Cast of The Real Housewives of Orange County
Whether you love or hate it, there is no denying that reality television is making waves across the world and fast becoming one of the most popular types of television to watch. Just turn on the television and browse through a few channels to find that most of the programming is now reality-based television. But why? Why is society so drawn to watching programs that leave nothing to the imagination or offer nothing to take away?
According to Psychology Today, reality television satisfies three basic needs for viewers: the desire to relate to characters on shows they watch; an insatiable appetite for fame; and the need for relatively inexpensive programming.
The Ability to Relate
The first theory behind the attraction to reality television could be the desire to relate to characters on the shows, who are very often just regular people like the viewers’ themselves. The genre of reality television generally features non-celebrity actors being continuously filmed throughout a certain theme, such as miscellaneous activities or contests. The average viewer can relate to this and the people that are involved and it is this connection that draws them back, week after week.
A Craving for Fame
Many people who watch reality television crave their own 15-minutes of fame and by watching regular people achieve this on reality TV, gives them the hope that one day they might be able to do the same. Steven Reiss and James Wiltz at Psychology Today state, “Reality TV allows Americans to fantasize about gaining status through automatic fame. Ordinary people can watch the shows, see people like themselves and imagine that they too could become celebrities by being on television” (Reiss & Wiltz, 2010).
While this theory might not be a reason why people choose to watch reality television, it certainly contributes towards why there is so much of it around, and that’s because it’s cheap to produce. When compared to television programs featuring ‘big name stars’, reality television comes in at far less of a cost to produce, enabling smaller networks and channels to create many more programs. According to Writers Guild of America, West assistant executive director Charles B. Slocum, “reality television is cheaper to produce than an actual scripted show in every aspect, and also networks keep more money. As a result, reality television not only saves the network money, but it also helps with the price of programming across the primetime schedule” (Slocum, 2013).
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