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Reality TV: Just how far is too far?


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This is quite a long rant, but bear with me.

 

Last night I was up late working and I had the television on for comfort ?background noise? purposes when a live broadcast of series five of the UK ?Big Brother? was on. I had to stop what I was doing around half one in the morning however when I saw a fight break out on live national television with serious threats made toward one of the women in the house by one of the men. I was absolutely mesmerised that this is considered ?television.?

 

It?s been hard to escape the fact that the television network that airs the game show here in the UK (Channel 4) has been hyping up the ?Big Brother is getting evil? tagline in order to boost their ratings. From what I can gather, this hasn?t been working all that well, which is amusing to me as Channel4 is a station I carry what I suppose one could call contempt for given it?s tedious shock tactics and ?trendy? outlooks that it seeks to employ in many of its programmes. Nothing seems to have backfired on them more then the events of last night however.

 

Last week the producers staged a fake eviction whereby the public voted two housemates (two girls) out of the house, only what the housemates did not know is that the chosen two would actually be put into a hidden room where they would watch their fellow ex-housemates 24/7 for a number of days after which they would then be ushered back into the house armed with information about contestants secrets and game tactics.

 

I think this latest (hopefully last ever) series is in its third or fourth week, but it?s been clear from the media hype and from what is aired that the producers were actively seeking to cause squabble?s amongst the contestants. The house was made smaller, the colour scheme inside was made to create discomfort and tension. Weekly tasks and other stunts seemed to be deliberately set out to start rifts between the housemates. Rifts don?t seem to have occurred seriously until last night when things erupted in a big way.

 

I can?t say specifically what the feelings between the contestants were to cause them to explode in the early hours of the morning, but I was baffled by the show?s producers actions, or lack of them, during the actual broadcast.

 

From what I have heard, on the ?live? broadcast there is in fact a delay of around fifteen to eighteen minutes so the editors can monitor anything unjust going out to the public. This fact made me ask the initial question, why air this rift at all?

 

To elaborate on what was shown, two of the men in the house were growingly increasingly frustrated and angry.

There were clearly two distinct factions in the house and they were about to clash in the extreme. Although when the two female housemates returned from this secret room after first days they?d planned to play things cool, it did not take one of them to loose it and admit they?d seen and hear everything everyone had been saying behind each others backs whilst they?d been away.

 

If it was a spat between two guys, I wouldn?t have been quite as concerned about what aired, but the fact a woman was pushed to the ground, two women were seriously threatened and a table hurled across the room along with jeers of death threats flying back and forth amongst those involved left me utterly speechless. So why, given the fifteen minute delay, was this even aired in the first place? Is this genuinely entertaining television?

 

What left me equally uneasy was the fact that the producers took their sweet time to even bother to intervene all blatantly in the lust for ratings (the events of the early hours live broadcast make it into an edited ?highlights? show the following day).

It was clear the producers wanted this outcome to happen. Whether they wanted to turn as violent as it almost did remains to be seen, but the fact they re-stocked the house with alcohol to mark the re-entry of the two girls into the house speaks volumes in my mind. The table had been overturned, one of the guys had thrown his glass of wine over one of the girls, threats of ?I?ll fu**ng kill you!? had passed back and forth numerous times and only THEN, after all that, was a call made over the speaker system requesting the two guys enter the diary room.

 

I studied media in college, I know an awful lot about the industry works, but this was perhaps one of the most shocking displays of deliberate media manipulation I have ever seen in my lifetime and it?s left me rather angry and frustrated.

 

One of the other female housemates, not one of the two returned to the house, and not one involved in the ruckus, was visibly shaken and in tears from simply hearing the arguments taking place from the bedroom. You couldn?t help but look at this poor girl and believe she?d had first hand experience about a man?s physical anger toward a woman. It was shortly after this moment aired that the station cut transmission altogether, one hour before the two hour live broadcast was officially meant to end for the night.

 

When there is something the editors don?t wish to broadcast, the delay allows them to down out the sound and cut to something else. The camera will cut to pre-shot footage of the garden of whatever, and it did so for the remaining hour. The internet feeds were cut off, and the website was taken down for a brief period.

 

Ultimately a frankly vile on screen statement that claimed the return to the live feed would be ?well worth the wait? was the last straw showing the program makers utter disregard for the important matters at hand. Not ONCE, did they make any effort to place a disclaimer onscreen (or online) detailing the wellbeing of all in that house. If any of the contestants friends or family were watching they, like every other viewer, would be left clueless as to whether everyone in there was genuinely alright and unhurt.

 

Apparently the live feed did not return online or on satellite television until around four o?clock this morning, and when it did, security personnel had clearly been placed within the house. Even now the program makers are remaining rather restrained about what information should be released, though it was said this morning that- shockingly- no housemates have been evicted.

 

 

I?d ay the whole thing?s left me lost for words, but this post makes me a liar. :)

 

Are events like this genuinely considered entertainment by viewers and program makers? If anyone has made it to the end of this post (thanks and well done if you have!), how do you feel about so called ?reality? TV when so often, as was clear in the case of last night with UK Big Brother, the producers are all too often looking to incite a specific outcome for ratings sake?

