What Type of Reality TV Shows Have an Upper Hand

If a line says anything about the face of reality TV, you will find none better than the words of Mark Burnett which says; “There’s nothing like biting off more than you can chew, and then chewing anyway.” He is a pioneer in reality TV; if the type of success attained by the shows he has made are anything to go by!

After watching all your favorite reality shows one after the other, you might just ask what type gets the upper hand. From The Apprentice to the Masterchef series, Extreme Makeover to The Biggest Loser, each comes with its own portrayal of man’s behavior. Inspired or determined, passive-aggressive or just plain bitchy, all the contestants go through whatever torture devices that the show producers can come up with. And we get to see it all, from the comfort of our sofas and behind our TV dinners! If you look at it with optimism, watching TV has never been better!

The Best in Reality TV

Let’s take a look at the biggest grossing reality TV shows over the past decade and review the changing trends that took place.

Competitions
Whatever the challenge may be, whatever obstacles may stand in one’s way, the sense of achievement after you win each round is exhilarating. Viewers love to watch people battle each other to gain the coveted final prize. Whether it’s a cooking contest like Hell’s Kitchen or an endurance competition like The Amazing Race, a viewer will generally pick his/her favorite and root for them till the end. It’s the positive result after an episode filled with trials and tribulations that keeps the viewer hooked. Survivor: Borneo picked up a record 18 million viewers on its second week on air. Shows like The Bachelor and Temptation Island present an alternate reality fueled by wealth and looks, while shows like The Biggest Loser aim for the compassion of the crowd, as the contestants lose weight and pour their hearts out on TV.

Reality Shows on Music and Dance
Shows like American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance amass a large portion of TV ratings. They are, in essence, one of the best chances for aspiring artists to get to the top, which is what makes these shows so loved. Shows like these usually start off on rating lower than they started on, as more and more viewers gather to see who wins the show towards the end. They also use a public voting system to increase viewer interactions and keep them at watching the show.

Science-based Reality
Face it. No matter how simple some things can be, lab coats, safety glasses and special cameras can make them look spectacular! Time Warp is such a show that uses high quality equipment to capture things in super slow motion. Mythbusters follows tales, both old and new, and establish them as true, false or plausible.

Cooking Shows
This is a segment dominated by TV shows like Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations and Nigella’s Kitchen. What mostly keeps the viewers latched is the preparation and presentation of the food. As obviously the viewer can’t taste it, care is taken to ensure the best presentation pattern of food. It also revolves around global cuisines that most viewers may not actually get to taste, but generate an interest and liking for.

Celebrity Lives
Everyone wants a look into the personal lives of their favorite celebrities. For Paris Hilton, The Simple Life generated quite the ratings at first. So did The Flavor of Love, where they tried to find a suitable match for Flavor Flav. You also got to see the celebrities in shows that capitalize on them, terming their show as ‘the celebrity version’, where average Joes are replaced by well-known faces.

Uncommon/Popular Social Lives
This type of show uses a rather unconventional method (when it can find one) and gives the viewer a glimpse of people or families that are out of the ordinary. The prime example of this was the once successful (later became disastrous and eventually shut down) John and Kate Plus 8, the couple with twins and a sextuplet. You got to see how they tried to manage regular life while trying to feed 8 kids. Another example would be Jersey Shore, which involves the social lives of 8 people in Jersey.

The Shows With the Edge

Taking all these shows into consideration, what would you think, is the biggest selling point of reality TV shows today? The answer – they play on human emotions; namely, the feeling of success and the consequences of rage.

Positive Emotions
Compassion and determination are the best ways to dominate ratings. Shows like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition keep you glued to the TV by trying to gain sympathy towards the participants. The human ability to focus and surmount against the odds is also a popular feeling for getting ratings. The key to these positive emotions is that, to portray their significance, there needs to be a copious amount of negativity, like what the participants have already been through till now or what they are going to go through ahead.

Negative Emotions
Fighting, revenge, stereotypical jokes and foul mouthing seem to gather audiences as well. They may end up being the type of shows that you ‘love to hate’. Jersey Shore is one example. Hell’s Kitchen incorporates Gordon Ramsay’s ever-increasing anger against the contestants. The Apprentice shows the dog-eat-dog ways of the corporate world.

Love them or hate them, reality shows have been around for the past decade and will still continue to exist. Whether the shows are ethical or not, can be held up for debate, but it won’t change the ratings by much. The main reason as to why someone will watch a reality show is the attraction to the morality and status of the contestants and the ability to fantasize themselves in the contestant’s shoes. Reality shows are a way for the common man to believe that there can actually be a way to become famous one day. The show that can do all of this, gains the ultimate upper hand.

