Reality TV is not even reality anymore; it has become a publicity stunt to make money.
Television shows used to be original programming. Now what you see is spin offs of other shows. A&E’s “Parking Wars,” for example, was an original series that was about the parking authority handing out tickets. This caught popularity and now there are multiple spin offs of different ways people make money ranging from shows like “Storage Wars,” to now “Whisker Wars”(on IFC). From buying storage lockers, to competitions about growing facial hair, television stations will make a show about almost anything.
Most television stations have gone through a transformation in the wrong direction. For example, VH1 has gone from strictly music and performances to “Celebreality” programming with shows like “Salt and Pepa” and “Basketball Wives.”
VH1 is using these shows to reveal what famous people really do with the money that they have. Some of the decisions that they make are questionable, but they can do it because they have money. I feel like this is what celebrities do when they get bored. They pitch an idea to a TV station, ask them to follow them around for a couple days and see how stupid they really are with their money.
This exploits a feeling that all of us want to have about being rich, and having so much money we don’t know what to do with it.
MTV, under the same ownership as VH1 (Viacom Media Network), has made almost the same transition from music videos to reality TV shows and scripted programming. Both VH1 and MTV show programs and movies directed toward the young adult demographic.
It seems to be a fad that people want to see other people being deviant. I think that deviance is something that is in all of us but we do not necessarily exploit. We would rather see other people act in such a way to imagine what it would be like to be in their position.
TLC, otherwise known as “The Learning Channel,” was founded in 1972 by the department of Health, Education, and Welfare and the NASA, with the focus on providing real educational programming. TLC decided to try something new. The new idea consisted of following families around in their everyday lives, portraying life unscripted. They tried this because of their poor ratings and narrow target audience.
Expanding on the life unscripted ideal, TLC, started to go in a different direction and show people living their lives and then learning about life lessons. TLC has shows that try to teach their audience what can happen to you in life, and how other struggle with their lives.
Shows like “Little People Big World” and “John and Kate plus Eight” are interesting and show life styles that are not normal and portray their everyday struggles. On the other hand, recent programming like “Say yes to the Dress,” “Long Island Medium,” “Toddlers and Tiaras” and the spinoff of that “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo” are shows that are strictly for entertainment. TLC is distancing themselves from their original mission of showing life lessons.
All of these TV stations are lowering the bar. Programming has migrated from their initial programming to educate people, to strictly entertainment.
One of my favorite shows, South Park, makes shows based on current events that are being exploited by the media. They made one about lowering the bar on television focusing on Honey Boo Boo and how terrible the mother is at raising her child. Kyle and Token make a video about Cartman who is an overweight child which was filmed by Kyle to make a documentary. Token took it and turned it into a joke making fun of Cartman for being fat and taking advantage of him eating himself to death.
This is exactly what happened in real life with Honey Boo Boo. It began as a documentary where they showed “Toddlers and Tiaras,” they found this family and decided to follow them around with cameras and saw how they really lived. They were shocked by what they saw and made it into a show and portrayed the way they raise their children as a joke.
South Park also has a segment where James Cameron, a famous film director, tries to raise the bar. At the end of the episode James Cameron decends into the ocean and finds the metaphorical “bar” that has been lowered and attempts to raise it back up.
Throughout his ascension he explains some events through history that were all over the media that lowered the “bar” or in this case people’s standards. They picked James Cameron for this because he writes and directs films like “Avatar,” “Terminator” and “Aliens.” These films have a moral to the story and teach us something about the world or how we should live our lives.
I agree with this episode of South Park and they did a great job of showing what is really happening to our media and to what standard we hold television stations to in today’s society.