I have a love/hate relationship with reality TV shows. On one hand I genuinely worry that they are in danger of diluting the pool of decent TV shows to the extent that no one will know what it means to write a compelling series anymore, and on the other hand I think they can be a fantastic resource for writers – think of the exposure to people you would never come across in your day-to-day life shows like Big Brother offer.
While I find many reality offerings rather exploitative, a selection of American talk shows for example, there are some that at least do seem to offer something like decent advice and support for their participants. Not that that’s done the Jeremy Kyle show many favours recently. But when I’m not squirming at the horror of seeing the hopes, fears and dreams of some teenage girl dashed on screen, I’m busy filing mental notes about exactly the way she looked as she realised the world didn’t work the way she’d always assumed.
I also find that it salves the conscience to assume that there are different categories of reality TV show and that some are worse than others. For example, ‘fat kids humiliated in camp’ could have future benefits for the child while ‘I’m addicted to meth, attention and public breakdowns’ probably doesn’t. Shows like the Secret Millionaire however, well, I just can’t see a single bad side to them. Except that the heart warming reaffirmation we receive at the end of every programme doesn’t exactly provide me with juicy material!