Survivor is not reality-TV

Despite what news organizations have been yapping about for the past year or so, there is no such so-called “voyeur TV era”. The supposed leader of such TV shows is the CBS series Survivor. However, Survivor is not one of those reality-based shows. It is simply a gameshow that relies on social interactions to drive the game. And the camera crew needs to film these social interactions in order to later make sense of the contestants’ final voting decisions to the audience. Look, Jeopardy films its contestants answering the questions, fuddling over wrong answers, stuttering through a blank mind; all because these are essential parts of the game. The Survivor crew tapes the contestants talking, interacting, creating alliances, slapping each others’ asses; all because the gameshow is a social one. “Don’t get voted off; and you win a million bucks.” That’s the show. If you look at the historical record, you’ll remember that CBS scrambled to create Survivor in response to the ratings monster Who Wants to be a Millionaire, both of which are slated as game shows. Soon after Survivor took off, people started to write articles about how “reality TV” was the hot new thing.

I’m not even sure what came first, the avalanche of news declaring the coming of Voyeur TV or the wave of new shows created to quench this supposed newfound public thirst to watch other people eat rats. Who can tell? Did news organizations make people think, “Hey, reality based TV is the shit! Look, the printed word keeps talking about it. It must be an accurate portrayal of contemporary times.”?

It should also be noted that the filming of amateurs without a script (aka “reality TV”) has been quietly going on for a while. MTV’s The Real World is in its tenth season already; Fox’s Cops continues to show America’s finest arresting America’s worst; and so forth.

So what now? I think that having passed the whole Breaking Story segment of the news story, people will begin to take the fact that Voyeur TV exists and thrives, for granted. Articles will be written; references will be made; all under the assumption that we just had a boom in reality TV. Are news organizations writing the news and getting the rest of us to follow it like a script? What’s going on here?

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