Saturday, October 25, 2003

Get real

cover story

A few decades ago, the concept of a little wooden box with a screen that showed 'pictures in motion' was the center of a lot of ridicule. Soon it changed into awe, as the same people who'd been making fun of it, now stood (or rather sat) glued to it! As time went by, sitcoms, soap operas, movies, sports and even the news took command of the waves…but things were about to change!

And before everyone even knew what had hit them, the reality television trend was in full swing…airing at all time of the day…on all channels…in all countries!

No really!

Survivor, The Amazing Race, Idols, Big Brother, The Real World, 1900 House…they come with all sorts of weird names and double it up with totally weird ideas! But, for most of such series, the people on these shows aren't celebrities…at least at the time when the show starts. They are just ordinary people, 'plucked from obscurity' who will be known country wide, if not world wide, by the time it ends!
It is generally observed that a movie or show with a star-studded cast is, more often than not, a hit. So if there are no celebrities in most of the reality TV shows, then just what has made these shows so popular?

The Real Deal

A reason for reality TVs success could be that the whole idea was new and fresh and a change from the same old rut of the regular TV shows was a welcomed change! Another reason could be all the hype that came as a result of the first reason! And, well, the absence of celebrities could've helped in making these shows a success. How? People view the contestants of these shows as 'real' people, not someone playing it out for the cameras (though it can be argued that these people ARE playing it out for the cameras but we'll just leave it at that!). The viewers can relate to the people they see on the screen. With some of these shows having 24 hour or daily coverage, the viewers get to be a part of the experience…

But there's another major cause why reality TV has been so immensely popular around the globe…it's interactive! Though this may not hold for all of these shows, but with series like Idols and Big Brother, the viewers get to vote for the people they want in the show and the people they want evicted! Neat, don't you think?

So which reason is it? Or is it a bit of all of these? Whatever it maybe, no one can contest the fact that reality TV is big all around the world! All around the world, that is, except maybe in Pakistan!

Ground Reality

So many countries have organized reality shows and now these shows have even been held on a continental level, but just why didn't the whole reality TV trend kick off in our country? The main reason could be the kind of interaction (like for instance 12 strangers living together in one house sharing rooms and all) that cannot be acceptable in this country…and even in some other countries for that matter! (Malawi went as far as banning Big Brother Africa earlier this year - a decision that had to be overturned later!)

The amount of investment and the security measures that would have to be taken could be another factor for no reality TV in Pakistan. Is any channel willing to risk heaps of cash to start a reality show when they aren't even sure the public will respond to it? Apparently not…

And there has been the long-standing accusation again these TV shows, which has been going against them: Rigging! It is generally believed that all such shows are fixed. Ever since Survivor 1, we've been hearing that the management of the show told some contestants whom they should vote to evict. Did they rig the show? Is Big Brother fixed? Who checks which part of the world voted for which contestant? Do they even tally the votes anyway? Same with Idols…do the viewers choose the idols or is it the record company that will give them the recording deal in the end? So who knows what's actually going on? It is television no matter what name you give to it…is there any reality involved anyway? Should we just watch the news if want to see something real? Wait…is the news real?

As 'real' as it gets

Real or not, reality TV is here and it looks like it's here to stay! So, how long do you think it'll be before we have Survivor Pakistan? A friendly advice: don't hold your breath! ;)

Reality Check

Some of the most popular Reality TV shows are:

  • Big Brother: A group of people, who are complete strangers before the show, are locked up in a house for a certain number of days (usually a couple of months) and asked to do tasks that range from entertaining to totally wacky! The viewers vote to evict one housemate every week (or whatever the interval has been set to) and in the end one housemate walks away with loads of cash while other have to make do with *the experience*! Big Brother (Netherlands, 1999) is in the Guinness World Records 2001 for the most interactive drama-documentary!
  • Idols: Thousands of hopefuls come for auditions and have to face the criticism (and sometimes the wrath!) of the judges. The selections narrows down until about a dozen (ten in some cases, twelve in others) are left. After many hearts break, the person that everyone (or was it no one?) likes, becomes the idol!
  • Survivor: A group of strangers are stranded on an island (or some isolated piece of land!) without stuff like fire and shelter. (The latest twists include no food!) They are divided into two tribes. The tribes have to take part in challenges to get 'immunity'. The tribe that wins immunity is safe. The tribe that doesn't has to evict a member. The tribes merge as the game proceeds and the immunity moves to a personal level. In the end we're left with the 'sole survivor' who wins the cash!
  • The Bachelor: A bachelor who doesn't want to be single anymore gets to meet women that he can *choose* from. After lots of 'rose giving ceremonies' and his parents endless you're-ruining-your-life concerns, the bachelor chooses one woman that he becomes engaged to…apparently!
  • The Bachelorette: Same as the bachelor…only this time the bachelorette is looking for Mr. Right!ΓΌ Fear FactorPeople do totally unbelievable things (like eating worms…eww!) to conquer their fears…and, well, to win the ca$h!
  • The Osbournes: The show revolves around the life of Ozzy Osbourne and his clan (the people who take part in the show are Ozzy, his wife Sharon, son Jack and daughter Kelly). 'The Osbournes' has literally made the Osbournes a household name!
  • The Amazing Race: People race around the world so that they can…you guessed it…win money! The show…er…shows teams (one team=two people) go around the world, traveling different countries and the last team to reach a stop in eliminated. In the end, the first team that gets to the destination (which is the same place they started from) *win$*!

-By Sameen Amer

Us Magazine, The News - 24th October, 2003

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