So much programming on television is being shown under the banner of reality TV that I for one am questioning the validity of such a genre.
Is their a prevalence of programmes featuring ordinary people because they are relatively low cost productions, or because we like to watch others suffering?
Forget the celebrity shows like Strictly and Dancing on Ice: I am more concerned with the those that appear to exploit the man or women in the street that wants to be a star – or at least a bit famous. These days it seems that notoriety is its own reward and talent rarely features.
I am fascinated watching the auditions sections of XFactor and Britain’s got Talent, but sometimes feel like Madame Defarge who sat knitting by the side of the guillotine.
A great deal of it is so cringe-worthy that I feel guilty; but surely those who have set themselves up for this humiliation deserve to be mocked. I still feel uncomfortable watching the famous Susan Boyle audition, despite her subsequent triumph with her singing, as I feel it was still humiliating for her. The fact that she did need support later in her “journey” proves that having a marvellous voice is not necessarily enough. But look at her now, so popular, much admired and so loved for her talent.
Reality TV allows us to feel superior to the contestants. Many consider that it is beneath them to watch it categorising it as “bear baiting. Is it wrong to enjoy this form of unscripted entertainment? So many questions are raised, but are the answers worth examining? Can we not just watch it if we want to without having to make excuses?
I can forgive my enjoyment when the contestants are actually displaying a talent or trying to achieve a dream of stardom. Often I will root for my favourite, although have so far never actually voted, but obviously millions do. And here is another point – how much money is made from these phone calls by the television company and who benefits?
What really does concern me is the prevalence of programmes such as Jeremy Kyle who encourages people in desperate situations to subject themselves to lie detector and DNA tests and to hurl abuse at family members and ex lovers. I know I don’t have to watch it, but why do ordinary people feel they can behave in this way. And to what extent are they goaded into behaving like this in front of millions of viewers.
But I do not want to get too serious and judgemental. There is a lot of fun to be had from this type of show and seeing the hundreds who queue up to take part, it is an extremely popular occupation.
The majority of these hopefuls will be disappointed but it gives us something to talk about. As long as it is not taken too seriously and we can accept the audience manipulation, it can be entertaining.
I know we are meant to dislike Simon Cowell and revel in Cheryl’s tears and do wish Louis Walsh would expand his vocabulary, but we know what we are getting and at least these programmes have now cleaned up their acts after the old vote-rigging scandals.
This is viewing democracy in action and obviously the fact that we are voting means we are perpetuating this form of entertainment. We would really like to hear your views – and you don’t need to ring in to vote!
by Tina Foster, deputy editor