A New World for Reality TV

In 2007, the WGA went on strike against the AMPTP to protest a lack of pay and compensation for Internet-produced work. Because the writers were not working, many distributors turned to reality television as a substitute for scripted shows. These proved to be highly successful, as seen with Survivor. While reality television proved to be a good substitute during the strike, it quickly proved that it could become a replacement. Cynthia Littleton points out in TV on Strike, “writers needed to better understand how quickly and how significantly the entertainment marketplace, particularly in television, was changing in ways that promised to severely cut into writers’ income” (45). After 3 months, the strike has ended, but by no means are the writers safe. Instead of fighting for compensation for work, they could be fighting for work.

In the 2000’s, there was a boom in reality TV shows. Shows like America’s Next Top Model, Big Brother, and Amazing Race appeared. Not only was it entertaining to watch, it created conversation beyond the living room. People were talking about these shows at work, during their time at the bar, and the cycle continued on by tuning in every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday (you get the picture), to see what happens next. Reality shows are exciting because feature everyday people, your doctor, neighbor, and old high school teacher, and stick them in a competition for million dollars.

Even though the strike has ended, there has been a steady increase in reality shows. These shows don’t just focus on competitions, but people living their everyday life, which has proved to be just as successful. When I go home and go through the TV guide, all I see are shows like Duck Dynasty and re-runs of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. We seem to be more interested in others’ lives, hence the increase of reality shows and re-runs of reality shows.

Not only are they exciting for the viewer, but for the producers.

“The boom in unscripted primetime programming…had cost Hollywood writers some one thousand jobs, as networks ordered fewer comedy and drama series” (56). Companies don’t have to pay big-name actors and don’t have to employ writers. “Those producers who are tasked with assembling episodes from hours and hours of raw footage, and who are responsible for devising challenges and surprises for contestants, function as the writers for this fast-growing genre of television” (56).

Look at all the shows that take place in NYC!

With all of the new reality television, it leaves little room for new shows, with new concepts, to appear. Instead, you get shows that appeal to the masses, television shows that revolve around vampires or a group of friends living in New York City. Because there are fewer jobs for real creative work, the shows that are placed on TV feature little diversity of content and writers know this. In order for a script to be picked up, they have to write to fit a mold.

Can both reality television and new creative shows live in harmony? I mean, writers want an opportunity to spread their creative wings and I’m sure there are distributors that want to take chances on new content. The Internet can be just the place. As we saw in 2007, people saw value in putting content on the Internet. Reality shows, as previously established, are a hit, but they take up air time. By placing reality shows online, it leaves more space for creative work. We already see a type of reality show online and they are successful, with their subjects making, sometimes, 6 figures. They are called vloggers.

Charles Trippy vlogging with a pigeon!

Charles Trippy vlogging with a pigeon!

Charles Trippy holds the world record for longest daily vlog channel (appropriately titled, “Internet Killed Television”), meaning, he posts 15-20-minute videos every day. Trippy’s audience has watched him get engaged, married, divorced, join the band, We the Kings, become diagnosed with brain cancer, and go to the grocery store.

But he’s just one story. And he’s in a band. Who wouldn’t want to follow a member of a successful pop rock band?

Shay Butler, founder of the Shaytards, as mentioned in one of my other blog posts, uploads vlogs, of him and his family. They aren’t part of a cool band; they are a family of 7, living a regular life, and yet, almost 4 million people have subscribed to their channel.

This just shows the power of the Internet and the success that can come with it. Though Orange is the New Black is not a reality show, it has proved its success, and it is only shown on Netflix, an Internet streaming service. It has people talking both online and in person. If we see the success of shows on the Internet, then companies should not be fearful of placing content online. By doing this, it will leave more space for both writers and producers to take chances with new television show ideas and open up more jobs for writers.

Thinking of new creative content is way more fun than trying to write another vampire show

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