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Reality Television Show


Reality television shows refers to genres of television programs where purportedly humorous scenes or documentaries of real events are aired. These shows are acted by normal people with no professional acting backgrounds hence there is plenty of drama in the shows and as they often entail competition, prizes are rewarded to those who emerge the best. Reality television shows have been present since the inception of television though their popularity has expanded in the 1990s.  Due to their popularity in recent times, the reality television shows have been a source of fame to many participants who have started their acting or professional careers after the exposure. The reality television shows though comprising of many genres have evolved for quite some time with the future being bright for participants though the shows have been criticized for their role in dehumanizing participants.


Reality television shows

Reality television shows are live recordings of programs that occur in series though news, sports events and documentaries on real activities do not qualify for reality television shows. Reality television always has an aspect of competition and a reward is used to make the participants engage in all sorts of contests.  Reality television shows can be portrayed as highly influenced forms of sensationalism where corporations manipulate the activities of the participants to attract a larger viewership hence more profits are pocketed. Most of the reality television shows are shot in abnormal settings which could also be exotic where the participants are coached to behave in certain ways which will appeal to viewers. However, the setting of the reality television show can change depending on the subgenre of the shows as is depicted by the various genres of reality television shows (Russell, 2010).

 Subgenres of reality television shows

Documentary style shows

These are a more direct shooting and footage of the daily activities of the said person who could be a professional such their actions are captured on camera and edited to resemble soap operas. The viewer and filmmaker often play a passive role in the documentary style reality shows. There are several types of documentary television shows such as the special-living environment where the participants who could be strangers or couples are placed in an artificial living environment and certain traits are tested. Celebrities and professionals such as doctors can also be part of the documentary television shows where the formal, as well as, informal activities of the key individual for the show (Poniewozik, 2003).The game shows or competition are another subgenre of reality television shows where participants are made to live as a group in confined environments as they compete to win a grand prize. The participants are eliminated in the course of the game show through voting by viewers and colleagues who are participants in the reality show. The game shows are often based on certain themes such as perseverance and talents hence those who emerge the best, as well as, the last after all the others have been eliminated get the prize (Russell, 2010).

 Another category of the reality television competition shows are is the dating-based competition where contestants are supposed to chose a suitor from a group of eligible suitors. The suitors are eliminated one at a time until the contestant has only one suitor left. Job searches are often conducted via the reality television shows where contestants are interviewed for a certain skill then those who are short listed are subjected to a series of tasks based on the skills. Usually the job related competitions involves a team of experts in the field as the judges who evaluate the amount of skills possessed by the contestants which are vital for the job in questions. The contestants are eliminated over time until the best is left and they are rewarded with a monetary gift, as well as, a job in the same profession (Hill, 2005).The other subgenre is made up of self-improvement reality television shows where the individual in need of a make-over presents their problem. The reality television team then introduces the individual to a team of experts who direct the person in the entire process of improving their present situation. These shows are screened in three major parts; before, during and after the make-over. Similarly, most of them are based on physical appearance attributes such as beauty as well as personality for instance enhancing ones self-esteem (Russell, 2010).

 Talk shows also count as key aspects of the reality television shows where the talk show host recruits guest based on the topic at hand. The topics are often based on ideas which are outrageous and are meant to create drama or tension on the screen. Hidden cameras amount to quite thrilling reality television shows where participants or passersby are subjected to certain frightening situations and their reactions are recorded for airing. The hidden cameras have also been used at times to expose cheating spouses after recording the activities of the suspected spouse. The real television shows where outrageous activities such as jumping down a mountain cliff are part of the hidden cameras as the participants are not wary of the cameras existence (Hirschorn, 2007).Paranormal television is a subgenre of reality television where abnormal scenes which are often depicted as being scary and out of the normal are screened. The supernatural overtones employed in these shows are edited by the filmmakers whose mission is to scare and frighten the contestants as some of the episodes are really frightening. Hoaxes include the subgenre of the reality television shows where a joke of false perception is depicted by the participants and others follow the false premise as the true aspect or event. Hoaxes are used as sources of amusement on individuals who are subject to the false statement (Alderman, 2008).

