Friday, 27 February 2009

It's Not Real! It's Television.

When The Real World was first broadcast on MTV in 1992 little did the networks realise - no one can predict tomorrow's headline - it was the dawn of the Reality TV era.

These are the barbarians at the gate. The fall of the Roman Empire. The end of televised civilization (before Youtube). This meant that ordinary people – gasp! – could appear inside the electronic worship box. They could become famous. Without a SAG card.

Here in the UK this was exemplified in 2000 with the advent of Big Brother. If The Real World was the fornication Big Brother is the bastard child.

Or love child.

Reality TV is more a dirty secret than a guilty pleasure. The bourgeois deride it. The critics decry it and men deny it (except for The Ultimate Fighter). Why the stigma?

These were bad for you:

  • Britney and Kevin: Chaotic
  • My Big Fat Obnoxious Wedding
  • Celebrity Farm
  • Back To Reality
  • Celebrity Love Island
  • Love Cruise
  • Shalom In The House
  • Temptation Island
  • Age of Love
  • Filthy Rich Cattle Drive
  • Shattered
  • Totally Scott- Lee
  • Paris Hilton

The list of 17 years of dross is so exhaustive the remote control wouldn't work.

Back in 2003 then UK Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell said she hoped for a viewer's revolt and warned the industry that the genre was being flogged to death. The latter remains true six years later. Yet even before the turn of the century critics were predicting the end of reality. So while it's true that trash like Big Brother (UK) is on a respirator VH1 is on an all time high. Enter Celebreality.

Reality television is generally accepted to include behemoths like American Idol and on this side of the water The X-Factor. However these are talent shows. Survivor and The Amazing Race, two more behemoths, are game shows. Reality television as meant is an alternative and competition to scripted drama. Ergo reality TV is unscripted drama.

Herein lays the source of derision. Ordinary people are pushing card carrying talent off the gravy train and the reason why it's so successful is because scripted drama sucks!

There are of course must-watch exceptions – HBO's The Wire HBO's Generation Kill HBO's True Blood – but for the hours invested watching scripted drama the entertainment return is abysmal. This could be the fault of the writers and producers but I blame the public. If we didn't sit in front of the goggle box and gawp at NCIS it wouldn't be renewed.

Reality TV on the other hand is unpretentious. It is vaudeville for the ipod generation (I clock in at generation X). The most the Flavor of Love franchise/spin-offs can hope for is to make us laugh. This is what they do. Despite the sometimes obvious production manipulation.

Scripted TV is contrived obvious and fraudulent. In many cases it breaks the rules it's laid down for us. Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles 204 is a perfect example. Reality TV is contrived obvious and fraudulent. Paradoxically it doesn't aspire to be otherwise.

We know Charm School wasn't about bettering strippers. Sharon Osbourne let us in on the joke even if Mo'Nique didn't. Flavor of Love wasn't about Flav finding 'the One'. New York found that out quick enough. And the Rock of Love Bus is just an aging rocker's ego trip. Funny though.

In I Love New York was Tiffany really looking to find someone? I think she was. But she soon got cured of that. New York Goes to Hollywood was abysmal by the way - a perfect example of contrived reality. You could see the set-ups in the script. In Real Chance of Love the boys were clued up – it was rappers in a strip club time.

I love Money is more reality than game show. The all-starlets know what their job description is – a holiday in Mexico, all expenses paid, all you can drink, a chance to get laid, the obligation to entertain the (almighty) viewer. Oh and a half chance of winning $¼million. While it's worth something.

Hot chicks (Prancer) in bikinis (Myammee) coupled with hi-jinks (The Entertainer). This is reality at its best (better than Cheaters). I recap it every week and from next week I'll be posting an op-com about it. Because I can do that. Celebrealitydaily gives you the other side: background, behind the scenes, photos. Yeah.

It's all good unclean fun for the audience. I know it's not to everyone's taste. Some people enjoy Trisha. For the record I contest the charges of racism. I've watched enough TV to form my own opinions about un/scripted racism: The Real World. Channel 4.

People will always watch television. After a harassed day at work you have to unwind somehow. It's up to the networks to up their game. In these uncertain economic times the industry should do its duty. With the worse to come for a lot of people TV may become one of the last resorts of affordable entertainment. What the American industry produce the UK and the rest of the world buy. Or rip off. You want scripted dramas? Hire better writers (like me) better producers better execs. Better agents.

Reality TV is a given. I applaud it with most kudos going to Vh1. Because I like what makes me laugh at no expense to others. Wanna be on TV? Enter at your own switch. It's just like blogging. We click. Ad infinitum.

When The Real World was first broadcast on MTV in 1992 it was the dawn of the Reality TV era.

It's not even high noon.

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