The reality television genre generates a variety of opinions, depending on whom one speaks to. It could be seen as a guilty pleasure and a reason to chill out after a long day of work or school. It could also be seen as brainless, trashy television that claims to be “reality”, but is actually as scripted as fictional programs.
Every generation, in their own way, looks back on the previous decades with questions and perhaps a wistful vision of fantasy.
MTV’s The 70’s House aired back in 2005.It was a cross between The Real World and a reality competition show. 12 members of the older millennial generation are taken back to the 1970’s. Any mention of anything modern is forbidden. The thrust of the competition is to see who (for the lack of a better term) can be the most 70’s.
As an older millennial, I understand the fascination of the 70’s. But this was a niche program, in terms of both the network it aired on and the program itself. It was ok to watch 15 years ago, but I wouldn’t watch it now.
For some in college, the experience is incomplete without at least the attempt of pledging a sorority or a fraternity. But does that experience live up the images seen on the big and small screens?
Back in the early 2000’s MTV included Sorority Life (2002-2004) and Fraternity Life (2003-2005) on their schedule. Both series followed pledges and members of a handful of sororities and fraternities from across the country.
When both programs originally aired, I was the target audience. It was easy for me to get hooked on both series. But two decades later, both programs are showing their age and the questions that come with how real a “reality show” is.
The purpose of celebrity-based reality shows is that they are supposed to show that despite the fame and money, they are thoroughly human and just like the viewer. But the question is, is what the viewer is presented with real or faked for the camera?
Run’s House aired on MTV from 2005-2009. The show followed original Run-D.M.C. member Rev Run (aka Joseph Simmons), his wife Justine and their children as they went about their lives.
As celebrity based reality shows go, this one felt well, real. Though, like all reality shows, one has to question how “real” it is, this one felt just a tiny bit authentic.
Part of being a celebrity is constantly being in the spotlight. There is no better way to stay in the spotlight than a reality show.
Meet the Barkers aired on MTV from 2005-2006. Starring Blink-182 drummer Travis Barker and his then-wife Shanna Moakler, the show took viewers into the private lives of the program’s subjects.
The problem with the sub-genre of the private lives of celebrities within the umbrella of “reality shows” is that they have been done to death. If a program wanted to last, it needed to stand out in some way. Meet the Barkers did not, which is why it only lasted two seasons.
The only good thing about this show was that the song sung over the opening credits is sung by Natasha Bedingfield. I watched enough of this show to know that it was as fake as fake could be. Some critics accused the show of being a nighttime drama labelled as a reality show. Frankly, I could not agree more.
Since it’s debut about twenty years ago, reality shows have become the norm on our television schedules. It is therefore, not surprising that this genre has left no television stone unturned.
Tough Enough (2001-2015) originally aired on MTV before moving to UPN and then the USA Network. The premise is pretty much the same as any competition reality show: thousands of potential contestants send in their tapes. Of those thousands, twenty three are chosen to compete to become professional wrestlers. Over the course of the season, the contestants are eliminated until the winner(s) are chosen as future WWE superstars.
Though I only watched this show while it was on MTV, it was interesting while it was on the air. Granted, it was aimed specifically at the WWE fan base and not the general audience, it was still compelling as a television program. Granted, as time has gone by, it has become just another reality show.
We all know that there is no “reality” in reality shows. They make look like they are made on the fly, but they are just as slickly produced as fictional television programs.
Jersey Shore (2009-2012) is one of tent poles of the recent MTV schedule. The show follows eight housemates of Italian descent as they live and work together during the summer in Seaside Heights in New Jersey.
There are few television shows that I hate with a passion. Jersey Shore is one of them. Not only is it trashy beyond trashy, it is a waste of brain cells and precious television time that I will never get back.
Do I recommend it? Let me put it this way. No is the gentler way of describing how much I dislike this television program.
Dating shows seems to be one of the most popular within the reality show genre. The question that I think a viewer has to ask is if the show is “real” or staged for the sake of good television?
A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila aired on MTV in 2007. The premise of the show was the same as an reality dating show, with one exception. The star of the show, Tila Tequila, was bisexual. 16 straight men and 16 gay women competed for her affection. At the end of the series, like all reality dating shows, the final competitor was chosen as the star’s significant other.
As much as I dislike reality dating shows, I really disliked this one. The creative team had an opportunity to give a voice to the LGBTQ community. While it appeared that this was another opportunity to open the doors of communication and acceptance, it was in reality just another dating show that took advantage of the “exoticism” of the LGBTQ community to increase ratings.
To the average audience member, it appears that those who earn a living by performing and have the title of “celebrity” live a charmed life. But the reality is far different from the image that is presented to the world.
The MTV show, MTV Diary (2001-2014) followed the lives of celebrities as told from their perspective. Shot documentary style, each episode tells the story of the celebrity highlighted in each episode as they go about their day.
What I liked and still like about MTV Diary is that unlike the slick, produced programs that tells is a “day in the life of…”, MTV Diary was raw, sometimes emotional and personal.