 History of reality television shows

The past

The first reality television show was aired in 1940 which was a rather unscripted televised scenario. The 1950s saw competition in the reality television shows emerging as it was during the same time when the Miss America beauty pageant became popular. There were also other reality television shows where the viewers dictated what they wanted in the reality television show (Poniewozik, 2003).The documentary reality shows emerged in the 1960s when individuals across various society classes had their everyday life screened for the public. These documentaries led to production of more celebrities as more people became exposed to life in public. The dating games and family woes as reality television shows began in 1974 which grew more popular as more participants were wiling to expose their private lives in exchange of fame (Murray, 2004).The supernatural subgenre was popularized in the 1990s more so due to increased use of computer editing where normal scenes would be transformed by use of technology to depict horrific scenes. Computer technology also made it possible for the filmmakers to produce reality television shows which could run for more hours as compared to those in the past that would last for half an hour at most. In 1996, the make-over reality television shows started and they went on to be the most popular in the last decade.

 The present  

The reality television shows have not only been made popular but also attained a global perspective where most reality shows are aired in more than one country with some getting a global setting when they are running. The fact that most of them are recorded in DVDs for sale in countries where they are not aired predicts a bright future for reality television shows (Russell, 2010).

 The future of reality television shows

Availability of the internet has increased popularity of the reality television shows especially with online voting in the game shows. The corporate bodies have also increased the amount of funds for the shows with most companies sponsoring at least one show at a time. The advertising in the reality television shows is enhanced by sufficient airplay in the course of the show hence everyone benefits mutually (Hill, 2005).

 Examples of reality television shows

Hell’s Kitchen

Hell’s Kitchen is a reality television cooking competition where two teams compete in various cooking challenges for one season. The contestants are eliminated at intervals until the number is reduced to five and they are combined to make a single team. The winning team of chef is rewarded while those who loose are punished by being made to perform manual work such as washing the dormitories or preparing dinner (Alderman, 2008).The show has only one judge who is also a top chef; Gordon Ramsey. Similarly, all the teams are expected to meet the demanding taste and appearance of the judge as they prepare the food. The elimination process is quite rigorous as petty issues such as lack of an item in the food may cause subsequent elimination of the team or individual. Once eliminated, the participant forces his/her chef’s jacket to hang from a hook by poking a hole in the jacket until the photo of the individual above the hook to burn therefore, sealing their elimination from the show (Poniewozik, 2003).

 Deal or no deal

This show has various versions in the various countries where they are aired. However, the most common method is depicted by contestants opening a set of cases which are numbered and contain a different prize. The cases are eliminated by mentioning the value of inside and as the show progresses; the banker offers an amount that is close to the value of the remaining cases. The contestant may accept the deal hence quitting the game or they may reject the bankers offer and win the contents in the last case. However, very few contestants have won the big prize as most opt for the bankers known amount (Hirschorn, 2007).

 The American inventor

This is a reality television series developed by an entrepreneur by the name Peter Jones as a competition for America’s best inventor. The participants strive to develop the most innovative invention in the country and the best wins the top prize. Since its inception, various contestants have produced unique inventions. Jones is the judge in the show and he decides who will win the prize (Murray, 2004).

 Inside American Jail

The Jail is a reality television show which records and follows the lives of criminals from their booking to incarceration. It was created and produced by the Langley’s as a reality documentary engaging the lives of the criminals (Alderman, 2008).Mythbusters is a science based reality television where the hosts t to unravel the myths which surround episodes such as ghosts, goblins and rumors which no solid evidence. The show attempts to test the validity of the myths surrounding such events hence creating a form of entertainment when a myth is tested and its significance lost. The show is time consuming as the presenters have to conduct ample experiments and tests prior to the real airing to elude the viewer’s confidence (Murray, 2004).

 Dirty jobs

Dirty jobs is prepared and hosted by Mike Rowe where he joins other employees in carrying out all forms of dirty jobs. The categories are difficult, strange, disgusting or messy where the cameras capture each activity for the reality show. Though the jobs are dirty and messy, the workers make them bearable through use of jokes and puling pranks at each other. Consequently, regardless of the task being filmed, humor and laughter are part of the tasks hence making Rowe conclude that the dirtiest jobs are often carried out by cheerful workers (Russell, 2010).

