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
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
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.