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The importance of the media in the contemporary human society cannot be gainsaid. It goes without saying that the media has been at the forefront in the battle to bring social and political change in many parts of the globe. The increased importance of the media has seen an increase in the number of media houses, television and radio stations. Of course, this has also been propped up by other factors in the political and social arena. Nevertheless, this has increased the competition that media houses, television and radio stations have to face. In an effort to remain relevant and competitive, as well as ensure their own profitability and sustainability in the long-term, television stations have had to come up with varied measures. These measures involve reexamining the content of their shows and producing what appears to be popular with the audience. While varied shows and programs may have been incorporated, none surpasses the increased popularity of reality television shows especially in the 21st century.
Reality TV shows is a term that is used to underline a TV programming genre that offers unscripted situations, while documenting actual events and featuring unknowns rather than professional actors. In most cases, reality TV shows incorporate varied standard tropes including regular interviews with the participants, which are also the narration of the show, as well as an emphasis on personal conflict and drama (Andrejevic 23). In most cases, these reality TV shows are competition based, where there is the additional aspect of a participant being eliminated from the show every episode, judges panel, as well as the concept of some participant being immune from elimination (Wyatt and Kristie 13). Needless to say, reality TV shows are not a new phenomenon. Their history or origin can be traced way back into the last stages of the 20th century in mid 1990s, where shows such as “Changing room”, “The real world” and “Number 28” entered the scene. Nevertheless, their explosion in the 21st century has been unprecedented. Scholars and researchers have examined a myriad of reasons as to why reality TV shows have become extremely popular in the first decade of the 21st century.
One of the key reasons for the increased popularity of reality TV shows is element of reality or identifiability with the characters or actors in the shows. Scholars have noted that reality TV shows give the viewers the capacity to identify with the reality stars, their drama, as well as the challenges across which they come (Hill 44). Viewers are mainly attracted by the shows that give them the capacity to see into the lives of other people, watch the challenges and the struggles that they go through and to which the viewers can relate. Researchers note that one of the most appealing elements pertaining to reality shows is the fact that any individual can be the star in the show (Andrejevic 27). These shows make their selection of stars that are essentially normal viewers, which increases the appeal of the shows to the viewers and the general public as they are made to realize that they could also have the opportunity to become a star or even the next celebrity. Psychologists note that reality TV shows allow the viewers to fantasize about gaining a higher status via automatic fame (Hill 48). The ordinary views would watch these shows, see ordinary individuals like them and fantasize or imagine that they also have the capacity to be celebrities after being in the television. This is irrespective of the fact that contestants are often depicted in unfavorable light. The fantasies are complemented by the fact that some of the participants in reality TV shows have exploited their short-term celebrity status and made a name for themselves after the shows (Andrejevic 34). These include individuals such as Colleen Haskell who participated in the first Survivor series and landed a key role in the movie titled “The Animal”, as well as Richard Hatch, who won the game, after which he was hired to be a host in his own game show. These were former nobodies who starred in the reality TV shows and gained a celebrity status, which gives the viewers an impetus to watch the shows in the thought that they perhaps will be the new celebrities next time (Murray and Laurie 49).
On the same note, reality TV shows have had their popularity propped or catalyzed by the incorporation of the money aspect (Brenton and Reuben 34). It goes without saying that today’s reality TV shows come with enormous amounts of money offered to individuals who do not necessarily have to incorporate the career skills and knowledge that would essentially make them sufficiently productive members of the society as to get such wealth via honest work. Of course, this, in simple terms, means that dumb individuals get enormous amounts of cash (Biressi and Heather 29). This does not negate the fact that some shows incorporate a pseudo-intellectual premise. For instance, the reality TV show named “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” offers a maximum of a million dollars to the individual who gives correct answers to a set of questions (Murray and Laurie 45). These questions, however, were trivia oriented, in which case they were different from those of related shows. In addition, the audience could participate, with the drama aspect being added by the fact that the contestants could call their friends. Maximum suspense was complemented by the contriving of the lighting, editing and music surrounding the rather harmless pop culture subjects (Biressi and Heather 27). Nevertheless, the promise of being the winner of the e.............
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