The Reality of Reality TV

This week in BCM 289 we discussed reality television, mostly in regards to its global popularity and how formats of reality television are able to cross borders easily. Reality TV as discussed in the lecture and tutorials has become one of the largest TV formats. Most of this rise can come from the idea that reality TV is a simple concept that can be spread across the world globally. Mainly because the concept of a reality TV show is simply a shell and can be translated easier than something like dramatic TV shows across borders because the shows really only have a small specific amount of rules and most of the entertainment comes from the participants involved. The production also signified a change between media companies selling finished products i.e. ones with scripts and storylines to one that sells the concept of a tv show i.e. reality shows. This type of ease in translation has made reality television spread globally at a rapid rate, global media scholar Joseph Straubhaar described it as “genre imperialism” due to its global spread. 

Reality TV itself derives most of its entertainment from the participants on the show, so in a show like idol the reason the concept of the show spreads so wide is because of the idea that it’s a local participant is going to win and become a mega-star musician or entertainer and would be a local from that country so it provides a sense of nationalism in that regard. Other reality shows like Big Brother also rely on the idea of cultural proximity because a local audience would be more understanding of the participants especially in the terms of different areas and backgrounds interacting with each other. 

As a case study I would like to look at I’m a celebrity. I’m a celebrity is a british reality tv show where the participants aren’t local regular people but rather local celebrities. The show has had in total 12 different versions produced. I’m a celebrity is a perfect example of how cultural proximity is used in the production of these shows. The celebrities in question for each show are more than likely B to C-list actors, retired athletes and local personalities, to someone outside of the local intended audience they would probably be completely unknown. For example in the Australian version they has as one of the biggest stars cricketer Shane Warne but outside of Australians and hardcore cricket fans Warne isn’t a notiable name but to our local audience we all know who Shane Warne is. And it is the same across all versions of i’m a celebrity across the world because the show.

The rise of reality shows reflects the modern media environment because it’s quick to produce and relatively cheap to produce entertainment and due to the rise in competition from streaming platforms legacy media companies and modern media companies have to produce new entertainment constantly to keep up and reality shows are one of the best ways to do that.


Bcm 289 Wk 2 Lecture

Darling-Wolf, F., 2015. Imagining the Global: Transnational Media and Popular Culture Beyond East and West. [Erscheinungsort nicht ermittelbar]: University of Michigan Press.

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