Has Reality TV Finally Had Its Day? | MN2S

Learn If Reality TV Has Finally Had Its Day?

Many of us tune in week after week to catch up with the antics of our favourite reality TV stars – whether it’s checking out how the other half live on Made In Chelsea, cringing at the situations of Ex on the Beach or fancying ourselves as ballroom dancing experts with Strictly Come Dancing.

TV about ‘real people’ has always had an appeal, from talent shows to property hunts, but about 20 years ago the current trend for reality TV really took off. It’s a format that is sometimes criticised for being superficial and an easy moneymaker for production companies, but like it or not it has fully cemented itself in the British cultural consciousness.

With the sale of Big Brother to Channel 5 in 2011, many predicted the end of the reality TV bubble, and recently similar criticism has been aired over the tired, repetitive formats on many channels. So, is reality TV a dead horse that we should stop flogging?

It’s hard to answer that without taking a look at the history of reality TV. The format has existed, in some way or another, since the 1948 inception of Candid Camera in the USA, but it wasn’t really until a 1988 strike by the Writers’ Guild of America that it came into being in its current form. The strike ensured that producers had to think about television in a different way, and an observational documentary series called COPS was born out of the incident.

Another thing changing was the advent of an industry technique called non-linear editing, which made editing the large quantities of footage necessary for a fly-on-the-wall style show suddenly much more feasible.

In 1992 an observational documentary appeared on MTV which would change the face of TV forever – The Real World. People were thrown into a house with several strangers and the ensuing tensions, producers discovered, made for compelling viewing. It spawned a whole genre of observational reality TV, from Airport to Driving School and the style of filming and editing became a mainstay of British and international TV.

Survivor was the first of the reality game show format, in which contestants were pitted against each other in competition for the ultimate prize. It was the extra ingredient that reality TV needed to keep viewers truly invested in what was going on – and created the extra tensions and conflicts which make reality TV so compelling.

Big Brother remains, perhaps, the biggest reality TV show of all time. Starting in the Netherlands in 1999, the format was immediately snapped up by channels around the world – and in many of them, it’s still going. Of course, it’s not the hot topic that it was in the early years these days – when Big Brother first started it was billed as a social experiment and millions of people tuned in daily to catch up with what was happening – it was also unusual in that episodes were screened live or nearly live, adding an extra element of addictive immediacy.

The next big thing in reality TV was to be talent shows, starting with Pop Idol and leading on to The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent. These shows allowed ordinary people the opportunity to become world-renowned performers, and chuckling at the less talented contestants, producers discovered, made just as good viewing as enjoying the performances by those with true talent.

By the mid 00s, reality TV was everywhere, with formats as diverse as How Clean is Your House and What Katie Did Next pulling in viewers. With producers worried that the format was becoming old, it was time for another paradigm shift – towards so-called ‘scripted reality’ TV shows.

The Only Way is Essex debuted in 2010 and was closely followed by Geordie Shore and Made in Chelsea. These shows combined genuine reality TV with more scripted moments and scenes acted or re enacted for the camera, and proved an enormous hit. Although they, too, are now coming on for a decade old, the format has not yet fallen in popularity and when it does, the ability of the reality TV machine to reinvent itself makes us sure that it won’t be the last we see of reality TV.


Celebrity booking agency

Because of its enormous popularity, reality TV stars are amongst the most in-demand of our celebrity talent here at MN2S. If you’d like to book one of the reality TV stars on our books, such as Mark Wright or Imogen Thomas, get in touch today.

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