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Thursday, 2 August, 2001, 10:28 GMT 11:28 UK
Reality TV: Going strong or going nowhere?
After nine tense weeks in the Big Brother house, Brian has beaten Helen and Dean to take the £70,000 prize money.
He received 4,230,000 votes out of a total of almost 7 million.
The continuing success of Big Brother has shown that there is still a demand for reality-based programmes, with the second series attracting a similar number of viewers to the first one.
But this year reality TV has had mixed fortunes. Whilst Big Brother was still popular, ITV's rival, Survivor, did not perform nearly as well.
The final programme, showing policewoman Charlotte Hobrough winning the £1m prize, was watched by 7.7 million people - but this was still a long way short of expected figures.
Have programmes such as Big Brother and Survivor reached their peak? Will producers have to resort to even more outlandish gimmicks to keep viewers glued to their screens?
This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.
How can anyone be expected to act naturally when placed in a secure compound bristling with cameras?
I can sit in the local park or on my
balcony at home and watch more natural and entertaining human interaction.
Don't people have anything better to do than to watch tele-visual wallpaper?
I guess it just shows how vacuous, dim-witted and totally unimaginative millions of people in this country really are. You'd have to pay me as much as the "contestants" to get me to watch it.
I do not see how the likes of BB and Survivor can be called reality. You put a bunch of people into a manufactured situation and the result is equally manufactured.
The true reality TV are what have become known as "docusoaps". Take real people doing their normal daily life, edit a week into 30 minutes and it becomes interesting. Long live Airport!
What reality? The only reality is that the producers can get millions of brain dead morons to watch this filthy tasteless garbage - and believe it is real.
Hopefully that will be the end of it. If not it will plunge new depths as programme makers attempt to be "original", will always means louder, baser, anti-social behaviour from lower quality contestants who still think it's cool to be a brainless idiot.
To say that these type of programs are any better or worse than soaps, is like comparing sewage with chemical pollution.
It never seems to amaze me that people can sit there and call this drivel entertainment.
And to actually vote, is really pathetic.
To quote a cliche, they really should get out more often.
Nick Wilkinson, UK
Another advantage to BB was that viewers and contestants were given a "party" every Friday night. In the first series I tuned in during the naked antics in the second week and turned off thinking it was rubbish. Only when colleagues incessantly went on about nasty Nick's two-faced scheming did I give it a second chance. And as it was an eviction night it worked. I planned to watch only every Friday but it became more and more addictive.
I was glued to BB2 but it went on too long. I think eight housemates over five weeks would be better. I think it is true that we possibly relate events and people in the house to our own lives which is easier if you have watched from the beginning.
I doubt however that it will last beyond a year or two, and in twenty years time we may be tuning in to programmes such as 'I love 2001' where we can all reminisce about 'reality' TV.
I'd like to see real reality TV. What about a series that runs for several weeks and follows the lives of maybe 10 people in India, China, Palestine, Afghanistan, or North Korea, etc. This would be both engaging and informative, and "real."
It seems to me that at least those people who enjoyed BB for what it was - a bit of fun and escapism - are in actual fact rather more honest than those sanctimonious mock intellectuals who sit on their high horses telling people to "get a life". Most of said mock intellectuals seem to derive pleasure from nothing more than sneering down their noses at people who don't share their taste for "highbrow" productions (read: obscure nonsense that no one can make head or tail of without some pretentious critic's write-up explaining what it's all about). If you ask me, it's those people who ought to get a life. Shows like BB were never intended to be anything posh or clever, and it is possible to enjoy them as much as one enjoys any other (potentially more "highbrow") pastime. Grow up the lot of you, and put your anoraks away.
In reality, the BBC and ITV are shooting themselves in the foot. In the short term such programming is popular and boosts ratings, but owing to the power of TV it is slowly turning the population in to mindless zombies with endless hours of soaps and reality TV. Very soon common sense will prevail and people will become bored and look elsewhere such as the Internet or Sky for true choice of content. Maybe even then we'll still be forced to pay for a TV licence.
