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What value - if any - does reality television hold?

Heather R. Breaux -   Jan 11, 2007

Imagine opening your eyes in the morning and with one eye barely open you focus in on a unshaven cameraman with a wide-angle lens in one hand and a half-eaten jelly donut in the other, and a sound boom towering over your bed.

It takes a few seconds, but your brain finally catches up and you remember why these strangers have the privilege of filming you in your pajamas. After you realize what you’ve gotten yourself into, all you can say is “Good morning, reality television.”

Who would have imagined that the fad, the rage, the phenomenon of network television would be the “reality” show? And who would have thought that network executives would be putting expensive actors and their scripts aside for average Americans trying to claw their way to 15 minutes of fame.

More importantly, what value does a reality show carry for its younger viewers like children and impressionable teens?

Veteran series like American Idol may portray good, clean competition with a well-deserved reward for talent, but what about the other shows that zero in on “unscripted” moments that are less acceptable for family viewing like MTV’s Real World or UPN’s America’s Next Top Model where supermodel hopefuls spend most of their energy engaged in cat fights?

Thank goodness the show’s producers didn’t call it America’s Next Role Model, even though this is the kind of example young girls who might aspire to modeling are seeing on television.

Both shows contain takes of bleeped out words and sexual innuendos. Are these situations you think kids are ready to handle?

In my opinion, most reality shows are scraping the bottom of the barrel and sending young viewers all the wrong messages. Not only do these shows encourage voyeurism by filming contestants in intimate situations, they also contain some of the vilest language imaginable.

Why are most of us mesmerized with the details of other people’s lives when we can hardly face our own realities?

The only simple conclusion I can muster up is that most people want to escape the repetition of their everyday lives.

In a world where we constantly watch the clock and drift through the days, maybe reality television feeds us the much craved excitement of someone else’s hardship or success that we may not be experiencing.

I suppose that as long as there is an audience to view these shows networks will continue to up the reality-show ante with outrageous behavior and shocking footage that will ultimately encourage subsequent shows to add more skin, more twists and more shocking behavior.

With producers constantly pitching new ideas, it seems that more reality shows will continue to be added to television’s prime-time lineup.

And with that said, it doesn’t look like reality television is going on a permanent vacation anytime soon. So, parents get out your parental controls - it’s going to be a “real” long ride.

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