Why I asked

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I don’t watch much “reality TV.”  And by that I mean, I only “watch” reality TV when I’ve been watching something, have gotten involved in something else (laptop, iPod, Kindle) and whatever had previously been on ends and reality TV comes on in its place. And, you know… there’s that lag between the new show coming on and me realizing that maybe I should locate the remote control. It’s got to be here somewhere…

A lot of people do watch reality TV, though. And there’s more of it than you can shake a stick at, so it’s easy to stumble into it. My boss watches a few shows. She’s a big fan of The Amazing Race, and occasionally watches Real Housewives. A guilty pleasure, but only in the early seasons of a new iteration, before everyone involved starts to think they’re an actual celebrity.

But the more we talked about it, the more we realized that the reason she prefers the early seasons is the same thing she usually likes about the Amazing Race – and why she’s been so frustrated with “reunion” series iterations.  She likes getting to know new characters, figuring out what makes them tick, seeing how they react to new situations.  She asks me, with dismay and disbelief, why on earth they would keep bringing back the same people over and over again from previous seasons or other shows. What’s the fun in that?!

Of course, I don’t watch. I imagine I’d like the scenery of some of these shows but I have no room for manufactured drama, tension, conflict, competition. I understand why she likes seeing new characters, but I suppose… I propose the hypothesis… that they bring characters back for a few reasons.

That perhaps some viewers like to see the same, familiar characters return.

Or, that the networks find it easier, safer, and/or cheaper to work with people who are now “proven quantities” … entities that viewers may already be invested in (suggesting higher, not lower, viewership) and that can be expected to respond in certain ways (and therefore the “reality” more easily spun for entertainment value).

But of course, I don’t know. I don’t know what the reasoning is on the networks’ part, on the contestants’ parts, or on the part of the average viewer.  (Which is why I asked, in case you were wondering.)

I guess I just don’t get it. I’m not trying to be snotty, or judgey, or whatever. Watch what you like, it’s none of my business. I just honestly don’t understand. I don’t know why anyone wants to watch people form alliances to overcome obstacles, only to turn on each other later.  I don’t understand why people are riveted to strangers yelling at each other in manufactured situations and over minor or even imagined slights. I don’t see the draw of watching fictionalized dating situations as if anyone really expect they’ll result in anything real (other than a check at the end) or couples snipping at each other under the pressure of trying to race through exotic locations without really seeing anything of them.

Basically, all the drama that makes “good TV” is just conflict and noise to me. And I’m not big on either thing.

But then again, I’m odd. In a lot of ways. Always have been.

I’m sure that’s one of the things y’all love about me. Amiright?

2 thoughts on “Why I asked”

  1. Well, that and your use of the word “iteration.”

    The appeal to me lies in the dynamic of the interaction. It’s interesting to see – from a sociological and a psychological standpoint – how people react in situations they perceive to be dangerous (or positive, for that matter). Human behavior fascinates me, and shows like Survivor are especially good at drawing out the worst (and sometimes, the best) in people. I find it riveting, and no offense taken.

    As for bringing back former cast members…well, a lot of these people have become pseudo celebrities with large fan bases. Boston Rob v. Russell on last season’s Survivor? A brilliant move, and captivating television. I like that CBS will bring in two former players and mix them in with 16 new ones. It’s like the best of both worlds.


  2. It’s a damned copycat business. Someone figured out a winning formula with reality TV and everyone followed with a copycat show of their own. But mostly, like you hit on, it costs a lot less to program a reality show that it does a sitcom, an easy way to make a big buck. And if this one fails, there’s always the next one.


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