The relatability of ‘real’ television

Decades after its inception, reality television continues to captivate with The Bachelor, Phillip Phillips

The latest Bachelor season inspired a new drink at QP.
The latest Bachelor season inspired a new drink at QP.
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Long before Juan Pablo charmed us on the past season of The Bachelor, viewers were tuning into CBS to watch Jeff Probst announce the first-ever winner of Survivor: Borneo.
Survivor, which aired in May 2000, would go on to produce 28 more seasons over the next 14 years.

Survivor was by no means the first reality television show. Candid Camera, first airing in 1948, along with the many popular game shows of the 1960s and 70s, long preceded it. However, it initiated the reality show craze of the new millennium.

Since then, reality television has become a successful genre within the television industry, due to audience appeal and cheap production costs.

The effects can be seen in Kingston: American Idol veteran Phillip Phillips plays the K-Rock Centre this Saturday, while the Queen’s Pub fills up with Bachelor fans on Mondays.

Felicia Myronyk, a drama student, is direct when approaching the question of why the genre is so popular.

“We become bored with our own lives so we look for another story to entertain us,” Myronyk, ArtSci ’16, said. “I think reality TV does a great job of doing that for us.” While she said she doesn’t necessarily count this as a dangerous thing, she said that people need to be aware of the genre’s limits.

Caitlin Wood, a chemical engineering student, said she feels that reality television’s appeal actually comes from these vulnerabilities.

“[Reality television is] centered around things you feel like you can connect to more,” Wood, ArtSci ’16, said. “It’s an emotion I can relate to, versus a scripted drama, where I can empathize with the characters but not really relate to them.”

Wood said that while scripted dramas often deal with Average Joe-type characters in dramatized situations, reality television tends to do the reverse — rationalizing larger-than-life personas with the mundane realities of their everyday lives.

They get excited and upset over things that may seem insignificant, or have mindless conversations — which is something she said we can all relate to.

Cody Dauphinee, a fourth-year English student, said the genre shouldn’t be credited as a piece of non-fiction.

“It isn’t an accurate reflection of reality,” Dauphinee, ArtSci ’14, said. “Most of what happens in reality TV is scripted or people putting on an [act] because there is a camera in front of them.

“You can’t really ever have reality TV unless people don’t know they’re being filmed.”

Phillip Phillips plays at the K-Rock Centre on March 15.

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