Boston Rob has spent the last ten years chasing his dream of winning a million dollars on the hit CBS reality show Survivor. On Sunday night's finale, after his fourth attempt, he cashed in. He controlled the game from the minute he stepped on the island until he garnered all but one vote in the final talley. A decade ago, he finished second to Amber, but he shared in the cash and won the girl when he married his co-contestant soon after the season ended.
Who cares? It's just a game, right? I ask myself these questions, and I come up with the same answer. I care. I'm just not sure why.
In 22 seasons, I haven't missed an episode, and I'm not typically a TV watcher. Every week, our family gathers around the set with Kool-Aid and bowls of popcorn to debate among ourselves who will be voted off next.
You can trace the roots of reality TV to 1948. That's when Americans tuned in for Candid Camera. It's not the same type of show as Jon and Kate Plus 8 or MTV's The Real World, but it did show real-life reactions to practical jokes. The concept of today's kind of reality-based program gained ground with the wildly popular debut of Survivor. That spawned a genre of reality TV that has many Americans hooked, for better or for worse. This game-show style reality programming now includes the likes of Big Brother and The Amazing Race. There are also subcateories like improvement style shows: think Extreme Home Makeover or What Not to Wear. You can watch dating-based shows (The Bachelor, Beauty and the Geek), talent searches (Celebrity Apprentice, America's Next Top Model), there are programs that follow folks on the job (COPS, Swamp People) and then there's the kind where you just insert a camera into people's lives (The Real Housewives of Fill in the Blank). You get the idea. Literally hundreds of reality shows have saturated the airwaves in recent years. Click here for a comprehensive list.
Reality TV can get as trashy as you like--Jersey Shore comes to mind--but it has lots of competition. I try to stay away from those kinds of programs, but there's something about Survivor and Bravo's Top Chef that draw me like a moth to flame. Those are the only two shows I watch on TV in a week (local news excepted, of course ;) Maybe I'm throwing away two hours of my life watching junk that doesn't matter, but boy I look forward to those two hours every week.