Reality Killed the TV Star

Sunday 5 January 2014 by

I think I’m quite lucky in that I’m not subjected to too much reality TV. There are some shows that are watched religiously, and others that sail by with barely a ripple.

But there’s one thing they have in common, with only one exception, and that is: I REALLY HATE THEM. Now I am talking about very specific reality TV, but I’m sure you can figure out which type I mean.

Reality TV makes me shudder. The fact that reality TV has now branched in to faux reality TV with TOWIE and Made in Chelsea only makes it worse in my opinion.

You can’t escape them. The shows are on pretty constantly throughout the year, the channels simply passing the baton every now and then so that X-Factor, I’m a Celebrity…, Strictly Come Dancing and The Voice start to blend in to one.

How about the latest series of Celebrity Big Brother? (Try saying the “celebrity” bit of that without snorting, because you’ve probably only vaguely heard of half of them, and some of those have stepped from one reality TV show to the next and done nothing else)

Or what about Splash!? That excruciating diving show where celebrities belly-flop in to pools in front of Jo Brand, a semi-dressed Tom Daley and a beaming Vernon Kay as hordes of people shriek from the side (made worse by the echoing of a swimming pool).

The only exception is Strictly Come Dancing. That, at the very least, I can watch with some degree of tolerance. My distaste for Bruce Forsyth and the smarmy Anton du Beke is thinly veiled however and I have to take frequent breaks from the TV to stop myself ranting. The only bit I enjoy are the dances – and you have to wait a good few weeks before they become good as opposed to cringey.

Reality TV blocks up the airwaves. You’re either listening to celebrities whinge or watching “ordinary” folk cry and talk about their “journey”. When the singing contests began (anyone remember Popstars?) they had some modicum of success. These were genuinely talented people getting a shot at something. Okay, so most of them have faded in to oblivion again, but there was some degree of respect for what they were doing (apart from poor old Darius Danesh). Now, they are circuses for the weird and wacky – the more outrageous the better. The auditions are more entertaining than the live shows because they wheel out people who are, quite frankly, dotty. I hope that some, if not all, these people are aware that it’s a mickey-take. The shows have become more panto than talent show.

And this goes for the others – Big Brother, Britain’s Got Talent and I’m a Celebrity… play one-up-manship on how crazy and gross they can be. The Voice becomes more about the performance of the judges than the singers, and don’t even get me started on Splash! (how did it get commissioned for another series!?)

Meanwhile, documentaries, dramas, even sitcoms, are being pushed from the top slots in favour of the circus that is reality TV.

So why is it so popular?

To me, it’s unfathomable. Someone once told me that it’s because I don’t have a talent to showcase on any of them. My argument was that neither do a lot of the people that DO appear on them.

I think you love reality TV or you hate it. There’s no “meh” in between. But the truth is, you can’t ignore it. It trends on Twitter, people post Facebook statuses about it, there are reviews in newspapers and songs on radios. The contestants are interviewed on the news programmes, The One Show (a whole other kettle of fish in terms of my distaste), and Saturday Kitchen (I’ll openly admit great love for that show). They invade everything.

So what? You say. If people like it, leave them to it.

And in some ways, this is much like subjective reading – who am I to say what’s right or wrong to watch. What I don’t like is the invasion. The way it takes over. Other TV doesn’t do that on nearly the same scale. It can’t hope to compete. What I would just like is to log on to Twitter one day and not see some reality show or other trending and filling timelines with “SO-AND-SO TO WIN” or “I can’t believe that just happened to so-and-so”.

Reality TV has generated some of the most fervent, and terrifying, fan bases. Fan bases that troll the internet and send death threats to anyone speaking out of turn. Reality TV has people discussing other people’s lives without any more thought to it than the latest plotline in Eastenders. It has celebrities lambasted for a comment made out of turn or showing a flash of humanity.

Reality TV has taken over the television, and is awash with celebrities whose stars are fading, or people who dream of being a star. It’s exhausting and enraging in equal measure, and I wish it wouldn’t feature so heavily in people’s lives. Watch an interesting documentary or drama instead. Or, even better, socialise. With normal people.

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