If a person turns their TV on in almost any country, most likely the channels will be filled with different kinds of reality shows. This is no surprise, because this kind of TV program has become amazingly popular in recent decades. Such shows are entertaining and addicting to watch, as they focus not on fictional characters, but on real people put in different contexts and situations. However, regardless of the entertainment it delivers, a question may arise: is there something more to watching reality shows than being entertained?
When evaluating reality shows, several factors should be taken in consideration. The “reality” that is usually shown on TV is not the same objective reality we live in. Every reality show has a core idea to which the behavior of its contestants is subdued—though the participants are not obliged to act one way or another, they still follow the script, and their behavior is then evaluated (by audiences, other show participants, moderators, and so on). “All TV shows, not just reality shows, help construct scenarios that demonstrate how some behaviors will be rewarded or punished. The concern is that frequent viewers of these shows will learn these behaviors, see them as desirable and then model them in the actual real world,” says Dr. Brad Gorham, chair of the Communications Department at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University (USA Today).
If we try to figure out what is so entertaining about reality shows, we can reach this conclusion: it is the humiliation and mocking of the contestants that makes people amused. Indeed, if we analyze such a popular show as American Idol, we will easily notice many episodes of this program are dedicated to making fun of the contestants, whose performing abilities were lower compared to other participants (which does not necessarily mean they are deprived of talent, or are worse in any other way). This can create an audience (which mostly consists of teenagers) that rate and assess people based on their qualities, such as appearance or skills; this model forms a solid basis for discriminating behavior and a lack of tolerance (eHow).
Yet another negative effect of reality shows is a distorted depiction of relationships between genders. Many reality shows address sexual themes, or depict relationships based on scandals and fights. Relationships on TV contrast real life ones: they tend to be less stable and harmonious, they are sexualized, and usually aimed at bringing more popularity to those engaged in them. Since it is difficult to control the access of underaged audiences to TV programs, children and teenagers are exposed to the risks of developing a wrong perception of relationships based on what they see on TV, which is unacceptable (RFA.edu).
Even though reality shows have become extremely popular, it does not mean they are beneficial for their audiences. Rather often, these shows display role models that are based on semi-artificial circumstances and environments. However, these models are still seen as desirable by viewers. In addition, humiliation, which makes the basis of the entertainment component in the majority of reality shows, teaches audiences to rate people based on their physical or psychological qualities, which can create a solid basis for discriminating behavior. In addition, considering sexualized and simplified depictions of romantic relationships in reality shows, one can claim these TV programs can cause perverted perceptions of relationships between different genders in the minds of teenagers, who usually make up the target audience of the majority of reality shows.
Fahner, Micki. “The Real Effects of Reality TV.” USA Today College. N.p., 18 Apr. 2012. Web. 08 Sept. 2014.
“Negative Effects of Reality Shows.” EHow. Demand Media, 07 Oct. 2010. Web. 08 Sept. 2014.
LeBoue, Sarah. “Reality Tv May Cause Deviant Sexual Behavior Among Teens.” RFA.edu. N.p., 01 Sept. 2014. Web. 08 Sept. 2014.
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Here is a list of English words for some popular types of television shows (or TV genres). When you have finished reading, scroll down the page to do a quiz.
Programmes featuring sports or sporting events.
Examples: Match of The Day, The Football League Show, Super Bowl, Sunday Night Football.
An amusing TV series about fictional characters. Also known as a situation comedy.
Examples: How I Met Your Mother, Friends, The Office, The Big Bang Theory.
A TV programme that documents real life events.
Examples: Panorama, Horizon, Timewatch, Life on Earth.
Also known as a Soap Opera. A fictional drama about people's daily lives.
Examples: Eastenders, Coronation Street, The Bold and The Beautiful, All My Children.
A programme that features animated characters.
Examples: Peppa Pig, The Simpsons, SpongeBob SquarePants, Family Guy, American Dad.
Travel or Holiday
A show that features popular holiday destinations or travel reviews.
