PR, Films and Fantasies

Biiiiiig Brother and his family tree

Posted on: February 23, 2010

The history of “reality TV” goes all the way back to the 1940s when its great-great grandfather first appeared on screen – the Candid Camera series. The purpose of the show was to entertain by presenting the reactions of ordinary people in strange, unexpected situations. Even if for the “actors” the scene would sometimes be terrifying, we would still laugh at the screams, shouts and scares. Slowly, different programmes showing children, people at work (policemen for example) even families going through difficult times got into all homes, having more of a documentary, helpful purpose than an intrusive, disturbing effect.

Then, the Talent Show era begun and reached an amazing point with the broadcast of Miss America in 1954, showing how TV can make national celebrities overnight.  That was the moment I wanted to reach so I’ll skip over the next 50 years (Google can give you a lot more information for the gap).

Netherlands 1999 – the first Big Brother is broadcasted on Veronica TV channel. In the year 2000, it hits the UK… next decade over 70 countries.

Even if the show’s name comes from George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four in which “the eye” was presented as the key to social and individual destruction (a world of perpetual war, pervasive government surveillance, public mind control, and the voiding of citizens’ rights), its main idea leaves all the negative parts behind and portrays “being day and night on TV” as the perfect way to climb up the celebrity lather. It’s purely the pursuit of fame and fortune through showing of basic instincts and reactions (sex, verbal and physical violence, gossip, over-reaction…).

Now why did I start this topic after all?

In an attempt to search for a media text that is BAD, reality shows just jumped of the screen. Yes, they are cheap and cheesy, they appeal to basic, vulgar and simple emotions and they are beyond “sentimental”. They support the common thought of “I can do whatever I want, wherever I want because there is no authority or social rule to punish me” and even set it as a moral conduct rule. What a waster of energy!

However, the idea of invading privacy, allowing others to see your most intimate daily activities seems to be very attractive to some. The audience of BB is amazing and season after season it grows. But, let’s be honest, we know it is all just a script so who watches it?

I take the liberty to name two kinds of viewers: “the addicts” (which personally I consider to be the low-class/ a.k.a. “populace”) and “the curious” who want to see how far the producers could go in these kind of shows (generally part of the middle class, philistines) – I am sometimes curious about the percentage between the two and mainly about the ones on the boarders.

It is also really interesting to discover the way the show was received in some parts of the world. For example, Italy, Brazil and Germany are currently at their 10th season, while Spain, UK and US have totally gone over the line with about 12 seasons and series. What would that say about a country’s culture?

In Romania, the first BB was a very decent one with very little “sex-appeal” and vulgar language. It was a mass phenomenon around the country, especially due to the curiosity of the people. However, with the second season things turned to the dark side and they barely managed to see it through as their audience dropped dramatically. Also, none of the contestants managed to survive too much in the “celebs” world.

I would say that nowadays, with all the reality TV programmes and all the silly shows, everything in this category is crap. However, there is one reality show that I really enjoy and would watch over and over again: The Amazing Race. I honestly don’t know how much of it is really as seen on screen but I would definitely want to be a contestant, not for the million dollars but for the whole experience.


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