 

Daniel

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Mark Burnett once made a comment about survivor that the camera folks are not allowed, under any circumstances, to assist the survivors. If a survivor got attacked out in the ocean it would be hard to film but would make great television.

 

Or something like that.

 

The way I look at shows like this is that I could care less about the characters. There is security and medical staff just off camera ready to step in if something goes too far. And the situation you mentioned was probably not as bad as it appeared to be on tv. You can bet that their insurance for the show would be extremely pissed off if something big happened to a cast member.

 

Remember its all about getting ratings. You cannot trust what you see on the screen as being legit. Even though they call it reality tv, it is still just tv.

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Even if it didn't happen the way it was edited to appear, though, the fact remains it was broadcast in a way that made it seem like the cast members were in genuine peril of being physically harmed by one another, and I think the question that Dan is asking is, is this really what the viewing public craves? Sadly, I fear the answer is "yes". I haven't studied the media and I don't watch reality shows other than The Amazing Race and a little Survivor, but I know enough people who used to love the physical altercations on shows like "Springer" and "Cops", and even the simulated violence of pro wrestling, to know that another person's anger, fear, pain, and humiliation will titillate the typical television audience as much as or even more than a skimpy bikini or two.

 

When I finally break down and sell my soul to the devil, I'm going to pitch a "Gladiator" themed reality show where we can all get back to watching people getting eaten by tigers like the Romans used to. Tell me that wouldn't be the most successful reality show of all time. Pathetic. :(

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I'm just waiting to see how long it takes before The Running Man becomes a reality. Or, while we're talking about Stephen King (or Richard Bachman if you want to be entirely accurate) how about The Long Walk? Both would have television appeal for a bloodthirsty populace.

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Even if it didn't happen the way it was edited to appear, though, the fact remains it was broadcast in a way that made it seem like the cast members were in genuine peril of being physically harmed by one another, and I think the question that Dan is asking is, is this really what the viewing public craves?

 

Yes, that's precisely what I was trying to get at really. Is it what the general public crave, and what do we all make of the show producers who blatantly manipulate events in these game shows in order to incite a specific result? Again I think by providing a fresh stock of alcohol last night resulted in the Big Brother producers getting exactly what they wanted, and seeing them let things go as far as they did before intervention left me quite disgusted.

 

 

Sadly, I fear the answer is "yes".

 

Sadly I'd agree. There is to be an extended highlights show of last night?s events lasting sixty-five minutes at 10pm. The news programmes on various channels and online have of course picked up the story and have been covering it, especially since there was official word of police involvement. This may well send ratings through the roof tonight. It's too uncomfortable to watch what I saw last night again, even though no one was physically hurt, it was enough to see the threat of any extreme physical violence toward women leave me utterly dumbfounded. I should be able to make a call in the morning and get some viewing figures out of curiosity.

 

Dan

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I never understood the fascination with this whole "reality tv" thing from the get go. Most of those so called reality shows are anything but reality. It doesn't surprise me that the public eats them up though. We are talking about the same society that made Jerry Springer a household name. :roll:

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Originally posted by blackcalx@Jun 17 2004, 11:08 AM

I'm just waiting to see how long it takes before The Running Man becomes a reality.

I made that exact same comment to my wife months ago :shock:

 

I refuse to watch any "reality" shows. They are all pretty much garbage.

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Originally posted by PoisonJam@Jun 17 2004, 04:57 PM

Even if it didn't happen the way it was edited to appear, though, the fact remains it was broadcast in a way that made it seem like the cast members were in genuine peril of being physically harmed by one another

I'd like to think that was the case, but the Police have requested the uncensored feed. We'll see. Personally, if they are trying to claim they didn't see it coming they're either blatently lying, or monumentally stupid in a way that previous moves by them suggests isn't the case.

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  • 3 weeks later...
Commissioned by the Bravo television channel, which is part of the British-based Telewest television company...

 

Can I assume that the Bravo channel mentioned isn't the same as the one we get on cable in America? Or should I expect to see James Lipton asking "Buck Naked" about his favorite curse word?

 

-j

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When I finally break down and sell my soul to the devil, I'm going to pitch a "Gladiator" themed reality show where we can all get back to watching people getting eaten by tigers like the Romans used to. Tell me that wouldn't be the most successful reality show of all time. Pathetic.

 

Funny you mention that. The 1st time I watched Gladiator, I thought to myself that a Gladatorial style fighting spectacle would probably be popular in this world of today. I honestly think that if someone built an arena, and had "to the death" gruesome, bloody fights in it, people would come to see it and, it would make money.

 

To be truthful, I'm not totally sure that I'd want to go to a gladiator match but, I probably would go see one just out of morbid curiosity.

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Of course, in the original, Gladitorial combat was merely one part of the 'fun'. Everything from "bet on which dwarf catches, rapes and kills the fat lady" to "watch the other half of the audience die of heat exhaustion" was on the menu.

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