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Why Do We Love Reality TV Shows So Much?

By Karina Thyra ⋅ Posted on August 18, 2016 at 10:30am

Last year, I never saw any new shows - that's right, no TV for a year. So when I finally returned to the TV-watching world, I was a little lost. My Facebook feed was flooded with pictures of the new couples that reality TV had spawned (one very popular reality television show in my home country being Pinoy Big Brother) but for me, they were lost in translation.


Anyhow, due to a long hiatus in TV viewing, I almost forgot how to get excited about watching 22 minutes of "reality" television show (which, if we're counting Here Comes Honey Boo-boo or Keeping Up With The Kardashians, are far removed from reality). There are lots of reality television shows that are great: American Idol, Top Model, X-Factor, The Voice, and Survivor, to name some. But, all the contestants are in it to win it; it's marketed more as a reality game show, which is fun, but not laughing at comical human behavior sort of fun. Some would even consider reality shows to be television trash, and believe that watching a mere 15 minutes of it could kill a million of your brain cells. But still, why do we watch it so much? What is it about reality television that captivates our generation?

It Gives Us Something To Talk About

PBB 737/ Abs-Cbn

As I've been watching Big Brother (the Philippine edition) since I was six, one of the reasons I watch reality TV is because it gives us something to talk about. Reality TV is a topic far less depressing than say, Brexit, the weather, the race for the White House...

We talk about all those pressing issues all the time, but the people we watch in 'reality' TV are people we can sometimes relate to, even talk about, without hostility or division- unlike talking about whether or not Hilary Clinton will make a kick-ass president.



We watch television because it's a form of entertainment that doesn't take much effort. We temporarily escape the mundanities of our own daily lives by submerging ourselves in our favorite programs for a dose of relaxation and sometimes humor.

For example, watching KUWTK gives us a view of how lavish their lives are. But since almost every waking of this family's life is spent with cameras all around, we know for a fact that not everything we see from them is authentic. We can only make assumptions about their lives when the cameras stop rolling.

But wow. We can also watch reality TV to learn something, or sometimes just simply marvel at how well-played Kim Kardashian's Snapchat reveal was.

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We Learn Something About Our Own Personalities From Them

Perhaps the current most authentic reality television I've ever seen is Big Brother. We love them because whether they are celebrities or regular people, we see them in the most normal and natural way we could. We get an insight into their lives, and often we learn from what they learn inside the house. It's like psychology: we learn something from people we observe, and when we meet someone who shares the same traits like them, we know whether to get along, or stay away.

Usually, when others make honest mistakes, we try to forgive them and not be too difficult (read: not to be a douchebag). So really, as much as the housemates show their good and bad sides inside the house, not knowing which of their recorded activities will make its way to TV, we learn and discover traits about them and learn things about ourselves at the same time.

This article may sound like a justification for my watching too much trash television. But reality TV is so bad that it's good, and has moments of drama and slapstick coming from real people's actions who don't know whether the world is laughing with them or at them. Of course (Big Brother comes to mind), who doesn't love to see new talents emerge from among the lines of commoners who got lucky enough to get in a reality TV series? Those rags-to-riches stories have enough drama and humor to keep me entertained.

Why do you watch reality TV? Let me know in the comments!

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