Ghost Adventures on the Travel Channel

Ghost Adventures, a paranormal, documentary-style reality television show on the Travel Channel, is hugely popular. Perhaps this is because of the history the sites they visit contain, or perhaps it is because people are sincerely interested in ghost sightings. Either way, millions of viewers tune in to watch the show every week. The ghost hunters, Zak, Nick, and Aaron, visit a new location each episode, and there’s never any telling what they’ll find there.

The Characters

The ghost hunter team of Ghost Adventures is made up of three men: Zak Bagans, Nick Groff, and Aaron Goodwin. Zak is the host of the show, with the most camera time. He is also the leader of the team. Zak is known for his extreme measures when it comes to ghost hunting. He is not afraid to yell at ghosts or provoke them into violence. These techniques have been doubted by some of his counterparts, but his antics do make good television. Nick is a co-host and co-investigator. He is usually behind the camera when the guys interview residents or owners of the various historical sites, but he does do a significant amount of the investigating. Aaron is the camera tech. He takes care of any technical issues that may arise during an investigation, and sets up the cameras in various locations to film while the team investigates. He also participates in the investigations.

The Premise

The basic idea behind Ghost Adventures is that the team is charged with finding ghosts in various, reportedly haunted locations. Their goal is not to get rid of the ghosts, but to prove that they are there. To do this, the team uses several different techniques. The first is talking and listening. The guys start talking and asking questions of the spirits that are present, and listen for any audible noises that might be caused by those spirits moving around. Sometimes, though, just listening isn’t enough, which brings on their second technique: scientific devices. During EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) sessions, the guys will usually have a recorder with them that records any voices not audible to the human ear. They also sometimes use very high-tech devices such as a thermal camera to record any changes in temperature the ghosts might cause, or what they call a “spirit box” that produces white noise, allowing the ghosts to channel that noise into words. All of this, plus what is seen on the cameras, works together to make up the proof that the audience needs to believe (or not believe) that ghosts exist.

The Appeal

Part of the appeal of the show is that the guys travel all around the world to many different locations, all rich with interesting history. The first part of each episode is usually devoted to finding out the story behind the place they are visiting and why it people believe it to be haunted. Another reason why the show is so popular is because of the explosion of ghost hunting teams across the nation. Ghost hunting has become a serious hobby for many people. This could be because they have experienced a paranormal encounter, or because they are just interested in finding ghosts. Either way, many people have taken on ghost hunting as a weekend activity. Because of this, people watch shows like Ghost Adventures to see how it’s done, get ideas for new gadgets and techniques, or just because it is fun to watch. Others might enjoy watching the show because they believe in ghosts, or because they don’t believe in ghosts and they want to try to disprove what the guys see. No matter what the reason, it seems that the Ghost Adventures audience gets bigger every week.

Pawn Stars: Why This Show is Such a Hit

The History Channel’s Pawn Stars is a reality show that follows the day-to-day workings of a 24-hour pawn shop owned by Rick Harrison, his father, Richard Harrison, and his son Corey Harrison. The audience sees people coming into the pawn shop to sell their belongings. The items people sell are as varying as their reasons for selling them, and, because of this, the show has taken America by storm.

The Characters

The characters of Pawn Stars make the show interesting and engaging. Rick Harrison is the main character as the owner of the 24-hour Gold & Silver Pawn Shop in Las Vegas, Nevada. The store is a family business, so he works there with his father, Richard Harrison, and his son Corey Harrison. Based on how they discuss different items that come into the store, these guys know their stuff. After decades of experience running a pawn shop, they are extremely business-minded, and are comfortable buying and selling even the most valuable items. Their knowledge of historical pieces is extensive, and when they don’t know about a certain item, they have a huge network of experts they can call in on a moment’s notice to appraise pieces. Chumlee, Corey’s childhood friend, also works at the shop, though he is not as business-minded as the trio. He is often the source of comic relief throughout the show.

The Premise

On the reality show, we see all sorts of people come in to sell, and sometimes pawn, old items. Usually, the items we see on the show are presumed to be very valuable, or at least unique, though I’m sure they see their share of mundane items in the shop, as well. At times, the guys can make a deal right away. Other times, they must call in a host of experts to appraise and authenticate items. Sometimes pieces need to be restored to their original glory before they can be resold, and the audience witnesses some of these restorations first-hand. The audience sees all of these scenarios in the course of the show, and hears the guys talk about how they decide to buy and sell different items.

