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What’s so real about reality TV?

sr-reality-r1The commencement of Big Brother UK’s 10th series this week has made me consider more closely the term ‘Reality Television’.  The Macmillan Dictionary tells me that reality is ‘a fact, event, or situation as it really exists’ but the MED’s entry for reality tv is says ‘television programmes that do not use professional actors but show real events and situations…’.

Big Brother is one of the programs that really brought the term ‘reality television’ into vogue.  Looking at it now, this show could not be further from reality.  The contestants seem to be chosen for their distinct diversion from normality and the programme seems to be about placing them all in the most unreal situations imaginable.

The contestants are referred to as housemates, a contraction of the words ‘house’ and ‘mate’.  They soon prove to be anything other than mates however, as the competition heats up.

Reality television was also largely responsible for the popularization of the term ‘C-list celebrities’.  Many of Big Brother’s former contestants have gone on to enjoy some limited fame.  The late Jade Goody’s fame came as one of the early contestants on the show, later inspiring the term ‘Jade Effect’.

20 people living in a glass box surrounded by stage lighting, microphones and video cameras might be someone’s idea of reality but it sure isn’t mine!

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Shane Rae

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