My Guilty Pleasure That Is Reality TV

Ten years ago, before there was Snookie and Kardashians and Teen Moms, the only reality television to exist were game shows, or contests of sorts. You know, Deal Or No Deal, Match Game, American Idol and The Amazing Race, for example. While shows like that still exist, the genre of reality TV has changed drastically. No longer is it real, average people being featured for a limited time, as the idea of ‘real’ isn’t even real anymore. The idea of reality on TV is so fake, no one believes it for a second.

But I still watch it.

However, let me be clear that I don’t watch reality TV with the same frame of mind I do normal, scripted shows. I watch normal shows to get immersed in a new world with new, loveable characters and follow plots that blow my mind. Whereas with reality TV, I watch to get a laugh and to kill time. I watch to roll my eyes at the annoying-ness of the people or the silliness of their doings.

I was a big fan of the TLC reality shows a few years ago. Here Comes Honey Boo Boo and 19 Kids And Counting and Toddlers And Tiaras and Sister Wives were admittedly very weird, problematic shows, but I very much enjoyed watching the antics and learning about a way of life that was very different from mine. It was about learning and cheap entertainment for me. Of course I was surprised and saddened to hear of the scandals that led to the Honey Boo Boo and 19 Kids cancellations, but those just prove how unreal reality TV can be.

Nowadays I watch more of the E! reality TV. There’s always something on. Like the Kardashians.

Let’s take a deeper look at the Kardashians. I find them all fairly annoying. They all use the words ‘like’ and ‘literally’ too much (and not even in a cool Chris Traeger kind of way) and seem so fake. They sit there talking about how ‘hard working’ they are when all they’ve done in the day is get their nails done and go for a dress fitting. Or they talk about how important family is one moment and the next moment you see them yelling the most awful insults at each other in the parking lot of a hotel, all because Khloe didn’t ask Kim how her relationship is going with her boyfriend (yes, that happened a few years ago). I mean, I know families fight, but their fights are so petty.


And I know that a large part of my opinion is based on how they’re portrayed and that the show is definitely filmed and edited in a way that changes who they are in real life, but at the same time, the Kardashians wouldn’t sign off on anything that they didn’t agree to, so the show must be legit so some degree.

I think that’s why I’ve been so drawn to the show Unreal this summer. It’s giving people a different perspective of reality shows, even if it is scripted. It’s scary to think that manipulation like that is happening behind the scenes of all reality shows. If you haven’t seen Unreal, go watch it. It’s two seasons so far and they are fascinating and dramatic!

I think I’ve narrowed down my dislike for these reality TV shows to the people. Whether they’re filmed in misleading ways or not, everyone on reality TV shows are just carbon copies of each other. On all the E! or MTV shows, they’re all obsessed with makeup and fashion. Never have I seen anyone care about anything else. None of them care about anything I and normal people get excited about: books or TV or movies or even something simple like a good joke or their favourite home-cooked meal. None of them laugh until they cry or have what is deemed the ‘late night giggles’, and I can’t understand how they live like that.

But what irks me the most is that they all seem to have this weird mindset where consequences don’t exist. Scott Disick would keep drinking and partying even though Kourtney hated it. On Dash Dolls, one of the girls met up with her boyfriend who was in rehab when she shouldn’t have and he ended up getting kicked out of the rehab program and then arrested, but she was like, “But all I wanted to do was see my boyfriend??? Why is this such a big deal???” because she didn’t think about the consequences of this forbidden meetup. Or even on Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo when Alana and one of her sisters covered themselves in butter and had a wrestling match in the kitchen one day and then Mama June came home to find a buttery mess and got mad (though not even nearly as mad as my mom would have been had my brother and I done something ridiculous like that). These people do and do and do, but never think about the consequences, or even have many consequences at all, because they can buy their way out with money or fame. And that is why I watch these shows but will never feel a deep connection with them. They aren’t characters written to be likeable or flawed or even unlikeable…they’re real people with personalities that I wouldn’t want in my life.

That being said, I will always adore one thing about these shows, which is how strong the love can be, and that’s how I can stand watching them. For every fight and silly over-hyped argument that we’re forced to watch, there are scenes of these people working together or eating meals together or enjoying each other’s company. It’s really touching to see families or friends or whatnot having a good time. That was one of the things I really loved about Honey Boo Boo before the scandal, as that show was getting a lot of hate for being weird and too ‘red-neck’ but I was watching to see a really close family who enjoyed being weird together. It’s moments where there is no drama that I connect with because it’s what I enjoy in my real life. Those are the moments that make the reality aspect of reality TV slightly real.

I’m not writing this to shame anyone who actually does like reality TV. I mean, I watch it, I’m admitting to that freely. But it is a guilty pleasure, as I sometimes feel bad for settling to watch these shows instead of doing other things. I hope that people who do watch these shows know that there is real scripted TV that is so much better and provides real drama, not petty and cleverly filmed arguments.