The Appeal

Why would anyone want to watch a bunch of guys buy and sell items? To start, it is fascinating to see the different pieces that come into the store. The array of items that come through the doors is extensive. People bring in everything from priceless Civil War artifacts to old bicycles to autographed posters. Just when you think the guys have seen it all, someone comes in with something they have to call an expert about just to identify it. Seeing the experts come in is also really interesting. Often, they share lots of information about the history of the item and, sometimes, when the item is a fake, they share all the different ways they were able to identify it as such. When a deal is made, often the piece needs to be restored before it can be sold, and the difference between the original item and the restored piece is breathtaking. The professionals working on restorations are artistic geniuses, and they always manage to capture the essence of the piece in the restoration. Finally, when the guys decide to buy an item, there is always a scene in which the seller and the guys haggle over the price. Each seller haggles differently, and it’s fun to see if they will get even close to the price they wanted.

All in all, Pawn Stars is both fun and educational. It’s a great show for the whole family to watch!

Ideas for a Reality TV Show

Reality TV shows are selling like hot cakes. All you have to do is huddle up a handful of average people or small time starlets, create a dramatic situation and whoa, your reality TV show is ready to go on air! The best part about reality TV shows is that they give quick fame and recognition even to average people like you and me. Besides, the viewers get a kick out of all the emotional drama (which is scripted in most cases) that happens on sets. There is really no dearth of reality TV show ideas, but most revolve around similar concepts. So, in case you wish to air your own TV show some day, then you may have to come up with really good ideas for TV shows.

Ideas for a Reality TV Show

The word ‘reality TV’ show often conjures images of emotion packed, high voltage drama. Even talent based shows such as American Idol and America’s Got Talent are occasionally laced with emotional performances either by contestants or judges. Some other reality TV shows such as Big Brother reap their popularity by playing around serious social issues. Amidst this chaos, one can also get to see some good reality shows such as Bands on the Run, The Apprentice etc. If you are interested in starting a reality TV show of your own, you may derive inspiration from any of the popular TV shows. You may then attempt to present them differently. In this article, we have not provided actual ideas, but we have certainly listed some areas which offer a scope for developing a reality show.

Performance Based
This is on similar lines as American Idol, Dancing with the Stars and likes. However, you can develop your own show by introducing a little variation. For instance, you can have a reality show based on a particular dance or singing form only. You can also add variation by making a show only for elder people above 60 or so on. Talent shows for children are rampant, but there are only a handful shows which explore the talent of elderly people. You can also explore the talent of kids with special needs or handicapped people.

Profession Based
There are numerous shows which showcase the drama behind exciting and dangerous professions. But, there are very few shows which deal with seemingly ordinary occupations of that of teachers, firefighters, secretaries etc. You can devote every episode to one such average occupation and uncover the challenges faced by average people like the one’s mentioned above.

Adventure Based
Fear Factor indeed brings a gush of adrenaline with it. You can invoke similar feelings by airing an adventure based reality show. This could be anything from living in extremely undesirable living conditions or battling wildlife in rain forests or facing the fury of nature in extreme climatic zones.

Game Based
Game shows, quizzes are the most primitive forms of reality TV shows. With time, one can find a lot of new features and variation in them. The prize money has also increased manifold. So, starting a game show can be one sure shot way of making your show successful.

Drama Based
This is your formula for quick success. You can have one drop dead gorgeous girl and a bunch of guys pitted against each other, performing dare devil tasks to get her or you can have it the other way round with a hunk surrounded by a bevy of beauties competing to woo him. Throw in a couple of romantic, emotional sequences and you have a recipe of a successfully running reality show.

What Next

Just getting an idea for a reality TV show isn’t enough if you are serious about getting it on air. You need to take right steps, meet right people in order to get it working. Firstly, think of a nice, catchy title for your show. It should convey exactly what the show is all about; but at the same time, it should also invoke interest of the audience. Next, put your ideas on the paper and draft at least 5 episodes, which could get you to the production houses. If they okay it, then you may have to shoot a pilot episode after which the real thing begins.

This was all about starting a reality TV show of your own. Coming up with a great idea and treating your show differently can make it stand from the rest of reality shows.

Are Reality Shows Real?

