April 19, 2004

Unreality TV

by Nick Morgan

Unlearned Hand's report of an exchange he overheard got me thinking:

    Employee #1: Did you see the last episode of The Apprentice?
    Employee #2: Yes.
    Employee #1: Who won?
    Employee #2: Bill.
    Employee #3: Yeah, and now he get's a $250,000 job. They call it "reality TV." Whose reality is that?
    Employees #1 and #2: [Pondering]
    Employee #3: Yeah.

The answer, of course, is "Bill's reality!" But the point I actually wanted to bring up--which is probably rather obvious--is that reality TV isn't about reality, because reality is generally too boring for TV. In some sense, all TV is "reality TV" because actors are actually in front of the camera, actually doing and saying the things we hear and see. The difference is simply that in reality TV, the events and people represented on camera are events and people that are not as strictly fictitious as a sitcom or a movie. But reality TV may as well be just as "scripted," even if actors aren't reading lines. Instead of mere words and ideas, actual relationships (financial and personal) and actual events become the elements manipulated by writers to produce what ultimately may as well be fiction. The reality TV fiction, however, as anyone who's seen "The Swan" would vouch, can indeed be stranger than fiction itself.

April 19, 2004 07:16 PM | TrackBack

Ha. That was my girlfriend's reaction too:

I like your post about the Apprentice. I think that's why I like these silly shows, they AREN'T real :). I mean, who would watch a TV show of me....reading in a chair, then....reading on the couch, then...reading on my deck, then....eating a bagel!
Posted by: Unlearned Hand at April 19, 2004 07:56 PM

Well, the answer to your girlfriend's question depends a lot on . . . your girlfriend! Sorry, couldn't resist :p

Posted by: Nick Morgan at April 19, 2004 08:07 PM

For the answer to that question you'll have to watch the reality show: "Hot or Not?"

Posted by: Brian at April 19, 2004 08:30 PM

When court proceedings are televised, do the cast members (judge, attorneys, parties, clerk, witnesses, jury members, etc) ignore that fact in their conduct and performance?

Posted by: Shag from Brookline at April 20, 2004 07:28 AM
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