At the end of the day, TV is TV and reality TV is just another genre out there with a sole purpose to entertain, and entertain it does. This genre will be around for a while.

Me when watching.
Me when watching 99% of the time


What is your stance on reality TV? Do you watch it? And, more importantly, do you like it? Leave a comment and we can discuss!


P.S. If for some reason you’ve read this exact post before on the internet, I actually wrote it for a blogging course I took last year university, so it’s all my own words, I’m just reposting it on my real blog!

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13 thoughts on “My Guilty Pleasure That Is Reality TV

  1. Oh, Donovan. You asked me to be your mom, so I’m going to mom you now.

    Reality TV is not just another genre. It’s a genre that exploits everyone it touches. Most obviously, it eschews “talent”–those union-supported actors, writers, and crew members who work hard to make a living in an unstable business. Being part of a union, for an actor, is vitally important in the US. It allows them access not just to a living wage and less exploitative working conditions (all those “tens” they take in Smash? Required by Equity.) but also access to things like health insurance, retirement savings accounts, and emergency funds. Just this year the alternate on Hamilton (who’s now playing Hamilton full-time) needed cancer treatment and he was supported financially by Equity while he couldn’t work. The Screen Actors Guild has similar protections for actors in TV and film.

    So hiring non-Union employees is a huge blow to a vulnerable population.

    Add to that the on-air exploitation, especially when children are involved, and the whole genre is demeaning to all of us and should not be supported.

    If you want to watch unscripted love-fests, watch the Olympics. Canada has that guy who gives his dad the finger before every swim: I love him! Or find a show that actually tries to help people, like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition (is there anything like that on now?) We have the entire history of television at our fingertips now. Go watch Buffy. Or Google Darren Criss and watch videos from last year’s Elsie Fest. (I’ve heard that can keep you occupied for many hours. You know, from a friend.)

    I know the US is an unfeeling cesspool of neglect, but if you’re going to watch the stuff we produce, you have to make sure you’re watching stuff that supports creative people. Otherwise, you’re part of the problem.

    • I know it’s trash, I do, but sometimes I need that. Sometimes I need to see how the weird LA people live. It provides me with entertainment that Home Makeover shows and regular scripted shows can’t give.
      I know it’s problematic and I shouldn’t be giving them my view or attention, but that’s why it’s a guilty pleasure, and I think that as far as guilty pleasures go, mine is pretty safe. I’m trying to cut back, but sometimes I just crave some trash!

  2. Um, what kidprojectmom said. Not all reality TV is equal. Some is more stupid than others and some more nasty. I have limited viewing expertise but have watched bits of several shows and even full episodes of some because there was nothing else on and while I was doing something else I’d watch and eye roll until my head started to hurt. But I will say this; you know that gut feeling your mom taught you to acknowledge, that voice in your head that she told you to listen to because it usually signalled danger and that you should run!! Well almost every time I watch reality TV I get that feeling. I have an urgency to save my soul! That “Unreal” should be called “Impure”. It is vile, evil, squalid!
    So if you’re watching because you are an impartial TV critic learning all about TV programming or whatever, I’d say your fieldwork on reality TV is done. Do your research on another genre now. Documentaries? 60’s sitcomes? I’m eager to read some more comments on this post though.

    • It’s not as much as a gut feeling as it is a brain feeling. A sanity feeling. But it’s concerning enough for me to do anything about it. I think it just makes me appreciate better shows more.
      Unreal, as interesting as it is, is a scripted show too (and a Lifetime one at that) so I can forgive its craziness to some extent. It’s a great summer show, that’s for sure!

    • That one is slightly better, because at least the contestants are benefiting from the exposure, if they are professional performers. And people are not letting their guard down, they are performing and entering a contest that has clear rules. I can live with America’s Got Talent and similar shows.

    • AGT and other competition shows like that are, like I said, almost not even in the genre of reality anymore. They’re good to watch. They’re real but not trash. Not hyper-real like E! shows.
      All in all, watch what you love!

      • I’ve been doing some AGT recapping/power rankings this summer and also do the same for Dancing With the Stars and am helping with So You Think You Can Dance next gen coverage this summer too. I don’t watch the other kid of reality TV except 19 Kids which is now Counting On and that’s part of a community I’m in examining fundamental/orthodox religions. Sort of a “social justice” thing if you will. 😛

  3. I’ve never had the desire to watch any reality TV (besides the occasional game show/talent show episode) because it always seems to grate on me, especially when fictional T.V. is already SO GOOD! Though, there is one show I watched whenever it was on at home: Duck Dynasty. I know, total red neck show, but I can relate to it (and enjoy it), what with part of my family being quite similar 🙂 I’m not under any illusions that it’s “100%” real or anything, but I’d say it’s more sincere than the average, and I think that’s what I like most. Anyhow 🙂

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