Reality TV like soap operas is just a boring exercise in watching boring people play out their boring lives. I can't think of anything more boring. Give me a good book anytime.
Claire, UK: I'd rather watch a good soap any day than a bunch of sad wannabe celebrities battling it out. Perhaps some people who sneer at those who watch soaps do it because it makes them feel superior?
I must have been too busy dealing with
reality. Would someone care to tell me
what "Big Brother" and "Survivor" are all
Each to their own I guess, but this sort of TV is really sad. What's worse is that it gets reported on proper news programmes. Big Brother certainly highlights a really empty part of our culture. I personally would prefer to watch flies crawling up a wall.
I don't have a problem with Reality TV. I don't watch it - I find it intensely boring and irritating. Which is the same way I feel about sports programmes, programmes for young children, soap operas, "made for TV" movies. Should we axe all of those too? Let people make their own decisions. When ratings fall far enough, the TV companies will stop making them. Seems democratic enough to me!
Where is the reality in cramming a number of egotistical, self-promoting, talentless deadheads together in an Ikea showroom for weeks on end. Would they do it if it wasn't on the TV? The program was a waste of time for all concerned. It would be proper reality TV to put cameras in the home of BB's producers and watch them on a day-to-day basis. Oh yes, Survivor was won by the person who cared the least for the rest and who was only interested in her own personal satisfaction. In its defence this program mirrored our society quite well!
A lot of people seem to think that reality TV and its viewers are a bit pathetic. I disagree. Caring about what happens to the fictional characters on Coronation Street or East Enders is pathetic. Reality TV contains real people, and while you are never going to know them, by voting for them you can have a big influence on their lives.
It is sad to hear so many people deride Big Brother. We all know it isn't the most mentally stimulating show around, but it did provide great entertainment value for many viewers. I enjoyed it immensely, as I did Big Brother 1. We need variety in programming and that means a level of "low brow" TV. I agree that we don't want to fall to the lowest common denominator but neither do we want to be stretched all the time. It's all about balance and British TV still has the right mix.
There have always been examples of complete dross on telly - which is just as well, otherwise we would all be constantly glued to the goggle-box. At least BB was cheap to make and (presumably) earned a lot from advertising so that more money is now available for intelligent, interesting and funny entertainment. Perhaps C4 will use some of the proceeds to ensure that The West Wing is available to non-digital viewers some time soon.
I have to agree with John B; if you want to watch this banal trash do so on a special channel. I watched BB2 on the final night and it was awful, Helen and Brian were over the top drama queens with absolutely nothing interesting to say and what they did say was screamed at the top of their voices.
How completely predictable that most of the opinions expressed here should be from the sanctimonious, smug types who assert their superior intelligence and tell those who enjoy BB etc to "get a life". Having an interesting life does not preclude watching a bit of TV, and the two might even enhance each other - I enjoyed talking with my mates about BB, and we got together for a party on the night of the final. Presumably the smugs writing up to this forum would rather we had earnestly discussed world affairs; perhaps we do that too, at other times.
We are not the ones who believe everything has to be black or white (you can vote in BB as well as voting in the election, you know - I did) or that enjoying something like BB automatically makes you a moron (I have two degrees from top universities, and most of my mates are graduates too). And while I would make no claim for BB as a serious sociological experiment, I thought it was interesting that the mainly young audience voted on the basis of personality rather than nationality, gender, sexuality or race. The final four comprised as mixed a bunch as you could want - a middle-class Englishwoman, a black Brummie, a gay Irishman and a giggly Welshwoman. I'd spend the day with a BB viewer over a smug critic any day of the week.
Big brother, like many things in this world, was a weird mixture of good and bad. It's an artificial situation,("unreality TV"), and it can bring out bad qualities by playing people off against each other, but the good far outweighed the bad in this case. The best thing is it's a celebration of the wonderful qualities of ordinary people, and the media too often nowadays make ordinary lives seem less by comparison with the glamour and wealth in the lives of the celebrities they portray. Friday was a good day for ordinary people, and it must have cheered a lot of us up, and reminded us of the value of our own lives.
