Where did reality TV even come from?
According to VU Screen Media expert Dr Marc C-Scott, it all began in the bygone era of live TV. That may conjure images of people falling off chairs laughing on black and white talk shows, teased hair on Perfect Match or even Candid Camera; but it was the cheap thrill of ‘unscripted’ entertainment that’s once again pulling audiences today.
C-Scott says there’s big ‘bang’ for the relatively little ‘buck’. And with the take-over of Netflix and subscription television, it could be network TV’s last desperate grab for ratings.
Reality TV gets audiences. It is cheap to make and relatively unscripted – they don’t have to pay for writers, cinematography, costumes, sets... Granted, they manipulate what people say and do to create a story line – but they always have done – you just haven’t been aware of it.
But surely things are worse now, though?
“Think back to 18 years ago with the advent of Big Brother” he says. “Producers would be behind the scenes storyboarding their intended plotlines. They would gently manipulate the characters’ actions and reactions. Nowadays it’s just much more obvious – and participants don’t mind – often they want to be considered a particular way for their own social media or branding. So a producer asking them the same question over and over, until they get the response they want isn’t unusual.”
So for now, as we come down from our MAFS sugar-high (what even is the deal with Bachelor in Paradise?), maybe we’ll start to give into our ‘healthier’ viewing cravings… A serve of Masterchef, anyone?