Raphael’s, The Political Ecomomic origins of Reality TV gave a bit of insight as to how reality TV became the current face of TV
Reality TV emerged in the late 1980’s because of economic restructuring of U.S. TV. Another great move by Network Execs.
But I have a question, why is reality TV still around? Is anyone still buying this?! Is the buy-in that great?
Well, in Raphael’s article he did say that America’s Most Wanted basically created the largest neighborhood watch group. However, reality TV has changed so much since the creation of A.M.W. (133) I’m beginning to think that people are buying in too much. I kept this in mind while reading McCarthy’s Reality TV: A Neoliberal Theater of Suffering. In her explanation, McCarthy referenced The Smoking Gun which is a website Created by the Court TV Network that addressed the ways that networks are reaching out to sad civilians in the hopes of boosting ratings
One example that I can think of are talent shows. Shows such as American Idol and America’s Got Talent.
Wedged between every cringe-worthy performance, there is a sob story of a person that has fought the odds to do the one thing that they love, sing. There will be footage of the contestant’s hometown accompanied by a pitiful background song. If the contestant is really trying to sell the story, they may cry. All of this will lead us into their performance, which is normally good. Occasionally the performance is just as upsetting as the story behind but I digress.
TV.com wrote about one of the sad idol stories. It was about Chris Medina and his fiancée Julianna, who was involved in a near fatal accident that left her disabled. As I mentioned earlier, Chris’s singing was good enough not to negate his story. But what really kept him around was his story. At the end of his audition, his Fiancée was wheeled in front of the judges and Medina was presented with the proverbial golden ticket.
This connects back to this idea of a neoliberal theater of suffering. Society wants to support the underdog. The audience will vote for him and spend money on merchandise. In addition to the standard texting fees for voting, that are written in the ever-so fine print at the bottom of the screen. Networks will continue to make money at the expense of the others and this is why reality TV is doing so well.