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Reality TV

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“Survivor” recently made news after it came out with its 16th season, and after CBS announced the renewal of the show through another two seasons.

According to CNN, “Survivor” has won the People’s Choice Award for favorite reality show every year since 2000.  The show has also won two Emmys out of 14 nominations (2004).

 Mark Burnett, the show’s creator, says that the show is outlasting other shows because of the “storytelling and characters” (CNN, 2004).

The show’s host, Jeff Probst, explains further that the show is unscripted, real-life drama where participants leave their lives behind and embark on a journey that could change their lives forever.  Probsts says that everyone who joins “Survivor” finds themselves overcoming or drowning in obstacles, experiencing a “spiritual death”.  Probst also adds that the producers have always kept each season different from another by putting in new twists and ideas (Haidett, 2008).

            In his analysis of the Big Brother success in the U.K., Colin Sparks finds that reality TV attracts a cross section of society.  In Big Brother’s case, the show attracted a younger, more affluent and highly educated audience.  This audience, however, do not harbor any illusions that the show is “really real”, indicating that people who watch reality TV has “learned to live” with it over the past decade (Sparks, 2007).

            So what makes reality TV so engaging?  Sparks says that conflict, crises and romance all play valuable roles in categorizing a show as a good watch, and is definitely required to attract a large audience share.  It must, however,  seem that all three arises from the natural dynamics of the participants or casts (Sparks, 2007).

            Steven Reiss and James Wiltz, writing for Psychology Today, debunks the long-standing thought that reality shows are getting watch because people didn’t want to feel left out the morning after when discussions are about reality shows, and it is not about the sexual displays either (Reiss and Wiltz, 2001).

            Reiss and Wiltz, however, found that “Survivor” in particular mixes competitiveness and the “opportunity for payback”.  Reiss and Wiltz says that the fans who watch “Survivor” tend to be competitive and puts a high value on revenge, and the show delivers (Reiss and Wiltz, 2001).

            Steven Reiss and James Wiltz, writing for Psychology Today, found that the attractiveness of reality TV lies in the “desire for status” of its fans.  Reiss and Wiltz says that reality TV allows people to fantasize about getting status through instantaneous fames.  It is a system where people watch other people like themselves and relate to them.  They further fantasize that being on these shows could also happen to them.  Reiss and Wiltz concludes that the message of such genre is that ordinary people can become stars in the eyes of millions of people, and that the next stars could be themselves (Reiss and Wiltz, 2001).


  1. Burnett is reality TV survivor. CNN. Retrieved on 11 April 2008. <http://edition.cnn.com/2004/WORLD/americas/04/15/burnett/>

Haidett, Ryan. (2008). Survivor Host On Show’s Success, Future And Micronesia Season. Reality TV Magazine. Retrieved on 11 April 2008. <http://www.realitytvmagazine.com/blog/2008/02/16/survivor-host-on-shows-success-future-and-micronesia/>

Reiss, Steven and Wiltz, James. (2001). Why America Loves Reality TV.

Retrieved on 11 April 2008.  <http://psychologytoday.com/articles/pto-20010901-000029.html>

Sparks, Colin. (2007). Reality TV: the Big Brother phenomenon.  International Socialism. Retrieved on 11 April 2008. <http://www.isj.org.uk/index.php4?id=314&issue=114>

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