One of the great things about being Australian is that we not only get all the reality television shows that Americans get, but we also get all the British, New Zealand and yes, Australian ones!

For some people, this is a good thing. But to have at least three of these shows running at any one time during a regular evening is rather disconcerting.

Here is a list of reality television shows enjoyed by Australians:

Treasure Island (New Zealand, Australian): Treasure Island is the original version of the Survivor theme. This show actually originated in New Zealand a few years back well before Survivor was even conceived. It follows the same theme as Survivor, except instead of voting people off and trying to survive until the end, people are kicked off while trying to work out where the treasure is buried. Amazingly, the final prize is just $NZ50,000. Or in the case of the Australian spin off: $A50,000. I can tell you that the shows are okay, but nothing compared to the final episode of Survivor I.

Shipwrecked (British): This is the other Survivor type show that graces our screens. It is a British show that sees a bunch of poms (Englishmen) and, in the latest series, a few Australians, stranded on a pacific island. They seem to lie around for a large proportion of the day and complain about other people on the island. There are no competitions, no vote-offs, no formal structure exists at all. It is merely a chronicle of British anthropology. The contestants do not have to survive without help. If they run out of food then two of them have to go back to the mainland for more supplies. But it can get interesting when the ones sent back for more supplies end up spending the money on alcohol and hotel rooms. Shipwrecked 2 is currently screening in Australia.

The Villa (British): The Villa revolves around the idea that a computer has picked four men and four women and chosen out of them four appropriate couples. The eight people don't know who their secret match is, but they must all live together in a Spanish villa for a week. The show keeps up to date with who is eyeing off who and secret cameras are positioned all around the villa in hope of catching a glimpse of two Brits getting it on. In most episodes, the eight of them get really drunk and end up sleeping with someone from the local bar. Very rarely do any of the contestants find someone they like in the group and almost never does the computer get it right. On the last day, each person has their perfect match revealed. No matter who it is, each person's reaction is always the same: "really??? I don't believe it...'

The Mole (Australian, US): As America has its own version of this game, it need not be explained. It is just worth noting that Australia had its own version and an American show was later adapted.

Scream Test (Australian): In Scream Test, Four people are put in a very scary place: a closed prison, or an abandoned mansion etc. Each is equipped with a camera and torch so that there is enough light to film. They then proceed in trying to progress through a series of clues in order to get out. However, each of them is alone and the producers do all sorts of scary things to try and get them to freak out. The contestants even have heart rate monitors so we can see how freaked out they really are. The actual game side of the show does not feature prominently. The show consists mostly of people who are alone and are scared while talking to a camera. The game usually ends when three of the four contestants bail out.

Changing Rooms (British, Australian): Two couples each with a house agree to swap houses and allow the other couple to decorate a room in their home. The catch is that each couple can only spend $A1200. However, they do have the aid of a carpenter, general helper and interior decorator. It always seems that the couples choose, or are left with, most dubious colours with which to paint. The show gets interesting when arguments start about what to do and who should do it. Once the rooms are complete, and they are always eyebrow-raising to say the least, the couples swap back and assess the new look. Sometimes friendships are strengthened, other times they are terminated: it is all in the fun of the game.

Backyard Blitz (Australian): This show is the same in many ways (no, all ways) to Ground Force which appears on BBCAmerica. Someone who has a terrible backyard unknowingly has it resurrected for them by a team of landscapers, builders and gardeners. Even though they only have a short amount of time before the person returns from holiday (or whatever), they always seem to meet the deadline. Backyard Blitz, for quite a few months, was topping the Australian ratings.

Reality TV is a genre of television which focuses on the experiences of comparatively untrained performers in theoretically extraordinary situations. This separates the genre from shows like Saturday Night Live or Whose Line Is It Anyway? which feature trained performers working on loose scripts or improvisational situations before a live audience. In most cases the results of reality programming are a hyper modernization of the game show format made popular near the dawn of the television age.

Reality television has had moderate to high success in Europe, Asia and Australia. However, it was not until cable television became popular in America that the genre began to achieve what historically may be seen as either a growth spurt or a brief flash as from a shooting star plummeting to Earth. It is actually something that has been with America for some time, but in comparatively smaller and less questionable or challenging dosages than what kicked in around the turn of the 21st century.

