January 28, 2008

Real or Imagined: What are You Watching on TV?

author_sally By Sally Raskoff

Given the current writer’s strike in the entertainment industry, our television viewing habits may have to change. While late night and scripted shows are in early re-runs, “unscripted” shows are sure to vie for our attention. Reality shows are sold to us as unscripted quasi-documentaries or as competitions rife with drama (although they do employ writers). In any case, these shows have multiplied dramatically in recent years because they are inexpensive to produce and profitable. 

Are you already a frequent viewer of reality shows? Do you have your favorite? Do you prefer the competitions and drama of Survivor or Road Rules? How about American Idol or Rock Star? Cowboy U or Coyote Ugly? The Bachelor, Beauty and the Geek, or A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila? Extreme Makeover or Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style? The Apprentice, Miami Ink, Iron Chef, or Project Runway? The Real World or Amish in the City? The Simple Life, Tommy Lee Goes to College, or the Two Coreys? Dancing with the Stars or So You Think You Can Dance? Kid Nation

Each of these shows offers a slightly different take on the reality formula: collect a group of people to take on tasks that seem formidable and watch to see who annoys you the most, who you want to prevail, and who actually wins or stays the course. 

Shows like Snoop Dogg’s Father Hood, the latest in the Anna Nicole Smith and Osbournes tradition, don’t have winners or a specific competition as they are based on witnessing the life of the subjects. However, competitive elements may intervene as family members vie for attention or they realize better ratings come from upping their “odd” quotient. 

clip_image003Celebrity reality shows have gained such popularity that a new word has emerged: celebreality. Language does change in response to how cultures accept or reject ideas and concepts about which people communicate. We’ll have to wait a few years to see if this word makes it into the dictionary. If it does, that would signal the cultural acceptance and lasting appeal of watching celebrities ostensibly live their lives in front of the cameras. 

Most people are aware that reality shows, whether competitions or quasi-documentaries, really do not depict reality. The first show on television that documented family life was on PBS in the 1970s, called An American Family. However, that show has more in common with the documentary genre than what we now think of as reality TV. 

Game shows are similar to reality shows in that they are unscripted and relatively cheap to produce, but there are some important differences A competition on a game show typically last only an episode and do not intend to depict any type of reality outside the studio in which it is filmed. Some competitive reality shows (such as The Bachelor) are similar to game shows but the competition spans the entire season and the drama of the experience is emphasized over the game. 

The difference between reality shows today and those in the past has to do with the degree of reality that is presented and assumed. Contestants on the Dating Game and the Newlywed Game (popular shows in the 1960’s) never left the studio. The shows were limited to asking and/or answering questions, often about sex. clip_image006These dating game shows are vastly different from current dating reality shows. The current shows encourage obvious sexual references and activities, offer a range of racial and ethnic pairings and do not restrict their participants to those who appear heterosexual. 

In addition, on the current shows participants tend to date many different people at one time whereas on the Dating Game the bachelor or bachelorette could not date all three of those vying to be chosen. I welcome the diversity of participants in the newer shows, as it is a step towards living up to many of our country’s ideals, not the least of which is equality for all. Depicting those who are not heterosexual, white, protestant, or middle class, has the potential to normalize those formerly subordinate or deviant groups of people. This can happen if they are presented, not as foils or best buddies, but as people equivalent to those who fit the dominant status model. 

Reality shows are similar to the more traditional soap operas that have long dominated day time TV. The differences rest not only with the “actors” but to whom the show is marketed: reality shows are aimed at the younger generations while soap operas target women who are home during the day. With the advent of Tivo and DVD recorders, not to mention changes in our economy and labor practices, a more diverse audience may be watching daytime soaps, however, one look at the advertising between show breaks tells you quickly who they define as their audience.

Take a closer look at the television shows that you watch: do they reinforce or challenge our society’s norms? To whom is the show marketed? Does the advertising that is paired with your show illustrate any notions the network, station, or producers have about their audience? If you do not watch television, what is your reaction to this discussion?

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Comments

hi,
Hmmm....Do u know! I am the late night tele-viewer. I like watching tv at late night

Learn more about your favorite TV celebs at "Miami Ink" at http://victoriasrighthip.typepad.com/six_guys_from_miami_ink_l/

Oh man you know old school t.v shows had more censorship and your parnets told you right from wrong. The cartoons and others shows had hidden messeges yes yet, some had morals. "Tom And Jerrry" vs South park you do the math

todays tv shows are less sensored and really dont care how much violence or swearing or sexual content they have in them. reality tv(which i admit i love) are the worst ones!

