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March 4, 2004
 Student View


The University: next big reality series?

Katie Norman
Katie Norman

Each new television season there seems to be fewer and fewer sitcoms and more and more reality television shows. With comedic standbys such as Friends and Frasier ending this year, there is some worry about their replacements. A quick channel surf around network TV will reveal celebrity couples (think Newlyweds) talking about bowel movements, people who wish they were celebrities eating African insects (à la Fear Factor) and overweight middle-aged men fighting for the right to win a beauty queen’s heart (yes that’s Average Joe II Hawaii). What began as Danish remakes of Big Brother and races around the world has become a free for all, a world in which anyone with the guts to think up a radical concept is likely to find a place for it on the airwaves.

Reality TV cannot be lumped into one category. After all Survivor is not nearly as bad as Man Versus Beast. Executives continue to produce these shows because they are cheaper and draw the same amount or more viewers than dramas or comedies. In the basic economic lesson of supply and demand, if we stopped watching they’d stop making. In my opinion, the reason we watch the majority of these shows is the same reason we look at car wrecks when we drive past them on the highway – curiosity overrides rationality.

Whether you love or hate reality TV is really not the question. The question is: does reality TV warp our views of reality?

A few weeks ago between classes I began to think about what Memorial would be like if it were a reality show. How could we take what already exists and make it our own? It is a semi-original concept because as of late I have yet to hear of a show that puts the reality spin on college life. Considering new additions to this trend such as The Littlest Groom, this is not such a far-fetched idea. Another benefit to making Memorial a reality TV show would be the increasing numbers of students who would want to attend our university. Who doesn’t want to go to the first “reality” university? Wait, don’t answer that question.

If Memorial were a reality TV show things would be drastically different. First, we could begin with An Apprentice style scenario where successful Memorial alum fought for Axel Meisen’s position as president of the university. Their tasks could include turning the ruins of Hair Tech and Dairy Queen into viable businesses and hosting charity auctions, with items such as dinner with Andy Wells, for Memorial’s scholarship funds. This time it would not be a division between the sexes but between the business students and the “rest.” This would truly reveal if the MBA puts you in front of the rest.

Depending on the outcomes this could be quite lucrative for Memorial’s business school. At the end of each episode the alum would meet in MUNSU council chambers where one person would be fired.

Secondly, a spin on MTV’s The Real World could be set up in residence. It would have to be a co-ed residence so that the cameras could film all the romantic encounters. Students would trade oversized sweatshirts for halter-tops and each dorm room would be remodelled to look like something out of Ikea or Pottery Barn.

Thirdly, examinations would give way to a trivia shows like Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Professors would no longer wear tweed jackets and sweater vests but shiny ties and rich Armani suits. They would also have to strike a resemblance to Regis Philbin or, in the case of female professors, maybe Vanna White. Instead of honours dissertations you would be challenged to such questions as “In the 150 box of Crayola Crayons, which is not an actual colour?” Now those are useful skills.

The realm of possibilities continues … unfortunately.

Reality TV offers a sugar-coated version of what life is really like. On television cameras can pretend that all is equal in love and war and after 10 episodes you truly can find real love and one million dollars. In real life all your potential dates are not pimple free and clad with rock hard abdominals. Millions of dollars are not usually found by finding a Mole or beating Ben Stein to win his money. All in all even calling it reality TV is misleading. It is entertainment. The only difference is that the characters are called contestants and they don’t get paid for their work.


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Next issue: March 18, 2004

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