Perhaps one of the first true reality television programs was Candid Camera, made famous by Allen Funt. Using hidden cameras in public areas, pranks would be pulled on unsuspecting passersby, to the amusement of the audience. Even this early on, the famous Mel Brooks definition of what is funny came into play: "Tragedy is I stub my toe: comedy is you fall in a manhole and die." The more tragic and cringe-causing the predicament of the unsuspecting dupe, the funnier the moment for the viewer. In the 1970s there were some shows which tried to mix what would later be known as Reality TV into a news magazine format. Shows like Real People and That's Incredible were short-lived, but also harbingers of things to come. The problem for network executives was the level of control. They knew audiences wanted to see real people in incredible circumstances, but didn't know how to do this in a controlled environment. Concerns for everything from keeping the entertainment value high to keeping lawyers from breathing down their necks were involved. Then many technologies from computers to the size and portability of video cameras to safety equiptment began beefing up in the late 1990s, and after some trial runs in cable, network television took off with a series of experimental programs. This trend was also intensified by the threats of many Hollywood oriented guilds going on strike. Networks needed dependable programming that was NOT dependent on people wielding SAG cards, or trendy and tempermental script writers.

However, all this puts into question for many, the level of quality for this genre of television. Is this art? Certainly not from a conservative standpoint. However, it is entertainment. Andy Warhol once said, "someday everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes." P. T. Barnum once said, "There's a sucker born every minute," and reality television gives every sucker his fifteen minutes of fame.

Here's a list of some reality-based television shows, including a sampling of what some would consider modern game shows, but they feature reality-based qualities, intended to take advantage of the genre audience.

The Amazing Race
An American Family
America's Funniest Home Videos
American High
Bands on the Run
Big Brother, the TV show - which is actually featured in many countries.
Blind Date the TV show
Boot Camp
Candid Camera
Chains of Love
C.O.P.S.
Destination Mir
Fear Factor
Lost
Making the Band
The Mole
Real People
The Real World
Road Rules
Spy TV
Survivor at Pulau Tiga Island
Survivor 2 The Outback
Survivor: Africa
Temptation Island
That's Incredible
The Weakest Link
Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?

Reality TV most likely originated from the likes of Konstantin Stanislavski, a famous Russian dramatist. He was considered the "father of realism" as he ventured strongly into realistic and naturalistic drama as a reaction to the hyped melodrama preceeding his movement in Russia.

Realism / naturalism in drama has been about for somewhere about 100 years now, and it is only natural that it now venture to the TV screen as a new type of media. Shows such as "Big Brother" follow a very naturalistic approach trying to show life exactly as it is, while renovation shows and so on form a more realism structure.
Reality Television is the term used to describe unscripted, MoTP-based light entertainment shows such as those described at length above. It is also, in many people's view, something of a misnomer. Reality has to be sealed out like bacteria for RTV's knuckle-headed premise to work. Like all commercially successful television concepts, it is based around the following elements:

Viewer familiarity / superiority / schadenfreude

These shows revolve around manipulating the viewer in the most direct and unsubtle fashion. Although television executives may kid themselves that they are creating something worthwhile, they all know in their heart of hearts that people will only watch the show out of some kind of morbid fascination. Whereas conventional light entertainment required that the vegetating plebian audience to follow a structure (however tenuous), RTV dispenses with this burden, almost clinically relieving the fecund viewer of their time while offering exactly nothing in return.

Quick and cheap to produce

With no cast to pay, only perfunctory technical efforts needed, and a practically guaranteed advertising revenue, RTV presents a very minimal risk to producers.

Media cross-polination

Once you have a suitable intelligence-insulting idea and a big TV company to back it (you haven't? Well, try Carlton or Bravo or Channel 5 then), it's time to call in a crack team of soulless, profit-driven leaches: the mainstream press. Get your brigade of grinning idiots splashed all over the red-tops, but don't forget to have slightly distasteful reviews and background features in the broadsheet colour supplements, to rope in the burgeoning daft middle-class sector (like my mum). Shovel your shit down the public's throats for a few days and you'll surely achieve...

