Thursday, February 23, 2012

Is Reality TV Breaking up Relationships?

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A good TV show strikes at raw emotion or appeals to the intellect. Guess what some producers today have discovered doesn't cost much, and yet, has at least one of the above two ingredients. It is reality TV. The stars are ordinary people, often strapped for cash and hesitant to question their amazing luck and the sudden bounty. As for the audience - according to the ratings they love watching what ordinary people have to say, think or feel - they can't seem to get enough.

I do enjoy some of these shows but not all. And not always. I like our talent shows - dancing, singing competitions. "Kaun Banega Crorepati" is an all time favourite - both the English and Indian versions. A caring nanny teaching kids in a positive way to behave better is another favourite as are some cooking and home improvement shows. But people bickering or "firing" others in public to gain an advantage or show they can are the pits.

What's frightening is that it can easily influence our young. It can change a culture. So many begin to believe that clawing your way to the top or to fame or fortune is acceptable. Put downs become the norm with a total lack of empathy or respect for other people's feelings. Values we used to prize are given disparaging names like "old fashioned" or "outdated" or "weak and ineffectual". Well, to me, such values are very much part of being human. I doubt if they will ever be upstaged just because someone makes them sound derogatory. Yes, we don't wear them on our sleeves and we don't expect applause everytime we espouse those values. They simply make us happy. I believe there is nothing wrong with, for example, being warm or polite or kind and everything wrong with someone who thinks it is smart to be the opposite. Nothing will convince me the latter can ever be winners in the long run. Others will simply try and get away from them instead of supporting or standing by such people.

Yesterday I had the misfortune to watch one of the many bad reality TV shows that have taken over a lot of what comes off our screens. The formula stipulates they have to have an "emotional" angle so the audience is moved to react. And I fell into the trap. My reaction was to watch this young couple, horrified, hoping they wouldn't break up because of this show. The presenter did everything to put them on the spot, one partner pitted against the other, by showing up the disparity in what they liked. They were encouraged to blurt out things they realised the other partner liked that they disliked. A frown, a sudden burst of temper, unkind words spoken in haste which they regretted later. It was just so disheartening to watch.

Most successful couples know how to arrive at a compromise; to be tactful as they try to work towards things they both enjoy. NO two people like exactly the same things. This poor couple didn't stand a chance. They were given a fat allowance each; they were encouraged to indulge their own pet likes; they were constantly reminded this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to show who should count more - themselves or their partners. What a deliberate and needless pitting against each other. Not one of them had the guts to declare themselves a team - that they would like to discuss things with each other before arriving at a decision - for fear of appearing weak to the presenter or perhaps, of losing their bounty.

What attracts people to do these shows? As I said earlier, it might be the temptation of earning some money or the hope (just like any normal human being) that they will be plucked from anonimity into stardom. Even the presenter is in the same boat and knows if he or she won't, someone else will do the show.

I hope the audience is more discerning. They don't earn money to watch a show. They pay. They are the only ones who will force quality into our programmes. How? Simply by changing channels if they come across something that literally preys on people's emotions and vulnerabilities. The ever important ratings are the only driving force to make producers realise what the audience wants. Wish I'd remembered all this yesterday and turned the ruddy TV off. The entire time I kept watching to see signs of a break up between that couple. I mentally kept rejecting the petty ploys of the presenter, hoping the young couple would see through this person's intent and that they wouldn't lose each other. In the end, in spite of the best efforts of the anchor, it didn't happen. Ha! Or who knows? Perhaps it didn't happen on TV :-(

Next time, however fascinated I am (for all the wrong reasons), if exploiting someone's human vulnerabilities is the intent of a TV show, I must force myself to change channels.

Here's another interesting article I discovered about how some of our presenters have learnt to stress on the inane, ignoring important issues and how politicians shout each other down and don't contribute anything worthwhile to our knowledge of said issues. His exact words, "screeching on television" The detail and examples that this blogger has given are amusing, vexing and frustrating. Guess what my solution is to such shows? Yes, you guessed it - let your fingers on your remote do the talking. The producers are sure to sit up and listen.



