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Reality TV – Not always horrible, it seems…

October 6, 2011

A few months ago, on my other blog, I wrote this. A short blog post about a reality TV show I came across while surfing channels one day. “I Married A Stranger”. I was dumbfounded. I could not believe that such a ridiculous concept of a show resisted. I felt like this:

(Yes, I have posted that video before).

Sadly, reality TV shows seem to cop quite a bit of flack for the supposed ‘cheap thrills’ and ‘low-brow’ entertainment…yet, they are strangely addictive. Shows such as X-Factor, Biggest Loser and MasterChef have such massive followings (indeed, MasterChef is a bit of a ratings winner). They do like to play up the melodramatics, or even create dramatic moments out of nothing to up viewer tension and anticipation, but if it works, it works. Indeed, I find MasterChef entertaining, but then it doesn’t have such an outrageous premise as ‘I Married A Stranger’.

However, as I learnt last week, these are not the only type of ‘Reality’ TV shows out there.

One Born Every Minute is a show that is termed a ‘docu-drama’ – Set in the maternity ward of a hospital in Britain, the show is focuses on the different stories of different women who come in to give birth, and also takes a look at the mid-wives and nurses who help them.  Shot in a documentary style format, and edited together to create at least two, parallel narratives occurring each episode. The editing also gives the show a sense of dramatic tension into what is in all probability a long, almost monotonous process (I mean, poor Joy in episode one was in labour for about four days, and it was condensed into about hour long show). The different techniques include a voice over narration, some use of interviews (with the new parents and some of the hospital staff) and observational style footage (cameras placed around the ward).

I found this show engaging, funny (maybe the women didn’t feel that way at the time) and even touching – I left the lecture theatre wanting to watch more! This is the kind of reality show I can watch quite happily!

  1. ‘Strangely addictive’ is a good way to describe Reality TV, Ruth!
    It is often a shame-ridden experience when you are a legitimate fan of a – what you know deep down to be – a dodgy (yet highly entertaining) version of reality. The irony is that most reality shows aren’t reality at all and merely give the impression of authenticity through supposedly spontaneous and ‘unscripted’ events.

    I think most Reality TV shows fall under the ‘So Bad It’s Good’ category.
    “Once in a while, a work turns out to be so bad, it creates a disruption in the badness continuum, and wraps right around to good.” –

    I’ll admit that I myself have fallen victim to many an MTV reality show (Jersey Shore, 16 and Pregnant, Teen Mom – I’d keep going but then it just gets embarrassing). Arguably, Reality TV as a genre itself can then be divided into sub-genres and contestant style programs probably have more legitimacy than, let’s say, a fly-on-the-wall Jersey Shore (the shame!).

  2. Ruth!! Totally feeling what you said at the start of this about reality TV- it seems there really is a lot of crap on TV and a lot of it comes under the umbrella of “Reality”.

    The unfortunate thing is though that yes i am an addict to reality TV (i am thinking as we are coming into this new age of technology they will providing ‘RTV’ meetings to cure our addictions) I think the reason reality TV has been such a hit on TV is because ut reals you in, always choosing characters and scenarios which are funny or interesting and combining different genres such as, adventure, documentary and soap all in one to come out with a complete interesting package!

    I went through a stage of being addicted to ‘Survivor’ which combines all of those elements within the show, two teams living and surviving on an island who compete against each other and vote each other out. This is the base of the show- it then goes on to bring the element of relationships and the hardships of surviving on the island, the face that all this is (at least) made to appear real is a one way ticket to the ratings box! how could one not become addicted!

    i suppose the question is where is reality tv going to go in the future?! haha hopefully just as engaging stuff like One Born Every Minute is on the agenda!

  3. teeveecultures permalink

    I strangely watched this on iView the other day. It really opened my eyes to Adam Hills .. I absolutely love him!!

    Speaking of liking loveable characters – yes, Diana, I think that’s what Reality TV has going for it. We saw it in the opening stages of Big Brother. People fell in love with these ‘characters’.. which might I add, were (are) real people! Real emotions, real problems, real situations.

    Docusoaps have definitely taken this concept to the next level by editing in a more drama-driven plot and storyline. Indeed this has facilitated added drama and overall, a better viewing experience for the consumer.

    End of the day, we’re all gossip queens – and this is why both formats work … very well 🙂

  4. damientvcultures permalink

    I also loved One Born Every Minute! It was so strange to witness a reality TV show achieve such a profoundly shocking sense of humanity and sympathy. I think the editors deserve major kudos for putting together such a brilliantly insightful narrative which manages to feel tasteful instead of exploitative. The inclusion of so many wry or quirky moments which otherwise would have gone unnoticed really made the subjects so much more real. My favourite moment was when Joy and her husband are shown wandering the hallways, stopping (half out of curiosity and half out of terror) to watch the other women screaming in agony as they give birth. You just can’t write that stuff – such a magic moment!

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