We’ve all had our share of reality TV.
From the pioneering Real World episodes to Survivor and Hogan Knows Best; there are more reality shows than there are hours in the day to keep up with them! Although the reality TV phenomenon is no longer cutting edge, it still captivates millions of viewers and continues to inform a mass cultural viewpoint of what “normal” behavior is. With all these years of indoctrination under our belts however, there is one simple lesson that we should be learning from all of these reality shows…they’re not real at all.
That’s right, a reality show by definition is not real. It’s a show! So in order to combat this grievous error on our airwaves, I have created the perfect prescription for how to create the first REAL REALITY SHOW. Here’s what we’ll need to do:
Keep It A Secret
First, no one can know they’re on the show. They can’t even know that they might be on a show or know that there’s a chance they might be on a show. 100% hidden cameras in 100% of the people’s lives are needed. (This creates some sticky legal issues but if we’re going for true reality then that’s a chance we’ll have to take.) So let’s put cameras in every conceivable place the people will be and avoid any possibility that they could know about it. When people know they’re going to be on a reality show, it’s no longer real! Their actions and attitudes are going to be influenced by the fact that they know what they’re doing will be shown to millions of people.
Don’t Cut The Boring Stuff
Second, we have to show the people’s lives 100% of the time and the people watching the show must watch ALL of it, even when the people on the reality show are asleep, doing nothing, watching TV or ironing (think “Truman Show”). Our REAL reality show cannot be edited for time, content or anything like that. No highlights. No clips. We’re going to have to watch people groom themselves and mow the lawn, that’s just part of it. If this is to be a true reality show then we can’t just edit out all the boring stuff. That makes people’s lives look like a non-stop party or chain of successes and meltdowns which is a completely hyperbolic version of real life. We need to see the people on the show fall asleep, drive their cars, eat bagels and be couch potatoes for hours on end. Without this daily grind content it is not “true time” and time is the main ingredient in reality.
Feel The Pain
The last thing we need to do is find a way to make the audience actually feel the discomfort, hardship, loneliness and pain in the lives of the people on the show. All the excitement surrounding the free alcohol and surfing must be balanced out with the tears, heartache and depression that so many people are carrying around. And the audience can’t just see it. They need to FEEL it! I would suggest inventing some sort of machine that could be hooked up to the TV and to the person at home watching the reality show (Brave New World anyone?). Depending on which character was being shown, a special “pain or pleasure recipe” would be electronically pulsed into the veins of the viewer, helping them experience the emotions that the person on the reality show was experiencing. This would take some testing, exorbitant legal fees and a very pricey electroencephalograph machine, but it could be done. Having a pain framework would help viewers at home understand why the people on TV are doing what they’re doing and making the choices they make. It’s easy to criticize someone from a cushy sofa but it’s quite different if you’re shadowing their life and feeling the pain that they feel.
Never Stop Watching (Unless You’re Dead)
Lastly, our true reality show can never end. Anyone who watches it must be hooked up with the feeling machine and must watch the show 24 hours a day, every day until either the characters or the viewer perishes. Shortcutting any one of these avenues will neutralize our goal of making a real reality show. If it can’t be done then what we’ll be left with is what we have now. A bite-sized, edited down snapshot of the best, worst and most dramatic parts of people’s lives. I challenge a network to take this project on.