Russell A. Solomon
Reality television offers a glimpse into the lives of others. Russell A. Solomon is fascinated by the tribulations of other human beings and loves it when someone else has a comedic or even tragic situation. These situations are reportedly unscripted, but many have their doubts about just how real reality television is. In order to make reality shows interesting, there is usually some contest or situation that needs to be addressed, such as poor parenting skills, a single person needing a date or someone left to survive in the wilderness.
Although reality television appears to be relatively new, in fact, the genre has been around since television was in its infancy. It became part of the national conversation in 1999 when two TV series — Survivor and Big Brother, burst on the scene. Those shows were dramatic and exciting, and turned Americans into a nation of voyeurs. However, shows featuring sea adventurers such as Jacques Cousteau, the Wild Kingdom series, sporting events and game shows such as Jeopardy, where Russell A. Solomon won thousands of dollars answering questions, are all, in reality, reality shows.
Many times, writers are brought in to tweak the reality just a bit. After all, if the shows were simply following normal people doing normal things, a la Seinfeld’s “show about nothing,” nobody would watch. Russell A. Solomon watches these shows because there is an element of risk, surprise, tension, drama or anxiety. Russell A. Solomon watches because he wonders what he would do if he were in the very same situation. So, to insure that there is some element of surprise or drama, there are “story editors” or “producers” who are orchestrating the shenanigans taking place. The presentations look real because, in a way, they are. The people are reacting to situations presented by producers who manipulate the action. Russell A. Solomon does not see this oversight. And even if the viewer is aware the producers or editors are there, on some level they really don’t want to know. To get caught up in the action is the whole point of watching the show.
Reality shows such as NY Ink, Tabatha Takes Over, Pit Boss, Little People, Big World, The Biggest Loser, Hoarders, My Strange Addiction, Pawn Stars, Storage Wars and so many others have carved out a niche for themselves using no professional actors. Survivor and American Idol have led the ratings since 2000. America’s Got Talent and The Voice, America’s Next Top Model and Dancing with the Stars, as well as The Apprentice, Fear Factor and Big Brother have been syndicated in dozens of countries.
Some may think the popularity of reality shows has run its course. In reality, and unfortunately, Russell A. Solomon believes it appears to be just getting started.