Her take: The state of reality television

| Cadenza TV Editor

Read a male perspective on reality television.

The 20th season of “Survivor” premiered last Thursday, and somehow I still care. “Survivor” was the show that launched the genre of reality TV, and in the past decade, it has changed the television landscape. This show is a brilliant representation of somewhat primal human behavior when set outside of civilization. This new season brings together heroes and villains of 19 seasons past. All of the players are veterans who have watched the television show; they know how their competitors will play. How do you change a strategy in order to outlast the others? How cruel can one person be to win a million bucks? “Survivor,” even after 10 years, is still relevant and interesting.

Not that I believe all reality TV needs to be a psychosocial study of human behavior in order to be entertaining. “American Idol,” my guiltiest of pleasures, makes me ridiculously happy every time I watch. I adore “discovering” new talent on the journey to launch a recording career, and I develop emotional attachments to many of the finalists. I love following artists from their unknown past to superstardom. Even if someone I love is not successful, it is still a fun show to listen to and watch. I feel the same way about many talent-based competitive reality shows—“Top Chef,” “Project Runway,” etc. I like getting to know these people before they get their big breaks.

But even though I like some shows, I am not a blind supporter of reality TV. I believe if the genre is allowed to continue deeper into its pit of depravity, television may never recover. Sure, “Jersey Shore” is entertaining as hell, but is it really worth precious time on air? No. Still, MTV is not a broadcast network channel. It should program to its niche audience. But consider Fox, a broadcast network that never gave a show like “Firefly” a shot, but kept “The Littlest Groom” and “Temptation Island.” Do we really want to highlight exploitation of little people and sexy cheating temptresses on broadcast TV? No. But that’s what many people think they want, for “reality” is easy and fun to watch. Broadcast TV needs to change the type of reality it offers, so television does not revert to the “vast wasteland” it was considered to be in the 1960s.

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