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Wednesday, May 1, 2013

The Real Reality TV


Consider the following two questions:  How do you feel about adults who watch WWE (professional wrestling)? 

How do you feel about adults who watch “reality” television shows (Housewives of.........., The Bachelor, etc…)? 

Interestingly, your gut reaction may be to love one and hate the other.  But a closer examination of them both reveals that in reality, they are very similar. 

In the barbershop recently, customers were making fun of a gentleman because he admitted that he was an avid wrestling fan.  He stated that he “never misses a show” and that he attends multiple “live events” a year.  Open barber chided, “Man, I can’t believe you still watch wrestling.  That is for the kids.  You’re way too old for that!”  The barber responded the same way many adults feel about grown-ups who watch wrestling.  However, the numbers do not back up those feelings.  In a recent survey it was found that only 15% of WWE viewers are between the ages of 12-17 years old, whereas 67% of WWE viewers are between the ages of 18-49.  Clearly, adults are and always have been driving the wrestling product. 

Adults love wrestling, even though it is fake.  The winners are predetermined.  The fights, dialogues, and storylines are scripted.  These storylines often involve romance, friendship, loss of friendship, revenge, national pride, sex, starting from the bottom and becoming a winner.  Whether or not a wrestler makes it is largely based on crowd reactions, whether good or bad.  The most popular wrestlers do not have to be liked by fans; they just have to arouse a strong reaction.  Does any of this sound familiar? Are we talking about professional wrestling or modern day reality TV?  Currently 1 out of 4 prime-time television shows fall into the “reality TV” category.  Why the popularity? 

People love to see drama.  Humans cannot help themselves.  If there’s an argument, yelling, fighting, or an accident we are looking and often find it hard to turn away.  Reality show producers know this, so every episode always includes some type of conflict.  All of these shows involve casted characters.  The producers thoroughly search for people who are known to be humorous, flirtatious, very jealous and confrontational.   In one case a character admitted to producers that she gets crazy when she doesn’t take her medication.  So what did the creators of the show do?  They hid her medicine for a few hours and… presto, fights galore.  It is well known in the industry that producers are producing their own drama.  Granted, they not telling people to fight or use obscene language.  But what do you expect to happen when people get together in a room that don’t like each other, and conveniently they have been drinking alcohol all day. Not to mention the manipulation of dialogue directors create to invoke conflict (Google frankenbiting). 

Another factor in why there are so many reality TV shows is that they are cheap to produce.  The average reality show cost a few hundred thousand dollars to create.  The actors are paid (how ironic), far below the going rate for a professional actor.  This has caused various lawsuits from the Screen Actors Guild.  The popularity of reality TV is causing professional actors (people who actually went to a school for the arts) to miss out on job opportunities.   Not to mention that most reality TV stars do not make any money off of their reruns or merchandising.  Look at it this way:  One episode of a prime time reality TV show may cost $600,000 an episode. A standard prime-time drama during that same time slot will cost $3 million.  If you would multiply those savings throughout an entire 12 episode season the studio saves $28.8 million.  Clearly people appearing on most reality tv shows are being taking advantage of; however, Vince McMahon (WWE CEO) has been doing this to wrestlers for years.

So the next time you laugh at a grown man that watches professional wrestling ask yourself, “What am I watching?”  It is all fake, and it’s just entertainment.  I’M JUST SAYING!     

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