Examples: The Travel Show, Wish You Were Here, Great Continental Railway Journeys.
TV programmes produced for children.
Examples: Blue Peter, Doctor Who, Sesame Street, Hannah Montana.
A fictional TV story, featuring actors.
Examples: Homeland, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Downton Abbey.
A show that helps people change their image or lifestyle.
Examples: Extreme Makeover, The Biggest Loser, You Are What You Eat.
A show that reports world events as they unfold.
Examples: BBC News, CNN Newsroom, The Daily Show, 60 Minutes.
A programme hosted by famous chefs, who teach people how to cook.
Examples: The Great British Bake Off, Ready Steady Cook, Masterchef, Jamie's Ministry of Food.
A "fly on the wall" show or talent show, featuring real people.
Examples: Celebrity Big Brother, The X Factor, Dancing on Ice, American Idol, Britain's Got Talent.
Talk Show or Chat Show
Programmes hosted by a TV personality, (or host) featuring guests who talk about their lives.
Examples: The Jonathan Ross Show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show.
Phone-in TV shows (often on shopping channels), where people can either buy featured items or bid for them.
Examples of shopping channels: QVC, Bid-Up TV.
A TV programme featuring competitive games or quizzes.
Examples: Wheel of Fortune, The Chase, Deal or No Deal, The Price is Right.
A TV show featuring live or recorded music.
Examples: MTV Unplugged, The BBC Proms.
A programme about gardening, often fronted by a well-known television personality.
Examples: Gardener's World, Gardener's Question Time, The Chelsea Flower Show.
A television show featuring topics such as fashion, diet, exercise, health and leisure pursuits.
Examples: Gok's Fashion Fix, Top Gear, You are What You Eat, The Gadget Show.
TV programmes showing people how to do repairs to their houses. Also known as "Do It Yourself" Programmes.
Examples: House Doctor, Grand Designs, BBC Changing Rooms, DIY SOS.
A "telethon" show which aims to raise funds for charity by persuading members of the public to phone in and donate money.
Examples: Children in Need, Live Aid, Comic Relief.
Animal or Wildlife
A programme about wild animals or pets, often hosted by a well-known tv personality.
Examples: Animal Rescue, The Really Wild Show, Monkey Business, Meerkat Manor, Big Cat Diary.
A funny TV series about the lives of fictional characters is known as_______?
- a sitcom
- a soap
- reality TV
A TV programme that documents real life events is known as_______?
- a documentary
- a sitcom
- a drama
A programme that helps people change their lifestyle or image is known as_______?
- a makeover show
- a soap
- a sitcom
Which of these programmes is not a reality TV show?
- Game of Thrones
- Celebrity Big Brother
- American Idol
Which of these programmes is not a cookery show?
- You Are What You Eat
- Jamie's Ministry of Food
- Ready, Steady Cook
A show that reports world events as they unfold is known as_______?
- reality TV
Which of these programmes is not a cartoon show?
- American Idol
- The Simpsons
- American Dad
True or false? An amusing TV series about fictional characters is called a romcom.
Which of these programmes is not a TV drama?
- The Walking Dead
Which of these programmes is a soap opera?
- Coronation Street
- Meercat Manor
- House Doctor
Show/Hide Answer Key
Multiple Choice Quiz Answers:
1) A sitcom is a funny TV series about the lives of fictional characters.
2) A TV series that documents real life events is a documentary.
3) Makeover shows help people change their image or lifestyles.
4) Game of Thrones is a tv drama. The other programmes are both reality shows.
5) You Are What You Eat is a lifestyle show.
6) News shows report events as they happen.
7) American Idol is a reality show. American Dad and The Simpsons are cartoons.
8) The statement is false. An amusing TV series about fictional characters is called a sitcom. A romcom (or romantic comedy) is a type of film genre.
9) Homeland and The Walking Dead are both TV drama series. QVC is a shopping channel.
10) Coronation Street is a long running British soap opera. Meercat Manor is a show about meercats. House Doctor is a DIY programme.