I think today's t.v. shows have less censor then back in the days when what they showed on t.v. mattered to the audience.

The difference between reality shows today and those in the past has to do with the degree of reality that is presented and assumed. I think the reality shows that play now diffidently seem to challenge the society's norms. By all the sexual content, and the language they use.

Reality shows are way different then they were in the past. It seems to hold people's attention they have to become less censured with more and more drama intertwined. Honestly, they get trashier and trashier. And yes, it definately does play a huge role on todays society. They begin to think that ind of lifestyle and behavior is ok. That it is normal. Which is so far from the truth.

Reality shows of today can get away with using explicit language and more sexual content then past reality shows. It is only going to get worse. At this point almost anybody can have a reality show and it may or may not be marketable.

Today's reality shows are scripted and the early reality shows were going by the flow. Yes, they will sometimes use provactive themes and other weird themes.

In todays reality shows everything is scripted and the reality shows back in the day were mostly real. Back in the day the tv shows were not that explicit but today they get away wit almost saying anything. Eveyone has a reality show,
and the celebritys are making there everyday life an reality show.

Today's reality shows are based on extreme behaviors. People love to see these behaviors because there not seen normal. Also drama plays a large role in modern reality shows.

tv shows today just show everything, period

Wow! The difference between todays reality tv shows and the pasts' reality shows are a major difference. Now, they show anything and everything that they want. As long as they have a good tv show, the rest doesn't matter. Morals aren't even considered anymore.I do believe that the reality shows do tend to reinforce and challenge social norms due to the fact that they are pushing everything to the limit.

TV SHOWS TODAY ARE NO WHERE NEAR AS CENSORED AS OLDER TV SHOWS. AND TO BE TRUTHFUL I LIKE THE RE-RUNS OF OLD TV SHOWS THEN MOST SHOWS TODAY. HONESTLY ALL YOU HAVE TO CHOOSE FROM IS REALITY SUCH AS SURVIVOR OR THE AMAZING RACE OR CRIME SHOWS SUCH AS NCIS OR CSI. WHY DO YOU WANT TO WATCH THE "REAL WORLD" PART ON TV WHEN YOU LIVE IT EVERYDAY.

The real world used to be one of my favorite shows until each season the samething happen. It used to be real now its too much of an act. I also think that reality shows now days challenge the norms because they can get more people to watch them by acting so different.

The difference in reality shows of the past and those of the present is reality shows of the past were more like documentaries and had a stronger degree of reality. Reality shows of the past were also more limited and most never left the studio. I think today's reality shows actually reinforce and challenge society's social norms. While some reality shows depict typical social norms, some of today's other reality shows really challenge society's social norms by pushing the envelope. Some reality shows these days go a little too far and get a little out of hand.

Todays reality shows are WAY different from those in the past. All TV in general. Todays shows don't hold anything back whereas the past ones at least had some points they wouldn't cross. Today's shows challenge norms because they are becoming more and more liberal. That's whats wrong with this country. I'm American..cause I'm from America. GOD BLESS THE U.S.A.!!!

we have allowed tv to evolve as we allow more and more to be ok that was preaviously taboo

t.v. today is vry very different from backk in ther day. back in the day it ws very little that you couls show as far as from clothes skin words evrything is the total opposite. as crazy as it is we all love them.

Today's reality shows tend to be more "open." What I mean by that is, what is accepted today was not accepted several years ago. Take a look at Big Brother. Most people in the '70s would be appalled for men and women to be living in the same house. Now, it is okay for men and women, not related, to be living under the same roof. Today's reality shows tend to reinforce society's norms. What is acceptable in society today is played on t.v. Look at American Idol. Simon Cowell tells the contestants the truth about them as he sees it, and most people are shocked by what he says. They accept it. Back then, it wouldn't have been acceptable to publicly bash someone like that on public television.

Today's television shows are alot more edgy and provacative than shows of the past. Shows like fear factor and survivor have come out with the goal of entertaining people's emotions. I believe that the shows that are on TV today are a direct reflection of the mindset of our society.

if your talking about cspan or cnn maybe i know about that and also if your talking about the history ch or something i can help you but i hate all current tv but i do like ture life from mtv

Todays reality shoes are more open, wild unlike the shows that use to come on. Eevrything has to be blurred or beeped out. Todays shows definitely challenge the norms. Shows have changed over the last 5 years or less drasticly. More nudity, vulgar language especially.