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18 comments:

  1. The depressing thing is that people lap up these shows. And how real is reality TV can be gauged from the fact that the participants are given scripts or at least briefs about 'acting'. Even here, they go for sensationalism and 'acceptability.' There is no reality on reality shows. Except maybe in quiz shows like KBC. Even here one can see how the participants are encouraged to show their emotions compared to the earlier seasons. Read the linked article too.

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    1. All the world's a stage but I can't help liking the ones who come across as genuine and are not acting the whole time.

      Hope you liked the linked article too and thanks for stopping by.

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  2. Very well expressed, Kay!

    These reality shows indeed are taking their tool on family lives and couples' relations. What the naive watcher fails to realize is all this is staged to gain TRPs. And we people have to sit in office with a bunch of people discussing who was good & who was bad! Like it makes a difference in our lives.

    I guess there's not much we can do to restrict this fad! Then again, the existence of these reality shows displays who is sensible and who sits in front of an idiot box.

    P.S. Sorry for the crude words...

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    1. Hi Vishal, Had to google TRPs and you are right, it is all about ratings - the only tool (and a very powerful one) the audience has to show what they want on their TV screens. To be honest, I like reality shows and watch them occassionally as long as they aren't about bringing out the worst in us humans.

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  3. Everything is good and bad
    its in our hand how to use it.
    nice article.

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    1. Hi sm and welcome to the blog. If you replace "everything" by "everyone" it would sound like one of the tenets of the Parsi faith :-) Glad you enjoyed the article.

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  4. I don't know how popular these shows are in NZ, but Teen Mom, Kardashians etc are very popular in the US. some school students even had synchronized pregnancy in order to appear in Teen Mom!

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    1. They are extremely popular, Raja. There is one on teen moms but it shows you the reality of being a mum when you are still a child yourself - a very good show. As for school students getting pregnant to be in a show - that's bizarre. Hope the producers discouraged that.

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  5. I can't sit through reality shows. Can't remember the last time ,I watched one. The contestants are encouraged to be uncouth, manipulative, mean and sadly the worst specimens walk out with laurels!

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    1. I avoid the kind you mention like the plague too. But the talent contests and skills and ideas showcases fascinate me as ordinary people are more "real" & vulnerable and have the capacity to move, more than all but the most brilliant of actors. Good to see you here and "Happy Second Anniversary" again.

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    2. haven't seen the show but i have heard most of these shows are scripted...staged...arranged :)

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  6. Ugh! The one I watched took both partners unawares. Of course the anchor seemed like she understood the consequences. But as long as it was good for her show, who cared about the fragile yet special realtionship between the young couple? Good to see you here flying high.

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  7. well, the only one I watched and enjoyed was KBC, which did some value addition, had inspiring stories and was not obnoxious. I have sworn off Bigg Boss, never did really watch umpteen other similar ones. The dance reality shows like Jhalak Dikhla Jaa etc. were quite enjoyable. As you rightly pointed out, if we don't like something, switch channels. Makes no sense feeling horrible and adding to the TRPs of such atrocious programs.

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    1. Biggot Boss. What a prize id**t! Some people watch to the bitter end. Glad you aren't one of them. Thanks for stopping by, Rachana.

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  8. Very glad to see this post. Reality shows are this pits!! Just like paparazzi, they do anything for the sake of sensationalism, no matter what the cost!

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    1. And their anchors too - gotta please the boss. It is only us, the audience, who can wipe them off our screens. Nice to see you here Dark Knight.

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  9. Well! We cant do anything about it! It is not like none of use are watching it and bitching about it!

    Love
    http://www.meghasarin.blogspot.com

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  10. Thanks for stopping by, Megha. I hope if we don't enjoy it we let our fingers do the talking and quickly switch channels. It affects them where it hurts most - in their ratings.

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