Thursday, 18 April 2013

Reality shows - Low, then lower, then lowest.

We used to laugh about Japanese shows - the sadism of some of them. For esxample, quiz shows where the punishment for getting a question incorrect was barely short of torture. But these days, the shows that are thrust at us as entertainment have become as bad.

Reality shows - designed not simply to appeal to the lowest common denominator - but to lower that point. They are designed to encourage nastiness, spite and backstabbing. If the competitors are not producing enough nastiness on their own, it is scripted. There was something in TV Week about one couple in 'My Kitchen Rules'  being instructed to label another couple with the chosen nickname.

I have to declare here that I am not a viewer of such shows, and no expert. But one would have to avoid TV altogether not to know something of what is happening. The standard 'reality' show has a staged method of throwing out the competitors that do not win - no matter how the 'win' is achieved.  This is nasty from the start, in my opinion.  From Survivor, where contestants are put into 'tribes' who compete against each other, to 'Big Brother.' From  singing contests to cooking shows, there is always the dramatic throwing out of the one who did not make the grade.

So often, what they do is frankly cruel. The diet show - 'Biggest Loser.' The contestants are expected not just to undertake extreme exercise and a severe diet, but to do things like abseiling and worse - sometimes things that take real athleticism and fearlessness, not the clumsy, heavy bodies of the fat.  They may have doctors on hand, but one of these days, one of those 'Biggest Losers' is going to lose in a very big way.  I think I remember there was a story in TV Week about one of them giving everyone a fright by collapsing - a heart attack maybe?  It would be no wonder. 

'My Kitchen Rules.'  A cooking show.  But why leave it at that?  Let's put them in baking heat, enjoy their misery, and see one collapse of Heatstroke.  What fun!

There was one reality show that my husband and I really enjoyed for a season - 'Masterchef.' For a change, the contestants were scripted to show all support for each other.  They could be competitive, but certainly no sabotage, or what is euphemistically referred to as  'gaming,' as in some shows.

But someone apparently decided there was not enough nastiness, so they brought in a chef who was supposed to present as very nasty. We didn't bother watching, so don't know if he was as bad as was painted, but whoever made that decision quite obviously thinks that the nastier the show, the better.

They are trying to appeal to the common denominator, then going lower and then a bit lower. And in the process, it works to make all the viewers that bit nastier as well. I do not like so-called 'reality' shows, and am just thankful that my reality is kinder.


  1. Well said, Marj. Not only are these shows almost universally nasty, they are tedious beyond belief. Cookery show, after bloody cookery show, followed by jungle tribes eat Kangaroo goolies and other disgusting tidbits. When will it all end?

  2. I don't understand this mania for cooking shows. It seems very odd that it is at the same time as the mania for 'healthy eating.'

  3. I've never watched one, but I've disturbed my kids watching one once—a room full of under-dressed 19/20 year-olds bitching about another scantily clad girl who was having hysterics off stage. What fun! They are basically very uninteresting young people who are dumped into what we are taught to consider exotic, exciting locations, and we watch them stumbling about having love interests and looking stupid. If this is what passes for good viewing, it's not surprising the world is going down the pan.

  4. Some of them, like 'Big Brother' and 'Survivor' take every opportunity to show off the contestants as scantily clad as possible. I don't actually object to this as much as the portrayal of utter bitchiness as normal and even admirable. Maybe this has something to do with the apparent explosion of bullying in schools. Though American comedy shows might have something to do with that as well - the glorifying of 'attitude' that is in reality, simply rudeness.

  5. My Kitchen Rules is not a cooking show. My husband watches it,but for me the 'teasers' are quite enough. I like REAL cooking shows (2 fat ladies, the cook and the chef, Rick Stein)and enjoyed Masterchef when at least we got some instruction in cooking, but that wasn't the main purpose of MC (unfortunately). I despise all these so-called 'reality' shows. They are all scripted rubbish aimed, as you say, at the lowest common denominator. I'd rather read (or write) a book.

  6. And not only that...but reality shows are a great way to cut out the unnecessary expense of...writers. Look at the success of Downton Abbey. We want scripted drama. We really do.

  7. They must be cheap to produce, though...
    I wonder if a contestant can sue if they're badly hurt. They probably sign a disclaimer before they're accepted.