Reality TV and talent shows: My understanding of the genres

Reality TV by Tom NashTo be honest, I’m not a fan of any reality television, so my knowledge of this subject is limited… But when have I ever let let little things like ‘facts’ get in the way of proceedings? Exactly. I will be trying to avoid the whole ‘television for morons that features morons’ angle if I can, though… oops.

The way I understand it, ‘reality’ television can be broken into two categories: ‘Genuine’ and ‘Extravagant’.

‘Genuine’ reality television features people doing their jobs. This can range from people cleaning up grotty council flats to the daily exploits of fishermen. Basically, they’re about some task that’s interesting but a bit too icky or dangerous for most of us.

This piece shall focus on the ‘Extravagant’; those shows with elaborate set pieces, special guests and aspirational music which I believe can be divided further into the following sub-sets: Celebrity and Fame-whore.

In fact, they are so extravagant, their not even ‘reality’ shows anymore, are they? They’re ‘talent’ shows. But I digress…

Of course, this is usage of the word in the loosest sense possible.

Places on I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here appear to be reserved exclusively for actors/presenters/pop ‘stars’/persistent fame-whores whose careers have taken a turn for the worse and want to get back into the public eye. Not sure that doing a series of humiliating tasks is the best way to do this, but then again, my lack of television appearances could be directly correlated with the fact I’ve never chowed down on eyeballs, penises and anuses (leave it).

The other kind of ‘celebrity’ that appears on these shows are those that have a new book/TV show/film/career to promote. You generally won’t find this lot twatting about in the jungle, they’ll be learning a skill and earning the respect of boring middle-class people along the way. The most successful way to do this is to appear on Strictly Come Dancing and impress with your ballroom dancing ability. Dancing On Ice requires more skill, but the winner receives less acclaim, usually because the competitors are from ITV’s in-house shite like Emmerdale. If they can avoid being voted off for a few weeks and are pretty, a ‘will they/won’t they’ relationship with their dance partner can almost ensure passage to the final, if not victory itself.

A fame-whore is a breed of human that considers ‘be famous’ to be a career plan. The two most popular fame-whore shows of recent years are obviously Big Brother and The X-Factor (does it have a ‘the’ at the beginning? Actually, I don’t care), although Britain’s Got Talent appears to be increasing in popularity, for reasons I am unable to fathom.

What I understand Big Brother to be is the filmed escapades of a bunch of manically self-obsessed, borderline autistic people who are locked in a house together without a telly. Cue inane conversation and bitching. Each week, the housemate who is most likely to stab someone is kicked out until only the most dull remain. They will then be crowned the winner. Their prize? Getting their tits out in Nuts magazine.

The X-Factor is different. We get to endure the ‘audition’ process, which seems to be a ‘who can warble the most’ or a ‘whose backstory is most tragic’ contest. A few fat, ugly, untalented people are thrown in to lighten the mood, lots of people cry and then someone is crowned the winner. Somehow, they manage to drag this process out for over a quarter of a year AND make it seem like Dannii Minogue has the authority to make judgements on other people’s ability. Amazing achievements.

Britain’s Got Talent pretty much follows the same format as The X-Factor, but instead of receiving a recording contract, the winner performs at the Royal Variety Performance. It claims to be a talent show but it seems that the only ‘acts’ that ever win it are singers or dancers. If I was cynical, I would propose that this is because Mr Cowell and co. have more chance of making money out of them once the series has finished… Oh, wait; I totally am! Yeah- that’s the reason.

Then there is The Only Way Is Essex and the numerous similar programmes that are about to be forced on us. It seems that TV producers have realised that they don’t need a house with loads of cameras, they can go to the fame-whores themselves and observe them in their natural surroundings; it’s SO much cheaper. And morons will still lap it all up.

This country’s fucked.