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Why is Reality TV So Big?

At almost any given moment during the day, you can turn on your television and find a reality tv show on somewhere. Why are reality tv shows so big today? There are a couple of reasons. First, fame and fortune are very enticing creatures. They can lure everyday people out of their humdrum lives with offers of money and adoration by television viewers. Reality tv shows have gone from a expose on interpersonal relationships to almost anything imaginable. There are reality tv shows about cooking, magic, business, relationships, jobs, skills, fitness, sports, cooking, home repair, car repair – you name it and there is probably a reality show about it on some channel. And many of the “stars” of those shows are parlaying their fifteen minutes of fame into a television career, whether we like it or not. Many VH1 countdown shows include comments from reality tv show stars such as Ralphie May (Last Comedian Standing) and Evan Marriott (Joe Millionaire) among others. But for some reality contestants, true stardom is not so big a leap. Kelly Clarkson, the winner of the first American Idol, has turned her reality tv show win into a somewhat successful and respectable singing career.

The second reason reality tv shows are so popular is television viewers are quite simply nosey and voyeuristic. We like to know what is going on behind closed doors and if it involves some type of controversy, that just makes it all the more intriguing. The Real World is often created with being the first reality tv show, but you can go back even further to the Fifties when Candid Camera first aired. It was a show of regular people put in adverse, funny situations and we got to see how they reacted first hand. We love Candid Camera. It ran in some form for fifteen seasons, spawned countless other shows (America’s Funniest Home Videos, Kids Say the Darndest Things and the latest, Punk’d) and will probably come back in some form in the future. Americans also love game shows, which can be compared to reality tv shows. We love to watch people win or lose fortunes within thirty minutes and see how they react to that and each other. Perhaps Dr. Dr Annette Hill, a researcher at the University of Westminster put it best when asked by BBC News why reality tv shows were so popular – “"We found that, in general, people like to see what happens behind the scenes.” Some shows, such as Deadliest Catch, give us a glimpse into something we might never know about such as the dangerous lives of crab fisherman.

Like it or not, it looks like reality tv is here to stay. Although the shows themselves may come and go as popularity wanes, reality tv shows will keep reinventing themselves and remain on the air as long as people are watching it and giving the networks the ratings they desire.

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