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Why is Reality Television (TV) so popular? What is it about shows in which they take normal people like you and me and put them on TV and expose every aspects of there lives. The personal, emotional, and physical characteristics of these people’s lives are broadcasted for millions of people to watch, as they compete to win a large sum of money. But in every show there are only one winner and the rest of the people going home usually empty handed. What is it that people find so entertaining about these shows? What is it that keeps them glued to their television week after week? My personal opinion is that Reality TV is so popular because they have discovered ways to play off of people emotion. The shows mainly focus on two emotions, curiosity and imagination.
In an interview with my father, Jim Souders, who happens to be a huge fan of “Survivor”, “Big Brother”, and “The Amazing Race”, he said, “most reality shows give you people that you don’t like, and they give you people that are very likeable. With the unpredictability of reality TV you don’t know which one will win. Unlike sports, comedies and other shows where you can usually pick what the outcome is going to be. Reality TV offers something for the imagination.” Jim also gave examples such as; he believes that the LA Lakers will probably win the NBA Championship again. Personally he would like to see the Portland Trailblazers win, but he knows that there is a very slim chance that will happen because the Lakers are a very dominate team. So in his eyes it is almost like the hope that the good guy has just as good of a chance as everyone else to win.
So is it people’s desire to see an underdog win what keeps them so interested in these shows? I don’t think that is the only thing that makes shows like “Survivor”, “Big Brother”, “The Amazing Race”, and other shows so popular that people return every week. Some shows have had sequels and are returning for multiple seasons. For example, “Survivor” is on its fifth seasons, and each time it repeats it gains more popularity. If you look at the casting of these shows, the producers usually do a good job of diversifying the cast. By doing so it gives people from all walks of life the opportunity to feel that they in one way or another can feel that they identify or resemble one of the cast members. So people often find themselves imagining they are in the same position as the people on the TV, and they imagine what they might do the same or different. People start forming strategies in their heads on how if they would do things if they were on the show and they would hope that this outcome might come about. So in reality these “Reality TV” shows don’t promote reality. They promote imagination. The shows live off the imagination of there audience.
People love to imagine that they themselves are on the show or that someday they might have the chance to be on the show. The thought that they can be on Survivor and be stranded in a remote place with nothing but the land, your team mates and stuff they win in challenges to keep them and their team alive. Or perhaps they are on Big Brother and are stuck in a house with total strangers for multiple weeks and have no place to hide, because around every corner there is another camera. Along with trying to survive, and stay sane in these situations a strategy is required in order to make it to the end of the game and win the big money. That is the only reason that people do these crazy things, and put themselves through these situations. They have a plan to make some quick money. In the society that we live in today people are always looking for a new way to make a large amount of money in the quickest way possible.
Isn’t it amazing what some people will do to win money? For some people it doesn’t matter what they have to do, they are willing to do anything. In some of reality shows, viewers are sometimes discussed when watching what some people do just to make it to win. Take the show “Fear Factor” for instance. Here is a show that lives off of people’s fears. A show where people are given the opportunity to do some daring stunt or maybe eat something gross and they are doing it all for money. Linda Ader said, “I watch “Fear Factor” because of the shear intensity that you feel when someone is doing something that they are truly scared of. It gets me excited to see them compete, and do scary things like having to swim with alligators, or eat maggots. It gets my adrenaline flowing just watching them. You never know what is going to happen. I am always on the edge of my seat in anticipation.” Intensity and excitement are the feelings that get Linda interested in Reality TV. When asked she didn’t seem very interested in “Survivor” or “Big Brother”; she likes the shows that get intense and exciting. She gets bored quickly with the drama of “Survivor”, and “Big Brother”. If scaring people and grossing them out isn’t enough intensity for viewers, some shows focus on how much pain one person can endure while keeping their composure. They are strapped into chairs and endure long excruciating amounts of cold and or heat, while trying to answer questions, and through all of that they have to try and keep their heart rate down.
One thing that all of these shows have in common is that for the most part they are unscripted, and unpredictable. Viewers never know what is going to happen next. Sure they plan the games, challenges, and competitions, but the shows in general and the people’s reaction on the shows are unscripted, so for the audience they are really never sure what they are in store for. Every episode people are tuned in and curious as to what is going to happen next. Who will get voted off, who will win immunity, what is it that is so scary that no amount of money will get people to do it, these are just some of the unpredictable things that keep viewers coming back every week.
In my opinion it Reality TV plays off the curiosity and imagination of people. That seems to be the main goal of every reality shows. They want their viewer to constantly be curious as to what is going to happen next. Imagining what is going to happen next, or what might have happened if someone had made a different decision. Waiting in anticipation for the next week’s episode, and not knowing who will win the money and who will lose it. “Survivor” and “Big Brother” have you guessing who will be voted off the show next, “The Amazing Race” has you wondering who is going to take a wrong turn and cost them the race, and “Fear Factor” has you on the edge of you seat waiting to see which person is really brave enough to swim with alligators. Curiosity it is what killed the cat, imagination stimulates the mind, and those are the reasons people keep coming back to watch Reality TV every week.