Reality TV Stimulates Me

In Creating Happiness by Barbara Jacoby

Let’s qualify that title a bit.  I am not referring to those “reality” programs that have contestants eating bugs or doing stupid tricks and I am not naïve enough to believe that editing is not the single biggest component in the final product that we see in each weekly episode.  But, I have a genuine fascination with the working of people’s minds as they try to maneuver and manipulate others to do/view things in the same way as they do.

These programs break down into two categories.  The first is the talent competitions that include participants who are being judged.  My particular interest is in those judges and the commentary that they direct not only to the performers but to the other judges and most importantly, what they throw out to the audience who will be those who will ultimately cast their votes. 

I have kept a little mental log regarding the judges’ comments which are skewed toward their favorites and the ultimate viewer voting.  It is absolutely unbelievable how the audience vote is almost always the same as the judges except for one show, which I will discuss in a minute.  For me, a perfect example of that was the recent finale of “So You Think You Can Dance”.  The season leaders and consistently best performers were thrown under the bus in the last show and the resulting outcome was exactly the performer to whom the two main judges had thrown their support in that final performance show.  I must say that if it weren’t for my love of the wonderfully choreographed routines being performed by such incredibly talented dancers, I really would never watch the show again.

The only show that I have seen where the voters’ voting does not normally follow the judges’ commentary is “American Idol” and I really do find that rather refreshing.  The part that I haven’t figured out yet regarding that show is whether the viewers purposely vote against Simon Cowell because of his abrasive remarks or whether they are truly voting based upon their own favorites.  Since I have not really followed this show, I will have to do some future analysis in order to make a better determination.

The second type of shows that intrigues me is the type like “Big Brother”.  Now in its 11th season, I have been a fan since the beginning.  In this show, they put together a group of approximately 12 individuals from various backgrounds to live together in a secluded house for 3 months.  Each week, the houseguests vote out one of the remaining group until the final two appear before a jury of the voted out houseguests who have been kept in a second secluded location after having been voted out of the main house.  The voted out houseguests determine the winner.

This is the most interesting competition to me.  I am so intrigued by the different ways in which the players choose to play the game, how and when they make alliances, how they change their approaches when certain tactics don’t work, how they backstab each other and so forth.  I have actually subscribed to the 24-hour internet feed from the house so that I can see so much more than what the edited version can ever show in 3 episodes a week.  And when that final vote comes from the previously evicted houseguests, I feel as though the winner is truly the one who should be winning the prize.

I don’t know whether others perceive reality shows in any particular way like I do or whether they just watch for the sheer entertainment value that they provide but if you do have a certain fascination with a show or a group of shows, I would really like for you to share them.

I would love your comments.