For many people, the first thing they do when they get home is turn on the television. There are different genres to choose from, Sitcoms to Games Shows to Documentaries. But what about Reality TV? Many people around the world watch some type of Reality program whether it’s catching up with the latest celebrity to conducting a social experiment. Nearly 4 in 10 people are drawn to some type of reality program which equates to about 39%. With the evolving technology and its contributions to television, many viewers are too focused on the screen rather than their surroundings. Reality TV especially, has become extremely popular over the past 10 years and has had a great impact on the younger crowd. With Reality TV evolving and potentially becoming a pursued life or dream for many individuals, does it affecting our Society especially young adults? If Reality TV is perceived meaningless and fabricated by an abundant amount of people, should television industries continue to produce them or should they just scrap them? Since television plays a huge role in our society, one should be aware of their productions and focus on other aspects rather than financial growth.
In 1967, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Public Broadcasting Act which amended the Communications Act of 1934 by extending and improving broadcasting facilities to further education. This would eventually lead to the formation of both the National Public Radio (NPR) and the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). President Johnson’s actions resulted because of his supported effort to fund educational television through the National Defense of Education Act in 1958. After the death of President John F. Kennedy and having to step up from Vice President to President, Johnson was determined to make his own mark for moving Americans forward. Unfortunately, the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967 failed to provide decent financial support for noncommercial educational broadcasting systems however, it succeeded in bringing high-quality radio and television programs to U.S. audiences. Without the efforts from President Johnson, media would be faced with extreme degrees of power and control if not outside the grasp of market forces or confining commercialization. Since then, television has expanded to create all kinds of viewpoints and genres which sparked the creation of the first reality show in 1973.
On January 11, 1973, PBS launched the very first Reality TV series ‘An American Family”. It showcased an American family, The Louds, as your average middle class people residing in Santa Barbara, California. During this time, comedies and family oriented shows were very popular and seemed to be the most successful among the industry. To produce a program where viewers essentially know a great amount of detail about someone else’s life was a big risk. The show only aired from the month of January to the month of March in the year 1973. With hours of footage, the show ran for a total of 12 seasons on Thursday nights at 9:00 p.m. Over the course of the series, An American Family drew in around 10 million viewers during their short season. An American Family was a hit! By including scenes of family interaction and struggles that many families face, people were able to connect on a different level compared to scripted programs they were used to. As a society, this created a new social norm in which one is entertained by the lives of those who may be different from their own. This was the spark needed to produce the vast amount of Reality based programs that are available today like Keeping Up with the Kardashians and America’s Funniest Home Videos.
As of 2017, Reality programs are the second most popular genres viewed in the United States with Drama taking first (‘Most Popular TV Genres U.S. 2017 | Statistics”). Since 1973, the reality industry has continued to blossom and create a variety of reality based shows. Now there are a wide range of genres to choose from within the reality category such as Documentary, Lifestyle, Legal and Transformation/Self Improvement. With the creation of An American family, corporations were able to take a small idea and transform it into a new way in which many Americans can be quite controversial about. Why might Reality shows be controversial? Programs such as Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Jersey Shore have racked in millions of viewers throughout their seasons mainly because they are ‘…just mindless entertainment, like so much of the mass media we consume,” (Cohen). Many individuals, majority consisting of parents, find these shows to be inappropriate, idiotic and just pointless due to the fact that it’s mainly about another persons life that does not pertain to one’s own life. Whether that be the case, just as many people think Reality TV has no impact on any certain individual because it is all for entertainment purposes. If there is vast difference of opinions about reality television, has it really effected the society?
Believe it or not, reality programs have a great impact to society. Not only have they made millions of dollars for the individual industries but they have changed how many like to receive their source of entertainment. As stated earlier, unlike scripted shows there are ‘…emotional truths that are more realistic and moving,” (Hirschorn) entwined within Reality TV. By depicting scenarios in which many can relate to, industries have been able to include cultural and economical issues whilst still keeping it entertaining. Reality TV is more then just a source of entertainment, its a form of information. Being that it is the most liveliest genre out there, it is the best way to include topics that are controversial but still including both sides’ opinions. For many, reality shows are just a good example of ‘…quality satire,” ( Poniewozik). People are tired of seeing the same boring family dramas and lacking sitcoms all the time. Most are humored by the failures seen on TV which could inspire many other Americans to pursue in their own dreams. Society has been able to take beneficial aspects from reality television such as individual improvement and dream making, to help map out their life. Many people benefit from watching others and by viewing their good or bad actions tend to know the general outcomes of different situations. If Reality TV is all in good humor, then why do some individuals speak poorly of reality shows?
While some believe Reality TV is harmless, many individuals find it to be pointless and degrading to society. Since reality television seems to be popular among the younger crowd, with a vast amount of ‘… nudity, profanity, and other inappropriate behavior” (Rankin) portrayed throughout the show, it should not be easily accessible to young viewers. Many of the behavior seen on these programs inspire people to believe if the people on the show can do it, so can they. There has been a shift in society ever since Reality TV boomed over the last 10 years. For many, what they see on TV must be true and in some cases it is. Even though reality television derives on the fact that it is not scripted at all, that may not always be the case. As for the younger viewers, studies have shown many are ‘… more involved with people they see on television than with their neighbors or families” (Breyer). With more and more people focusing on technological aspects more than what’s around them, they are loosing the general people skills that everyone should know. There should be a line between what is real and what is faked for entertainment purposes. It may be in all good humor for some, but the outcome should be the main priority.
With reality television continuing to grow, has it had an effect on society? Some people would agree because it has changed the norm for some people, while others say it’s all for good humor. Depending on what one might agree with, there are good and bad aspects to both. Without the help from President Johnson, who knows how Reality TV would’ve turned out or if there would be such thing as Reality TV.