How real is real? Reality television is here to stay

Natsumi Oye dissects reality television and why we need it.

By Natsumi Oye [Current Events Bureau Chief]

Love it or hate it, if you watch television you are unlikely to escape the pull of the reality TV phenomenon.

The great thing about reality TV is that there are shows for everyone from dancers to singers, to fishers, to bakers.

The not so great thing? You never really know how real what you’re watching actually is.

The newly engaged Bachelor Jake Pavelka and his fiancé, Vienna Girardi, were on Ellen a few episodes ago and Girardi commented that Ellen’s use of the word “edited” was very appropriate in describing a scene on the show where she is shown sneaking out to see Jake.

When Lauren Conrad announced that she was leaving The Hills, she said that she was tired of having two birthday parties, one for the show, and one for all of her friends who aren’t on the show. She has friends who aren’t on the show? Her life isn’t actually exactly how it appears on MTV?

People, for the most part, seem to be aware that what they see labeled as reality TV isn’t actually “reality” as we know it. So why bother watching it?

Society seems to get a twisted sense of pleasure when they watch someone fail. Thinking back to American Idol beginnings, William Hung gathered many laughs and applause not because he was a good singer, but because he was so ridiculously awful people couldn’t help but laugh, and couldn’t not watch.

It has been eight years since the first season of American Idol, which paved the way for shows such as So You Think You Can Dance, and 10 years since the first episode of Survivor, the show that made reality TV cool.

Reality TV has since taken on a life of its own. If you tuned into the season premiere of Dancing With the Stars on Monday, you saw reality TV stars competing on a reality TV show.

Is this phenomenon getting out of control? DWTS contestant Kate Gosslin’s failed marriage may be a pretty good warning against reality TV, as is former DWTS contestant Melissa Rycroft’s short-lived engagement to Bachelor Jason Mesnick. But if you watched the DWTS premier you also saw Chelsie Hightower whose participation on So You Think You Can Dance landed her a job as a pro on the show, as well as her dancing partner, bachelor Jake Pavelka, who is happily in love with his new fiancé.

As with all things in life, viewers and contestants must take the good with the bad of reality TV because as the shows get into their double-digit seasons, it appears that they are here to stay.