Reality Show Appreciation
Reality Show Appreciation
Mark Cronin (Founder & Producer) gives expert video advice on: What are some of the most influential modern reality shows? and more...
What are the various types of reality shows?
Reality television comes in several genres. The world tends to group reality television into several different sub-genres. Game shows are certainly a form of reality television, as real contestants come on and try to play the game, and either win or lose in real time in front of you. Talk shows are a form of reality television, where either real people or celebrities come on to discuss topics or tell a story in some way in front of a live studio audience in real time. That's reality, because when you sit down in front of a live studio audience, what you're about to say may be planned, but not fully scripted, and the questions may not be fully known to you ahead of time. The story that you tell is never told the same way twice. It's reality. It's a true story of what happened that day. Another kind of reality television is big contest reality. We also call this genre elimination shows, where a group of people start and one person wins. Those cover things like Survivor, The Apprentice, and also The Bachelor and other shows, where the prize may only be a guy, but it's still the same thing. Twenty people started and one person won. Those are what we call elimination shows, or contest shows. Another kind is the more pure documentary type of show. The Real World is one of those. There is no prize for The Real World, it's just a question of whether people can get along. Some reality shows are living sitcoms. I would say The Osbournes is like that. It's the true story of this family just trying to deal with each other. There's no prize at the end of it. It's cut for comedy, which I find interesting. The shows I do are also cut for comedy, like The Surreal Life - there's no prize at the end of Surreal Life, but it's about whether these wacky celebrities can get along and live together as roommates. Basically, those are the major genres in reality television: talk, game, contest, and documentary style.
What are some of the most influential modern reality shows?
The first and most groundbreaking reality show in modern times was The Real World where, for the first time, somebody tried to create a soap opera out of real people just trying to be roommates. A big groundbreaking reality show was Survivor, which was the first big budget, epic scale contest show - at least in America - that became hugely popular and really broke ground and made it possible for networks to get into this business. It made it palatable for networks to get into the reality show business, and draw the same kind of audience that big network shows had drawn in the past, except in this new genre. Another big reality show was Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? which basically was the re-birth on television of the classic game show. In prime time on a weeknight, the whole family could sit around and watch some of the answer-trivia questions which hadn't been seen since the 50s. In the 50s, it was very common for the whole family to gather round and watch the answer-trivia questions but that died out in the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s, and eventually was reborn with Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
What are the most underrated reality shows?
My view of whether something's good or bad in television is: Was it popular or not? I know it seems like a very cold way to look at things. I feel like if something was good, but the public rejected it, it really wasn't good. For some reason it wasn't entertaining enough to capture the public's imagination. When you're talking about television, you need to be talking about mass audience. Something on television that's defined as good is something that attracts a mass audience, to me. I really don't make any other quality judgment. If it was popular, it was good. That's an unfortunate thing to say, because that allows room for Dancing With The Stars to be perceived as a good reality show, even though I wouldn't watch it. I still have to say it's a good show, because so many people watch that reality show, so it must be good.
Who are the most memorable reality show stars?
The real thing about reality television is it can create a star out of nothing. We all can remember some of them. One of them is Richard Hatch from the first season of Survivor - the naked guy who won a million dollars for the first time on that show, and then ended up going to jail! He's one of the more memorable stars. There have been some pretty famous, outrageous characters on reality shows. Some of them I like to think are on my shows. Flavor Flav was a larger than life character in a reality television show. He had a character named New York, who later got her own show. She's fairly memorable. Amarosa on The Apprentice: I will always remember her as one of the most hateful - love to hate characters - on television. I think reality television has done a good job of creating memorable characters for the nation.
What are your most memorable reality show moments?
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Why do so many reality shows feature competitions?
Reality television is a heightened version of reality, and in order to be entertained by a group of people - especially a group of people who have no back story together - in general, reality shows are made up of strangers. Strangers come together. They never knew each other before but now they're forced to live together and compete against each other. The reason we often make them compete against each other is because it amps up everything; it amps up friendships, it amps up enemies. It makes people care about what they're doing on the reality show. If I wasn't competing with you, I would probably just be your buddy and I wouldn't care if you said something mean, even. But if I'm competing with you, it makes everything personal and now I'm going to lose and I might not get the money - and I want the money. Competition just amps everything up. You find competition a lot in reality television because it's a mechanism of getting emotion. It's a mechanism of getting people invested and caring about what happens in a very real, visceral way. Otherwise they would just sit around and chat.
What new direction is the reality TV genre taking?
In my opinion, reality television has done a good job exploring drama. It's explored drama in many ways. From the kind of soap opery drama, tear jerking drama, like Extreme Home Makeover, competition drama, romance drama like The Bachelor. It's dealt with a lot of genres of drama. What it has not done yet is dealt with a lot of genres of comedy and I feel like the direction that reality television is taking now and will continue to take in the future is in a comedic direction because audiences a.) they like comedies as much as they like dramas and they're not being serviced by reality comedy as much as they are by reality drama and also because comedies tend to repeat better. That an audience can watch a funny show over and over again like South Park, and The Simpsons, and Seinfield, and Friends. Whereas once they see a drama and they know how it ends, they are not as interested to watch it again, they don't repeat as well. And because of the economics of television the necessity of a show to repeat well is very important. I feel that reality is going to move in the direction of comedy so that it can find a way to do a repeatable reality show.