The definition of reality television is a type of television program which is purposely unscripted for the spontaneous dramatic and humorous situations that happen as the camera rolls. These television shows usually feature ordinary people instead of professional actors. This genre of television has been around in some form or the other since the early years of television. They were game shows in the early television times when ordinary people were cast as contestants. Then in 1990, with the very popular show Big Brother, the concept of reality TV emerged. After this, there have been considerable number of reality shows that were aired every year for entertainment. There are some which cast actors while the others that cast the common man. With all the buzz and all the mystery of “what will happen next?”, these shows are some of the most watched and paid for in the media industry.

Is It Real or Fake?

The answer is obviously fake. In the earlier times, when there were other forms of reality TV, these shows had some part that displayed real emotion and behavior. In the recent times, however, they are nothing but hyped series of episodes where the cast (even non-actors) is made to be dramatic and act funny for entertainment’s sake. Today there are many reality shows for talent hunts, game shows and stunt competitions, where the contestants compete for money.

Are the Shows Scripted?
It all began with the super hit series Big Brother, where a bunch of not-so-famous celebrities had to live with strangers everyday and were cut off from the whole world. They competed against each other for money and the last person to survive won the prize money. Though these shows are not completely scripted, the backbone of the show is surely written. Once the rules and regulations to be followed are jotted down, the rest of the show is carried further by the characters in the show. Because all these shows have dynamics between strangers, the drama is created when they react, make friends, don’t get along and sometimes even get in a fight. Today, as reality TV is getting more popular, entertainment channels are coming up with many such shows. Some of these shows which involve videos about certain events like police chases, training academies, etc., however are not scripted, as they are 100% real.

Are the Shows Staged?
As mentioned above, one of the most favorite types of reality shows are talent hunts like American Idol, America’s next top model, The Apprentice, etc. These shows get fresh, young faces from all parts of the country. This is how reality talent shows are staged in front of their audience. There are many shows which have continued for many seasons and are still aired. Some well-known shows are listed below, so see if any of them look familiar!

  • Blind Date
  • Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?
  • The Bachelor
  • ElimiDATE
  • Meet My Folks
  • The Bachelorette
  • Joe Millionaire
  • Room Raiders
  • My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance
  • Beauty and the Geek
  • Next
  • Flavor of Love
  • The Osbournes
  • Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica
  • The Simple Life
  • Fear Factor
  • Hell’s Kitchen
  • Project Runway
  • The Amazing Race

No matter how much we contemplate, we can never be sure of how much is real and how much is not. Thus, as far as they keep entertaining us, I think we can applaud their efforts and have fun watching them.

Creating a Successful Reality Show

No matter how much we hate and criticize them, reality shows are fun to watch. Most shows revolve around a particular issue or event that the audience can relate to, and from that is built a show. Since many reality shows are being aired every week, the concepts behind most of the shows have become monotonous and boring. And today’s audience prefers watching reality shows that have a great entertaining value, and can truly connect with them. But at times, it becomes difficult to come up with some original and fun ideas for reality shows that can hold the audience interest on a long run. If you are an aspiring, professional writer and are looking for some unique reality TV show ideas, here are some pitching ideas that will not only promote the show but the writer too.

How to Start a Reality Show

Have a Specific Concept
One of the most basic concept of a successful show is to judge accurately what the market is buying or what exactly your audience wants to see on TV. Be specific in your concept; even if you have a generic idea, try to run your creative mind in a specific direction. Decide whether you are preparing a concept or idea for a reality series, TV game show, drama series, etc. Don’t be scared to create two or more variations on the same concept, as each of those will give you a different result which will increase your chance of making more sales. Hence, come up with a thought which is unique, never tried before, and apply different approaches on it.

Create a Highly Marketable Concept
Remember watching television is all about witnessing action, emotion, and real scenarios, that one may not see in real and everyday life. Hence, try coming up with concepts or ideas that are highly marketable. This primarily includes titles that can roll off the tongue easily, provoke conversations, and simply tell you exactly what people are going to be watching. For example ‘Blind Date’, ‘Temptation Island’, ‘The Bachelor’, ‘Joe Millionaire’, ‘Wife Swap’ or ‘The Apprentice’ are all good titles which can instantly grab the viewer’s attention and curiosity.

Cover Different Professions or Lifestyles
The most basic and successful element of any reality TV show is the documentary style series covering varying professions or lifestyles of people. Considering the inquisitive human mentality, such stories can serve the irresistible curiosity of the viewer to know about other people’s personal life and work. So, if you have any such concept or idea in your mind that suits this style, get some actual or well-known people involve to pitch it.

