The television industry has reason to detest reality TV shows. More specifically, the Screen Actors Guild of America and Writers Guild of America have a reason. Members of these groups resent the enormous popularity of shows like “Survivor,” which films regular people with no script, and the fact that the shows have no need for union actors, writers or other assistants.
With the expanding popularity of the reality concept, as evidenced by shows such as “The Mole,” “Big Brother” and “Temptation Island” on major network channels, SAG and WGA members are fuming. A total of 11,000 WGA members did not work at all last year due to the increase in writer-less reality TV, according to The Boston Globe.
Members of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, which makes Emmy Award selections, also seem to dislike reality TV shows. Academy members are fighting tooth and nail over whether the reality shows deserve a spot in the Emmy competition.
Some in the TV industry argue that reality TV shows should be considered game shows because most offer contestants prize money. Some in the Academy refuse to consider the genre because they argue shows like “Temptation Island” appeal to the primal and voyeuristic qualities in humans, according to The New York Times.
But a deal has been struck, according to The New York Times. The shows, which do not fit news, documentary, fiction or game show categories will receive their own category to be honored separate from the main Emmy show during a separate awards show for nonfiction television.
As much controversy as reality TV stirs among industry professionals, even more heated debates fuel between those who watch the shows and viewers who dismiss them.
Freshman Mimi Bienia is critical of reality TV programs, specifically “Temptation Island.”
“They set it up in such a way where they create the drama and make it such a big deal,” she said. “It’s a manipulation of the situation.”
Sophomore Caitlin MacAlpine called “Temptation Island” the biggest waste of airtime in television’s history. She said she objects to the message the show sends about a lack of morality in the United States.
“If I wanted to watch soft porn I would rent it,” MacAlpine said.
MacAlpine said she is a fan of MTV’s popular “Road Rules,” which features contestants traveling across the globe to complete tasks. Dismissing suggestions of similarities between the MTV show and “Temptation Island,” MacAlpine said adventures such as skydiving in Belize make Road Rules a more entertaining and morally acceptable show.
Bienia and MacAlpine said they do not believe reality TV shows are examples of exploitation, a constant criticism levied against them, because they said the participants are aware of the risks.
“It is only exploitation if the people involved are not educated as to what they are doing,” Bienia said.
Sophomore Ben Stetler said the shows might exploit their stars.
“The reality TV shows perpetuate one aspect of a character’s life, which is perceived by the viewing public as reality, but not who that person really is,” he said.
Stetler said the shows present a form of pseudo-reality by withholding the full complexity of the characters involved. Instead, the shows simply accentuate the part of the character that draws the highest ratings.
Stetler said he did watch some episodes of “Survivor” as well as the MTV’s “Real World” and “Road Rules.”
Junior Chris Hobbs said he dislikes the reality genre in general.
“I don’t like reality shows,” he said. “I watch TV to escape reality, not have it thrown in back in my face.”
Regardless of professional or student opinions of reality shows, they do not seem to be going anywhere as they rake in high ratings with low production costs.