The difference I see is the openness to immorality, vulgarity, and the crude humor. And then we wonder why our children struggle?? Wow! How can we not struggle with relationships and bad habits when we are being fed this stuff. It brainwashes us without us even realizing it.

SHOWS IN THE PAST CUT OUT THE X-RATED SCENES AND A LOT OF VOILENCE IN THE PAST AND NOW EVERYTHING IS SHOWN TO AUDIENCES OF ALL AGES.

I hate reality tv. I pray it would just die out. You know like disco or high top fades. The acting is horrible and theres nothing entertaining about it.

Reality shows today push everything to its limit and it gets pushed further everyday. Todays reality shows are nothing like back in the day. You would not see sexual content or hear provocative terms. Sometimes its better to let people think than let them know everything.

Today on television things are not as sencored as censored as it was in the past. Television exibit behavoirs that we can not do in real life. They break laws and get away with it and have sex but absolutely no consequences. They do things that are clearly out of the norm i think we enjoy it because we know we can not do it, and that is probably why we enjoy it so much. ALthough we watch I do not think it effect our judgement.

Today's t.v. shows have less censorship then back in the days when what they showed on t.v. mattered to the audience. Today its about image

Reality shows are getting more and more dramtic and less real. They challenge the norms often. They also reinforce them to. As far as I can see they have to keep taking it futher and futher. Otherwise its just boring. I enjoy some of them but everyone doesn't need a reality show.

Reality t.v. has changed a lot in a short time. I couldn't stop watching a few years ago when they became really popular. Now it seems everyone has one and they keep getting more and more senseless. They do shake up norms a lot because people are looking at each others lives and judging their own

In the past, the reality shows were limited to a certain group; white, protestant, heterosexual people. Today they have a wide range of people on reality shows and game shows. I think that some reality shows reinforce norms but others are very eccentric and break norms constantly.

Shows from the past to now haved changed so much thats it rediculous, i mean im entertained because of the drama but i can't say if i'll like for my son to watch half of the cartoons that are made now of days. Shows back in the day actually had a positive message in them but now of days teenagers are having kids and just doing the complete oposite of what o grew up watching.

TV shows in the past were more like documentaries and had a stronger degree of reality. Also, there was a big part into ethic values and moral. For example, sex is more and more daring in front of the cameras than in the past. More nudity, vulgar language and violence challenge social norm in TV reality shows today. But I think It also reflect the level of adaptation to revolutionary changes in which our society is involved everyday. Personally, I don`t watch TV much. So, whatever is trash or not for the average, I don`t really appreciate. But I do appreciate wither a show is instructive for me, or my younger sister... or not!! lol.

todays t.v. is completely different than the past because we know have nudity, viloence, crime, cussing, and sex that peole of all ages could get into. back then there was not any of that.

I STILL LIKE MANY OF THE OLDER SHOWS BECAUSE THEY'RE KID FRIENDLY. I CANNOT TELL YOU HOW MANY TIMES I HAVE HAD TO STOP MY SON FROM WATCHING WHAT I THOUGHT WAS JUST A CARTOON. CARTOONS NOW DAYS EVEN HAVE PROFANITY AND SEXUAL CONTENT- I FEEL THAT THE IS IS PARTLY WHAT IS WRONG WITH TODAYS YOUTH. EVERYONE IS SO DESENSITIZED TO THE POINT THAT WE DON'T THINK ANYTHING OF ALL THE VIOLENCE WE SEE EACH DAY...KIDS THINK THAT VIOLENCE IS A PART OF LIFE AND I DON'T THINK THEY FULLY UNDERSTAND THE CONSEQUENCE OF SHOOTING SOMEONE.

I think that it is insane how older reality shows and shows nowadays differ! They used to have some class, but now that is completley out of the question for most reality shows today like Jersy Shore, or many of the reality shows that come on MTV. I have to admit they are intertaining but they do seem to be getting pretty bad with the content shown. It's like they have to do the craziest, trashiest, things to get an audiences attention.... It makes me wonder how bad these tv shows are going to be when my children are my age watching this junk, and how it will influence their lives.

Love reality TV!

I enjoy watching Tv at late night.

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