Reality shows or Tele-reality
The reality show is a television genre that shows what happens to real people, as opposed to fictional programs showing what happens to fake people being played by actors.
There are three basic types of reality shows:
1. The passive-observer type, where the camera merely observes the daily activities of one person or a group of people.
2.- The hidden-camera version, where the camera observes the people who are being filmed. It is used in comedy programs or shows that put people in unlikely situations while filming their reactions to entertain the audience.
3 .- Reality competition shows, where a group of people compete for a prize in a closed environment while being observed by the cameras.
Reality TV shows, or telereality, promote the emergence of dramatic or emotional situations among groups of people who are placed in abnormal or improbable situations, using the constant presence of television cameras in all the daily activities performed by the characters for the duration of the show.
Reality shows have three basic features. The first is that they present a series of events that cannot be considered either reality or fiction, but are this new form of ‘television hyperreality’. Secondly, the actions of the invited characters involve the public display of events in their private lives. And finally they require the collaboration of non-professional media people, which reinforces the interaction between the television and the viewer.
There are many authors who think that this genre does not belong exclusively to the realm of information, education or spectacle, or to reality or fiction, but that it belongs to all these genres at the same time, so it has become a ‘total’ genre. Reality shows represent the way in which television is an expression of the new roles that have been created by social changes and new ways of understanding communication.
In recent decades, global ideologies – those constructions that the economy imposes on political action- have lost credibility. Countless economic crises have arisen and the distance between electors and the elected has widened. For the convenience of media professionals and politicians there has been a lack of transparency in information, to the extent that government and its institutions have collapsed.
The most common elements of the reality show are the characters and stories supposedly taken from everyday life. The characters present themselves as average individuals, as ordinary people who are willing to act as TV stars in exchange for making their private lives public. So an anonymous individual from the great mass of the population becomes a ‘star’ because one of the main functions of the media is to confer status.
The reality show includes procedures similar to reporting, including news about certain events, there are documents, direct connections, pushing of agendas and special foreign correspondents. Some typical examples of the reality show would be ‘Survivor’, where a heterogeneous group of people is taken to a remote location without basic services, and they have to find food and compete to get the basic necessities to survive.
Another type is ‘Big Brother’ where a group of young men and women live together for a period of time in a house, forming alliances and coming up with schemes to avoid being eliminated by viewer voting. In the ‘Arts Academy’ version a group of aspiring artists is selected to speak at a closed art school where they receive lessons and are eliminated according to their skills, either by judges or by viewer voting.
There are many other types of reality shows today, such as the ‘Bachelor’ where a rich or famous person has to choose from a group of suitors and decide whether or not they continue in the competition. There is also the Job Search show, where a group of participants submits to the rules dictated by a businessman for a chance to get a job to work in one of his companies. The NBC show ‘The Apprentice’, produced by businessman Donald Trump, stands out in this category, although there are other similar shows which have had great success in Colombia and Brazil.
In the case of the Trump show, ‘The Apprentice’ premiered in 2004 and soon gave him a national platform where he was presented as a guru of success. He also perfected his showmanship which he then used with outstanding success in his recent presidential campaign. According to Jim Dowd, who was NBC’s director of publicity at the time, “There were no scripts on ‘The Apprentice ‘, nor was anything he said planned, and I think he used that same strategy in his campaign for president: speak from the heart, without filters’. Sometimes people don’t agree with him, sometimes what he says doesn’t make much sense but it works.” It was in the first episode of Trump’s show ‘The Apprentice’ that he used the phrase ‘you’re fired’ to eliminate one of the competitors. It was then that everyone recognized the dramatic value of that phrase and knew that it would become a trademark. In his political campaign Trump was able to grab attention with his provocative theatrical style. He knew how to insert himself into the news, whether through twitter or with his rallies. He also intimidated his rivals in the debates when he said, ‘You’re fired.’ According to George Washington University political scientist Michael Cornfield, a presidential candidate must have several skills and not just showmanship, and this is yet to be demonstrated by Trump.