Movie Story
In case you don’t have any idea or concept in your mind, then the last minute savior is to prepare your reality TV concept based on a film story. While watching a movie, try to look at the core concept and the story of the movie, that inspires you and comprises some basic elements or concepts that can be translated in to a reality based show.

Now, if you are wondering how to pitch reality show ideas, then for that you need to very clear about your concept. Present enough details to the producers, make them understand what the show is all about, and how it differs from other shows on television. Outline a minimum of two sample episodes, as writing up additional episode ideas shows your show has legs and can be a huge success. I hope, these ideas prove to be helpful to all you aspiring writers, and help to create a reality show with a concept never seen or heard before.

Facts on Reality Television

The cable network has given us the opportunity of watching reality TV shows like Temptation Island, Fear Factor, etc. These shows broke the monotony of traditional scripted shows and started to represent real-life situations or documentary event of common man instead of professional actors.

It seems, presently people are hooked on to it like children to chocolate or ice cream. Watching reality shows has become a favorite pastime and a source of fun and enjoyment for many.

The Origins of Reality TV

It has always been a little unclear as to how reality TV came into existence. That’s more or less because of how people defined reality TV. Here we take a look at the three biggest TV shows that came to be included in this category.

Candid Camera
Considered to be the oldest example of reality TV, Candid Camera first aired in 1948. It changed the history of TV shows, earning rave reviews and exponential popularity.

The Original Amateur Hour
The first competitive reality TV show, The Original Amateur Hour aired in 1948. The show was famous for launching the career of Frank Sinatra.

An American Family
This show was originally intended to be a documentary about an upper-middle class family (the Loud family), but quickly achieved dramatic controversies when the parents filed for divorce and a son became the first person ever to admit that he’s gay on TV.

The two very basic types (there are many more, which have been discussed below) of reality TV, one of which is where non-actors, or normal citizens, undergo a task or an ordeal, like Candid Camera or Original Amateur Hour. The second is a show, styled like a dramatized documentary, reveals the working of non-actors or citizens, like An American Family. Reality TV did get a lot more categories later on, but their basic influence can be said to lie in the above two.

Evolution of the Video Camera

You’d see a small reality TV show every once in a while till 1988. The video camera was going through its own technological advances till this time, becoming smaller and increasingly portable. This started opening up the options for reality TV, including the style ‘Cinéma vérité’, which means truthful cinema, used first in the TV show COPS. This, and a few other types, became the new way to shoot documentaries, as well as new reality TV shows, that required surreptitiousness and high mobility.

Reality TV’s Exploding Popularity

You now have three big contributing factors to the boom of reality TV. One is the decreasing size of the video camera, or camcorder. The second is the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike. This was a major event that motivated quite a few producers to shift their focus to reality TV, because of the low requirement of scripting and low production costs. The third is audience appeal. The audience’s appetite had already been whetted with shows like Candid Camera, Truth or Consequence, You Asked For It, COPS (1989) etc. They welcomed more reality TV, mostly for its depiction of regular people being either humiliated or excessively rewarded.

Number 28
The first reality show to use soundtrack music and narration by the characters themselves (within the reality TV premises).

Survivor
Definitely one of the biggest TV shows ever since it started, Survivor kept the audience entertained with its unique format that employed social Darwinism, for a long time.

Big Brother
Big Brother has one of the most number of versions played in a lot of countries, and has been embroiled in controversies in almost all of them. The most famous case of this being the racism controversy in Celebrity Big Brother 2007.

American Idol
Another TV show that caught the world by storm is American Idol. It has achieved top ratings for eight consecutive years.

Types of Reality TV

Documentary-style
This includes reality TV shows like The Real World that make the contestants live outside their comfort zone. Then there are the shows that incorporate celebrities or professionals, like L.A. Ink and The Simple Life.

Competitive Game Shows
Examples of this type of reality TV include America’s Got Talent, American Gladiators, The Apprentice, The Bachelor, etc.

Hidden Camera
Linked to the oldest reality TV show, hidden camera reality TV has come a long way from bulky cameras hiding in vans with tinted windows. You have shows like Punk’d, Scare Tactics, etc.

Makeover Shows
This includes changing the appearances of either the people, their homes, or a particular piece of property like a car, as in Extreme Makeover, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Pimp My Ride, etc.

Social Experiments
Here, the show’s producers carry out some form of uncomfortable environment experimentation, like in Wife Swap.

Though reality television is facing criticism these days, the craze for it will remain because of its non-traditional claim of being non-scripted yet intensely dramatic.