Critical mass

The key ingredient, which allows the other elements to work. Because the shows have a captive audience of absolute fucking fools (especially in this country), the artificial buzz generated by the media will be self-perpetuating. In fact, so little effort is required, I would imagine that a 50-minute sequence of a group of dog turds shot from several hidden cameras would attract 14 million viewers (especially if that Patrick Kielty twat was on the other side).

Wanton plagiarism

Of course, why go to the trouble of thinking of a new idea when someone else has done it for you? This is practically the mantra of television, with programme-makers thanking their lucky stars that there are multiple channels to allow the same crap to be presented with different packaging until it is bludgeoned to death.

So there you have it. Of course, if you plan to follow these steps or are already in the business of making reality television, put a gun to your head soon.


So, with television clearly in a state of terminal decline that can only lead to The Running Man (and I for one can't wait), what can be done to remedy matters? Well, the obvious answer is sabotage. If you're have access to the right equipment (e.g. on a Media Studies course) why not gull the press into covering your fabricated RTV show? Get the Daily Mail frothing and you've won half the battle.

Or how about getting onto existing shows (in the audience or as a contestant) and sticking a spanner in the works? Fake food poisoning, or continually badger the other contestants with abuse, and the show's fucked. Hopefully Chris Morris has something up his sleeve, but with shows as brazen as Popstars being successful, the genre has already gone beyond parody.

Reality shows aren't just those shows where people are after a sum of money or fame. Some shows dive into the personal lives of the famous. The one show that stands out in my mind is MTV's The Real World. I think that was the forerunner to most of the reality shows that are on TV these days.

Here is a listing of past or present reality style shows in no particular order:

Competitive Shows

Non-competitive Shows

I didn't put Fear Factor or Dog Eat Dog on this list since they seem more like game shows than anything else. Out of the above list, I enjoyed The Osbournes the most. It's nice to see that Ozzy is an actual person, and not some rock god who bites the heads off of bats.


I'm sure I missed some shows. If you have one you'd like to see, /msg me and I'll add it.
Thanks to dmk for some of the info provided here

Reality TV follows its own strange cycle.
Phase I-Introduction
The show is introduced. It slowly gains viewers as it gains word-of-mouth power. Then, usually by the end of the first season, it becomes a huge hit. It is praised as revolutionary, great TV (or crappy TV) critically, and by the next season, everyone awaits the second round.

Phase II-Rise and Fall
Now everyone is talking about the show, and it probably has more viewers than it did the first season. But, the novelty has worn off. People lose interest. At the least, it has faded out of media interest, to be replaced by new, "more revolutionary" shows.

Phase III-Gimmickry
Now, the show is on its last gasp. It is forced to resort to gimmicks to try to bring viewers back. Eventually, it crashes and burns.

Don't believe me? Look at the examples: Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Started in America as a summer experiment. Suddenly, it was popular. Everyone watched it. Then, it was on five days a week, and everyone stopped. Just like that. Celebrity Millionaires couldn't stop the fall. The Weakest Link followed the same chain. Survivor is doing the same thing.

Current Stages of Reality Shows
Stage I-Joe Millionaire
Star Search (A revival, but the principle still holds)
Stage II-
American Idol
Fear Factor (Actually somewhere between Stage II and Stage III, note the Playboy special, and now, all-female special)
The Amazing Race
Stage III-
The Mole
Big Brother
Man Vs. Beast (This started in Stage III)
Survivor
Temptation Island (This also started in Stage III)


If a lawn chair lifts off with helium balloons
And a man with a cooler sits grinning inside
And the media makes it into cartoons
What do they report when he crashes and dies

Or do they pretend that he landed just fine
And his kids threw a party to celebrate
And his wife just tossed her blond hair aside
And cheerily chastised her charmed reprobate

Laughing all the time as the cameras run
While in real time planning a burial
And dressing herself like a grieving nun
As TV watchers laugh at husband aerial


Untying yourself from the earth for a while
Is serious business and requires steady hands
You need to know how to measure a mile
Straight up and into the vertical lands

For there is a point where you'll start to black out
And there is a time when you'll get far too high
And if you haven't planned an adequate route
The earth will remind you; your enemy's the sky

But back to the tea party occurring on land
Where wife and kids ham it up for digital tapes
As stunt double daddy does what he can
To make sure the show doesn't require second takes

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