Reality TV isn’t real

Anita Babbitt

642. No, that’s not the number of freshmen coming into Lawrence this year. That is the number of different reality television shows that have been on TV in the past 20 years.
The majority of these shows are still on the air and their ratings couldn’t be better. In the past nine years, reality shows have gone from occupying about three hours a week during primetime to more than 20 hours a week. Not only are reality shows being played all the time, but people are watching them – six out of 10 of the most-watched programs on television, and all of the top five, are reality shows.
Why are there so many reality TV shows? From a network’s standpoint, one answer is cost: It is cheaper for networks and producers to produce reality shows than to produce an hour-long drama.
In fact, producing a reality show typically costs less than a third of what it takes to produce an hour-long drama. This is because producers usually do not have to pay writers or actors – with the exception of the cast of Jersey Shore. How ridiculous is it that the Jersey Shore cast is being paid $2 million a year each? After all, these people are being paid to be themselves, or a crazier and more entertaining version of themselves.
Another answer to why there are so many reality TV shows is ratings. These shows have become most popular with people between the ages of 15 and 49, which is the demographic that advertisers are most interested in. Reality TV is a guilty pleasure for many people, including myself.
People find pleasure in reality shows because they are so over-the-top. There is so much drama and fighting in these shows that viewers love coming back each week to see what is going to happen next.
The truth is, though, these shows are not very realistic. People who are supposed to be just like us are put into bizarre situations that would never happen in our everyday lives. At least in my little corner of the world, people just don’t eat gross-looking insects on their way to work like they do in Fear Factor.
You never see anyone as crazy as Snooki or as intimidating as Gordon Ramsay walking down the street, and you wouldn’t want to encounter people like this. These people are completely outlandish for the simple reason that they are on TV and know people are watching them.
Given how bizarre “reality” TV has become, is it healthy that our generation has become so obsessed with it, so much so that these shows now account for 20 percent of major networks’ primetime?
Young adults have become so entranced in reality TV that terms like “DTF,” “GTL” and “smushing” have become a part of every day vocabulary. I have overheard “I’m DTF” countless times.
Our generation is becoming the gossip generation and the fighters. Reality TV is taking over young adults and making them think that everyone needs to know everything about each other’s lives and that personal drama is entertaining. People love seeing fights happen on TV and this could carry into real life, making young people think it is appropriate behavior.
Young adults should be able to watch these TV shows without taking what they learn from the shows and applying it to their own lives.
I don’t expect young adults to stop watching reality TV shows; their appeal is obvious. But I do expect young adults to realize that these TV shows might be called reality, but they aren’t reflective of what goes on in most peoples’ lives and, more importantly, should not become reflective of what goes on in anyone’s life.