In the past decade, reality television has grown to be the most consumed form of televised entertainment. The focus of the genre has spanned from famous celebrities to backwoods-nobodies and has attracted positive and negative reactions from the public. Shows such as "Keeping up with the Kardashians" and the ever popular "Duck Dynasty" have taken over TV sets in the homes of countless consumers who are happy to escape to the seemingly more interesting lives of their famous "friends." The question, however, is what kind of impact is reality television is having on the viewers and society as a whole.
In the mid-90’s “The Real World” premiered on MTV, marking the beginning of the current reality trend and the end of MTV actually showing music videos. “The Real World” follows a group of seven to eight young people living together in an elaborately decorated house with amenities that don’t belong in most peoples’ “real world.” Since then, television has suffered through the atrocities of “Jersey Shore,” multiple “love-based” shows such as “The Bachelor,” “The Bachelorette,” “Flavor of Love,” and the innumerable brain-cell-murdering series that have taken over TLC, A&E, and the History channel.
The absurdity of the topics growing continues to increase as the genre “matures” (or immatures). Sure, nobody actually admits to liking “Here Comes Honey Boo Boo,” but watching it still kills brain cells and promotes future similar programs. And similar programs will happen. Reality television executives have very little confliction when it comes to creating a carbon copy of an existing show. For example: “Say Yes to the Dress,” “Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta,” “Say Yes to the Dress: Bridesmaids,” “Say Yes to the Dress: Big Bliss,” “Say Yes to the Dress: Randy Knows Best,” etc. All focus on the same topic. This implies to TV executives that they can make the same show twice and get away with it. If the trend continues, the creativity and originality that used to fill television could eventually cease to exist.
What’s more depressing, though, is how willing people are to buy into the fantasy of reality television. By now, everyone is aware of the scripting that occurs in even the most realistic series. No one, especially famous people who rely on their public image, want to be themselves in front of a camera. But, viewers support these people who are essentially fooling them. “Duck Dynasty,” perhaps the king of scripted reality TV, has pulled in viewership that tops even the greatest of original scripted series. When viewers are promoting television that doesn’t challenge those involved with making it, the laziness that currently exudes from the genre could erode into other genres.
Possibly the worst impact of reality television is on our society. Last December the amount of controversy that surrounded the Phil Robertson homosexuality debacle was embarrassing. On a day where news was going full force with issues such as the limiting of NSA spying, senate budget deals, and security breaches in Target stores, we, the people, were focusing on the words of someone who makes a living for being filmed…living. The fact that someone with no political standing has so much leverage in our country proves how harmful such entertainment can be. Ignoring the important news in favor of something that really does not matter at all shows where the minds of the general public are and suggests where they need to be.
Although quality television still exists and has even grown in the past years, it’s obvious what most people are watching. No signs of reality TV releasing its grasp on society are present and, if the last 20 years of entertainment is any indication, it probably won’t happen anytime soon. Still, it makes sense to remain hopeful that the trend will eventually die out or at least adopt some kind of quality. Until then, changing the channel is your best weapon in the ongoing fight for watchable TV.