everyone, including your family, friends, neighbors, former school teachers, the boss, and your old girlfriend or
boyfriend. Is this something you can handle? Do you mind if people who used to know you talk about you? (They
will, and it won't always be flattering.) If you're not worried about the real likelihood that all your secrets will be
televised, your worst moments shown in detailed focus, and your inability to do something a monkey could do made
into highlight of the week, then you're ready! On the other hand, if you value your privacy and reputation intensely,
reality TV stardom may not be for you; give it up before the going gets tough if that's the case!
2. Think about the reality. It's not reality for starters - it's a house, an island, a boardroom, a viper-infested pit, etc.,
that has been specifically set up for filming 24/7. On top of that, much of it will be scripted, so the "real you" may
not be quite so "real". On most reality TV shows, you'll be expected to live in these fishbowls with very few private
moments, with no respite from those you're sharing space with, and with relationship challenges thrown your way
daily, relentlessly. And then there are the actual challenges you're expected to perform for the show. Think about the
following questions very carefully:
o If you're trying for a reality TV show that requires you to "live it rough", is that something your manicured nails
and regularly gelled hair-do could handle? Are you all right living with no mattress, or on rationed food?
o If you're on a show that requires you to take dares or to eat local cuisine, are you able to eat bugs, unusual foods,
unidentifiable somethings, or do your vegan or specific food ways stop you from sharing in what might be the only
protein available that day, or that might win you the challenge?!
o Can you bear to have to pit your wits against that Harvard graduate every five minutes?
o Will it bother you to be locked out of a group because you're considered to be an outsider at some stage as the
game plan in the show unfolds?
o Can you stand to put your hand into that bee-infested box? (Or are you so allergic to insects that going on a daring
challenge show is plain out of the question?)
o Are you willing to give up your day job or take extended unpaid leave if your employer isn't in agreement with
you about having time off work to "play TV games"?

3. Learn all that you can about the show before applying. For a brand new show, read whatever is already
available in the media about the shows intended themes, content, time slot, and audience. For an existing show, it
makes good sense to be up-to-date about the entire show from its previous seasons. This is probably easier if you've
watched it without fail since it began. Even with fan knowledge though, you need to take a look at an existing show
with brand new eyes and see things that will impact you if you do get a part on the show. Look for such things such
o How are contestants judged? Who are the likely judges? Would you be able to impress them or simply feel
awkward before them?
o Learn from past successes and failures on the relevant show. Do you think you have the same skills, cunning,
daring, or whatever else it takes to avoid the pitfalls and reach success?
o Is nudity expected at any stage?
o Do you have to eat things that are simply awful and that you'd never think of eating in a million years?
o Will you be forced to be around people you know you will find difficult to get along with?
o Will you have to stretch your physical abilities to their limits, and are you in good enough shape? Your mental
health is as important as your physical health too, so think about your health as a whole and the sorts of things that
might challenge it on the show.

4. Apply with care. The details matter and if you don't abide by the rules in the application form, it may well be
thrown away without a second glance, given that so many hopefuls will be trying their luck. If the form asks for a
photo, provide one, if it asks for a photo in a certain way, meet that request. If you have to include a video, a
portfolio, a reference, etc., do as requested, as this will all increase your prospects of getting to the next stage. If it
feels unaffordable or a waste of time, then you're already counting yourself out, so don't proceed.
5. Present yourself in an interesting way. Whether you are auditioning, or providing a pitch with your application,
to catch the eye of those casting, you will need to have something that the reality TV show wants. It may well be
that you can't discern this because you don't know what dynamics they are wanting to script into the show (although
watching past shows should give you some idea), or whether someone similar to you has already come to their
notice and they don't need another person so alike. There are things you can do to improve your chances, however,
such as:
o Proving your own "wow factor" (appearance, a talent, a stunt, etc.), or approaching the audition or pitch with a
unique angle. Think about making use of such tools as YouTube (start a campaign!), a portfolio of your talents
outside of the usual humdrum work routine, or zany photos of yourself. Think outside the square, relate it to the TV
show in question, and give it your all if you go down the path of trying to impress those selecting the cast in a
unique way.
o Beware of resorting to gimmicks though, as these rarely ingratiate you with those judging your performance. Find
the fine balance between interestingly unique and just plain trying-too-hard, or bizarre. Realize that anything that
distracts from you will do precisely that and should be left out of your application or performance routine; less is
often more.
o Remember also that they may just be looking for the normal, usual you with all your foibles, talents, and
"uninteresting" bits rolled into one because they can see something in you that matches their hoped-for scenario and
to be frank, it's the weaknesses in personality that attract viewing. The demographic also matters considerably, as the
full cast selection must be appealing to a wide variety of viewers.

6 Be practical. When self-assessing your suitability to go any further, some of the things that you should keep in
mind include a good dose of realism. There is no point auditioning for a show that wants the complete opposite of
you - they are just not going to be sold over to your way of seeing things. As such, other things to keep in mind
o Are you the right height, weight, size, look, etc., for whatever the show focuses on? It makes little sense to apply
to be in a weight loss show when you're already at an ideal weight, or to try modeling when your height isn't what
they're looking for. It's pointless offering to sleep rough for a month when you're terrified of being seen naked by
fellow contestants or sharing your sleeping quarters with spiders.
o Can you actually sing, dance, act, etc., as required?
o Do you have the qualifications or smarts needed? If you're applying for a show wanting people with a business
background or a college education and you don't have one, again, it may not be worth your while.

7 Know why you want to do this. It may sound obvious, especially after going through all the steps above, but the
shows producers will want a strong, well-founded response and not just one based merely on your wish to never
work in a cocktail bar again. Formulate an answer that demonstrates your strengths, your interesting points, and a
desire to be a good role model. Telling them "I want to be famous" rarely distinguishes you from every other person
wanting the same. Be confident in what you believe you can contribute to the show as well as focusing on your
hoped-for outcome.
By Alan Blayney, 2011
Guiding Questions
1. Which of the ideas do you think is the most important?
2. What changes to you life do you need to consider if you go on reality tv?
3. What can go wrong while trying to get on reality tv?

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