Reality shows deliver diversions

The emergence of reality TV has taken off in recent years, from average Joes volunteering to be stranded on a far away island to B-list celebrities dancing or sobering up for all America to watch.

As much as I would like to proclaim my immense willpower to resist the cheap, tantalizing allure of reality TV, I am guilty of indulging often.

While there are certain standards shows must meet to win over my viewership, the standards are not very stringent. With new reality programs coming out that seem to be less about quality (Jersey Shore, really?), what is it about reality TV that keeps people routinely tuning in?

Besides gaming or competition based reality shows, the rest have meager plots focused on watching men and women bicker, hook up or cope with life’s daily obstacles.

The most obvious explanation to why reality TV is increasingly more in demand is the mere spectacle of it. Sensationalism draws audiences in with the promise of battling housemates, steamy sex sessions and off-the-wall, unpredictable characters. Any show that takes self-proclaimed bad girls, puts them under one roof and asks them to coexist with one another is set up with numerous opportunities for hair pulling and vulgar name calling. Add alcohol to the mix and watch things really fall apart.

The other reason is less apparent. It’s an inferred desire to take a sneak peek into people’s lives as if to live vicariously through them.

The multi-series “The Real Housewives of (put location here)” gained popularity by featuring women who were all from the high class circle of society. I love the show because I get to observe, as a lifelong middle class citizen, what life is like when money is abundant and budgets are unheard of.

The constant gossip and drama the women produce is also alluring, but not more than going along with the ladies on a shopping spree. I secretly yearn to someday walk into a high-end boutique and not even blink at the extravagant cost of a garment.

Shows like “The Hills” or “The City” display a kind of social life I only wish to have one day. Watching young, attractive adults get dressed up and go out every night to the hottest social events is bewildering and mystical to an unsocial butterfly like me. While I’m buried with homework and deadlines every weekend, I can relieve some personal ineptness by watching the carefree characters on TV and imagine what life would be like if I had a social calendar as blooming as theirs.

Perhaps one day I’ll be able to kick the reality show habit. Until then, I’ll continue keeping tabs on housewives and celebrity impersonators.

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