The noughties seemed to herald the boom of reality shows. If we weren’t watching Chico Slimani on the X Factor, then we were rolling on the floor with tears of joy at Dean Gaffney screaming his way through the jungle. Over the years, the demand for watching our favourite TV stars or wannabe celebrities go through embarrassing ordeals has gone through the roof. It seems as though every single idea or concept that has ever been dreamt up has now become a TV reality show of some sort.
When it comes to cooking shows we have seen the creation of the hugely popular ‘The Great British Bake Off’ as well as ‘MasterChef’ and not forgetting ‘Hell’s Kitchen’. In terms of psychological experiments, Big Brother has led the way alongside other strange concepts such as Bear Grylls the Island proving just how far people really will go to be on TV.
So with reality TV being at the epicentre of both British and American culture how do shows produced in the US compared to our plucky British reality programmes.
Over the next few weeks, I shall be looking at some of the biggest reality shows produced in both the UK and the US and exactly how it is they have propelled everyday people into A-list superstars.
So up first it’s the popular format which continually draws in substantial rating figures. That’s right, talent contests. The daddy of all these shows was Pop Idol, which was ground-breaking for any real competition as for the first time the audience could choose who they wanted to see progress through to the next round, by merely phoning up a number. Seems a little bit too complex for the app-obsessed millennial generation of today, but it was revolutionary at the time.
Simon Cowell is obviously the brain behind the product and boy has he churned out the Idol franchise.
Since 2002 Pop Idol has produced various versions of the show to 150 countries. An estimated 6.5 billion viewers around the world have watched variants of the programme. Naturally after two seasons of Pop Idol in the UK Cowell became bored with the format and instead dreamt up, World Idol, the X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent, and Americas Got Talent. Despite all these shows producing global superstars such as One Direction, Susan Boyle, Little Mix and Kelly Clarkson, it’s the judges that also seem to be the stars of the show. One of the main reasons as to why the X Factor caught the attention of the British public was due to Simon’s frank and fair approach when it came to handing out harsh criticism. Followed up by this are also the contributions of both Louis Walsh and Sharon Osbourne, who weren’t afraid to tell their boss, Simon, that he was wrong from time to time. These on-screen disagreements made for TV gold as the feuds could last for an entire series and in some cases, the disputes have become more prominent than those who have ended up winning the show.
It’s also worth mentioning that without Cowell programmes such as The Voice and other failed BBC formats wouldn’t have been born. And if you thought the media mogul has stopped churning out content well think again, because he is now in the process of producing a dancing competition for the BBC called ‘The Greatest Dancer’. So it doesn’t look like Simon will be slowing down anytime soon and with son Eric looking like the natural successor to daddy’s empire, could we see a millennium of Cowell based reality shows?
Although the talent format has dominated our screens another show that has been regurgitated at least ten times too many is the type of programme which follows the lives of either an ex-page three girl or a self-obsessed narcissistic family.
Ah yes, ‘The Real Housewives franchise’ or ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’. Oh, aren’t we just spoilt for choice… These shows are often churned out time after time again. They hold no real purpose apart from to give tabloid editors and gossip columnists something to do every week.
In many ways, these styles of reality TV tend to pan out like a poorly written drama. They’re often predictable, and 9 times out of 10 you end up feeling like a severe aneurysm would be more appealing than sitting through another 45 minutes of Kris Jenner going on about how successful she has become through exploiting her children. I mean at the end of the day ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians’ is just a watered down version of ‘The Osbournes’ lacking the rock n roll personality of Ozzy and let’s be honest the Kardashians are nowhere near as dysfunctional.
The UK has programmes similar to the ones mentioned, but over here TV producers are more interested in making reality shows about either the common folk of Essex or the out of touch Eton elite in Chelsea. At the end of the day both shows follow pretty much the same structure, two people will end up sleeping together and then one of them won’t call back, making the other one paranoid, thinking that they like someone else, which in retrospect leads to a hornets nest of the most pathetic bitching ever seen on TV. These, of course, are the very same feuds which have seen both shows be recommissioned for the past ten years.
‘The Real Housewives of Yawns Ville’ can also be added to this category as it seems like every single state in America is covered by having their own version of the show. The sadly contrived concept sees a selection of celeb hungry housewives attending high profile parties and ending up getting into a witless bitching fest. These feuds usually comprise of the whole series, and it’s left up to Andy Cohen, producer as well as presenter of the reunion show, to sort out the mess. But at the same time, he likes to stir the pot even more, which isn’t surprising considering he needs good ratings.
It would be fair to say that Cowell and the Kardashians have definitely dominated reality TV through the 00’s and up to the present day. However, with the creation of new shows being uploaded onto Amazon Prime, Netflix, E! And even YouTube could these two dominant forces being under threat from fresher formats or will they be on our screens for the next 10 years?
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