I am old enough to remember the debut of “reality” television when it was actually interesting and meant something.  Season one of “The Real World” on MTV and “Big Brother” on CBS are hallmarks.  Even though those shows were “live edited” there was a certain authenticity about the series that bled through the television screen indicating human life. Why is it today that so many “reality” shows come across scripted and fake and inauthentic? Could it be because those shows are now brewed to be, from first blush, scripted, fake and inauthentic? True reality is too hard, too tough to touch. Fake reality is much easier to control and sell to the masses. Don’t think. Just believe.

There used to be such a delight in reality television that let you glimpse pieces of yourself in others for reflection and evaluation.  You could feel your own flaws in them and when they were wounded, you had empathy for them because, you too, had previously been stung by the hard fact that God is Funny in a really horrible way.

When we begin to fake the truth and falsify experience by intentional manipulation to create a pre-described ending — we all lose in the loss of the fortification of the human core.  The “reality” becomes an immoral fraud in the public square and instead of a reflexive judgment upon our lives, we are dealt a death blow to our immortality as the ordinary and expected are repackaged for the selling as innovation and integrity. We mourn the hollow core of fallow values.

The closest thing we have left of real “reality” television is the Live Feed from Big Brother.  Sure, the live feed has become more and more censored over the years as events and happenings are hidden from us, but for a true taste of “TV Vérité” you cannot beat watching real people in real time.

Unfortunately, the Big Brother producers hate the Live Feed viewers because we see too much and we know to much — but they can’t really entirely cut us off because that would mortally wound their entire dreamscape as the daily updates in social media would shrivel and wither and their “reality” show would immediately became even more undeniably fake and utterly unreal.

14 Comments

  1. How do you feel about shows like Property Brothers, Holmes Inspections, and House Hunters — I know that none of them fit the traditional mold of a “reality” show but some of them are so incredibly real — and quite helpful and educational as well!

    1. I think they’re all in the pre-scripted “fake” reality show genre just like the whole Bravo! Housewives series. Most of the really real “reality TV” can be found on YouTube — from users recording stuff in real time as it happens and sharing it.

        1. Right, absolutely scripted. You think Mike Holmes sets foot in a house and he and his team don’t know exactly what’s wrong with every inch of the house from a thorough pre-inspection? They’re probably spending $50,000.00USD a day for each day they film on location. Nothing is left to chance because there’s no budget for not knowing. They have to precisely what’s wrong and how to fix it before they show up at the house. They have to know if they have enough “material” for an entire episode or not. Then all the construction materials have to be nearby and pre-ordered for delivery. There are no whims or surprises in television or film or the live stage because the financial risk is too great.

  2. Bravo! I just finished watching season 3 of Master Chef U.S. and was so disgusted with the editing, and more disgusted with myself for having spent the time watching, that I was going to write an article exactly like this one. I watch a bunch of reality TV and this trend is getting worse for sure. I decided to do a Search to see if my disgust was a common theme and it certainly is. I could not have written it better so great job on the article. There should be a special punishment for the control freaks that think they can or should do better than reality. Your mention of BB’s live feed is also spot on. It’s actually my favorite reality TV show, the feed, not the watered-down and pretty much scripted episodes that try to create surprise and suspense. Weak job BB, very weak. I like the raw live feed 10x better than the episodes. What does that tell you? Again, thanks for the great article.