The reality of reality television

May 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

One of the biggest differences between today’s reality television and its 1973 antecedent is the genre’s status. Having outgrown PBS, it has inherited the rotten reputation that once attached to the medium itself. In an era of televised precocity—ambitious HBO dramas, cunningly self-aware sitcoms—reality shows still provide a fat target for anyone seeking symptoms or causes of American idiocy; the popularity of unscripted programming has had the unexpected effect of ennobling its scripted counterpart. The same people who brag about having seen every episode of “Friday Night Lights” will brag, too, that they have never laid eyes on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.” Reality television is the television of television.

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Having logged those thousand hours, Pozner can attest that reality shows have a tendency to blur together into a single orgy of joy and disappointment and recrimination. In her view, this is no coincidence: the shows are constructed to reinforce particular social norms, she argues, and she finds examples from across the reality spectrum.

From this New Yorker piece on reality TV. Its very interesting to think about the scripts of reality TV shows drawing from a pool populated by social norms. Usually art has a creator behind it, who has a purposeful intent in the way he/she is depicting life or a slice of life. I suppose in some ways if we all can draw from the same or similar pool of social norms, then it makes sense that a depiction of that on TV should be quite popular.

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