 Dog Whisper

This is a reality show that revolves around dogs that are taken through rehabilitation by Cesar Milan to mould their behavior. The program is used to sensitize dog owners that exercise, discipline and affection are essential in rehabilitating dogs. Similarly, he points out to dog owners to maintain a leadership role in their dogs as a way of taming them. At the beginning of the show Cesar has difficult dogs which are fond of engaging in problematic behaviors. The show progresses with Cesar suggesting ways through which the dog owners can alter their behavior to act as “pack” leaders in the dog’s rehabilitation (Hirschorn, 2007).

 The amazing race

The amazing race is a game show where teams of two people act as a single unit. The pair must have a preexisting personal relationship such as siblings, marriage partners and best friends. The teams are involved in races to diverse parts of the world where they compete with other teams to arrive first at the designated posts. The race entails moving to a number of countries through various modes of transport such as balloons, taxicabs, helicopters, by foot and trains. Clues on the next activity for the team or individual in the team are located at the end of each leg. The show has various rules such as avoiding any form of communication with family members and abiding to the laws of the country where they compete. The teams are eliminated based on lateness at the clue point or inability to get to the next point. Hence the team that remains at the end of all the legs is awarded the prize (Hill, 2005).

 Ghost hunters

This is a paranormal reality show where the two presenters explore areas which are purported to be haunted. The team of ghost hunters often respond to house owners who narrate their experiences of ghosts in the premises before the team carries out their own investigations by use of modern equipment. In most of the situations however, the ghost hunters have come to the conclusion that elements such as phantom lights are probably those of cars in the street below hence deluding all reasons as to the existence of the ghosts (Poniewozik, 2003).

 Criticism about reality television show

Reality television has been seen as a misnomer as some of the episodes that are aired do not depict the real situation. This is because the producers and presenters often edit the scenes to make them more appealing to the viewers. The corporate firms that sponsor the reality television shows are aimed at increasing their profits through massive marketing during the show. Hence they direct the producers to enhance the appeal of the reality show at times reducing the reality aspect which is more appealing. Therefore, the reality television shows at times fail to meet the required perception (Poniewozik, 2003).The artificial environments where the competitors battle out for the prize are as a result of total fabrication. The producer then selects the participants and tailors their moves, as well as, the setting to encourage certain actions to be aired. The behavior of the participants is also encouraged by the judges while others are discouraged hence the true self of the participants is concealed (Hirschorn, 2007).

 Cases of premeditated scripts and storyline which the competitors are supposed to utter, in addition to, incorporate in their behavior have been detrimental in spoiling the real characters of the competitors. Faking has been top on the list as a way of pleasing the judges and voters to make it easier for the competitor to get the top prize. Some participants who like been captured on camera more than necessary have been known to ac weirdly as a way of increasing their popularity while in the show (Hill, 2005).Reality television shows have been criticized for the immense humiliation which is suffered by those who are eliminated from the show. An example is in “Hell’s Kitchen” where one is made to burn their photo after being eliminated. Some are equally degrading and dehumanizing like the American Jail where the real lives of the criminals are exposed. Similarly, the morals of infidelity and dating are reduced by the various infidelity aspects which are aired in the reality shows (Alderman, 2008).


Reality television shows are real recordings of events which take place in the daily lives of human beings. However, not all reality shows are normal as there are some depicting abnormal events such as the paranormal reality shows as is indicated in the various subgenres of this major genre of television shows. The television reality shows have been around for quite some time while the future of this genre is even better due to increased sponsorship by corporate bodies. The reality television shows have been a source of criticism due to the poor production of the series such that there are plenty of edited parts which lower the quality of the real television. The producers and editors have been blamed on the poor performance of participants which spoils the reality in the reality television shows.


Alderman, Tom  "Shame TV: Why Humiliation Sells on American Idol and Others". The    Huffington Pos February 13, 2008t February 13,            2008.            tvwhyhumiliation_b_86500.html.2008

Hill, Annette. Reality TV: Audiences and Popular Factual Television. Routledge. 2005     

Hirschorn, Michael. "The Case for Reality TV". The Atlantic Monthly.   

Murray, Susan, and Laurie Ouellette, eds. Reality TV: Remaking Television                                    Culture. New YorkUniversity Press. 2004

Poniewozik, James  "Why Reality TV Is Good for Us". Time February 12, 2003.   ,9171,1101030217-     421047,00.html.2003

Russell, Michael. Reality TV. Why all the fuss? Retrieved on November 26, 2010            2010. 

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