Is Reality TV here to stay or just a fad?

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There was once a time when American families gathered in front of their television screens to watch the newest-scripted shows on primetime television. Then at some point, things changed with a television genre we like to call reality TV.


For the ‘80s and ‘90s baby generations, it’s pretty safe to say we were introduced to the genre through MTV’s “The Real World,” however the history of reality television dates back as far as the 1940s. One of the earliest recollections of reality TV, according to TV Guide Magazine, is “An American Family,” which debuted in January of 1973 documenting the lives of the Loud family of Santa Barbara, Calif. The series challenged what a commonplace middle class family in America looked like, showing marital tensions and alternative lifestyles among certain members of the family. Ten million viewers tuned in to watch the broadcast that changed American television forever.


From the 1970s to the more recent demand for all things reality with shows like “Duck Dynasty” and the “Real Housewives” franchise, it leaves one to wonder if the reign of reality TV is simply a prolonged phase or if it is indeed a fixture in American television.


Living every day in the real world, you would think viewers have their fair share of reality and wouldn’t need to watch daily drama play out in the lives of strangers.


“I don’t really watch reality TV. I have enough reality all day, every day,” says Cara Genovese senior photojournalism student. And yet Americans just can’t seem to get enough of this not-so-real television.


VH1’s “Love & Hip Hop: Atlanta” graced the number eight spot on Nielsen’s Top 10 List for Cable Network TV Viewings for September. Bringing in the fall season with a bang, the newest addition to the VH1 LNHH franchise, “Los Angeles,” debuted with a whopping five million viewers. On the other hand, Bravo’s “Million Dollar Listing” acts as a prime example of the viewership decline experiencing a loss of approximately 350,000 watchers.


Senior journalism student Hayden Miller and his friends are totally sold that the genre will soon meet its demise. “I think it kind of hit its height around the ‘Jersey Shore’ time. Most people I know don’t really watch reality TV shows.”


Like many people, he and his friends are growing tired of the overwhelming amount of reality shows currently on air. There are, however, some dedicated viewers that still remain.


“I feel like there are certain things that always sell and it’s stupidity and sex. So the crazier it goes, the more people are going to get into it,” remarks senior journalism student Samantha Kennedy. She also made the point that TV acts as an escape for the masses so it’s only right that it is a major deviation from life as we know it.


“It’s here to stay as long as there’s an interest in the lives of celebrities and fame. People want what they can’t have and enjoy the drama of people on TV to show that they’re just like us,” says recent SJU grad Hallelujah Lewis.


The students here at SJU seem to represent both sides of the love/hate relationship between society and reality television. Be it real, or made up, the genre has been victorious in winning over viewers of all ages and there’s a chance it may continue to do so. Reality TV just may be here to stay.