Its funny how a great number of people deride those who like reality TV and seem to think it makes them intellectually superior not to like it. I personally did not watch any of the recent reality TV programs but at the end of the day this is just another genre of TV no more or less intellectual than any other TV genre.
What I can't help but laugh about is the fact that people who don't like reality TV have an awful lot to say about it. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole BB experience but have enough of a life not to go on and on about the good points of it after it has finished. So come on all you reality TV haters - GET A LIFE!
Whilst channel hopping I did come across Big Brother 2 and watched whilst some thoughtless, witless, characterless people made idiots of themselves. I honestly thought that I was watching some spoof documentary until I realised what it was. I was actually embarrassed by what I saw and turned over, it was all so obviously contrived with the people acting up to the camera like desperate 'c' grade actors hoping for a part in a film.
The idea of 'reality' TV is daft. People know that the cameras are on them and play up accordingly. The argument that you can't keep the pretence up for long is flawed. Most people act differently in work than they do outside of it and they can keep that pretence up 8 hours a day for 40 years!
The most annoying thing about 'Big Brother' is not so much the contestants but Davina Macall, perhaps the most irritating woman on TV right now. She makes Zoe Ball look like cool sophistication personified. As for 'reality TV', its OK in its place but what does irk me is the acres of column inches in the tabloids given over to non-entities like Bubble and the treatment of the contestants as if they were A list stars rather than Z list micro-celebrities. In a few weeks Brian will have sunk back into oblivion like those before him. Craig who anyone??
Wading through the usual cliched responses here ("get a life", "its boring" et cetera) the fact is Big Brother was a fabulous success this summer, my wife and I watched it and enjoyed it very much. is it sad? no sadder than watching a soap opera every day. No sadder than going to the pub every day (and better for your health too). Reality TV is here to stay! To the moaners : get a life!
John B, UK
I live in reality all day, the last thing I want
when I come home from work is to watch 10 people
sitting around apparently living in it. I would
rather spend my time doing what people do on reality
TV, but with my own friends and family - it's called
living and having a life.
Reality TV shouldn't work but it does. We're watching ourselves really and we never seem to tire of that. Reality TV is really the next generation of soap opera, i.e. live and unscripted.
Jose Fernandez, Netherlands
An enormous waste of air time and what a strange set of characters we had towards the end. A scatty female who justified in an instant all those years of blonde jokes and a half male whose sole contribution was to squeal like a stuck pig every few minutes. Those whose behaviour even remotely approached being normal got voted out - not good for CH4's idea of good entertainment presumably. If this is what the future holds for TV I shall soon be dropping my licence in the bin.
Whenever I see Big Brother, I'm reminded of what I think was a Leunig cartoon with a couple of people transfixed to a picture of a sunrise on TV - while an identical sunrise is happening through the window behind them!
Reality TV is going nowhere. It is merely another thing for those millions without their own 'real life' to attempt to experience things through the eyes of others whilst doing nothing themselves.
I tried watching Big Brother a couple of times - mainly to see what all the fuss was about. I thought it was the most boring piece of TV I'd ever seen. All the 'contestants' seemed to do was lounge around talking some inane drivel about some totally trivial subject.
I say to those who enjoy Reality TV ... get a life!
Reality TV is the current scourge of the UK media. With a plethora of identical shows being created to pander to the market the British public are being swamped, we need an end to them and quickly. The first big brother was touted as an experiment in television; it is interesting to note that all subtext of this being an "experiment" has been dropped.
Personally, as somebody who really doesn't watch a lot of TV, I got very quickly hooked on Big Brother. I found the housemates far more easy to relate to than all these soap characters who do nothing for me.
Of course they are nobodies, but aren't most of us? Aren't most people who use singing, acting or sport to become famous, actually?
I think like it or hate it, reality TV is here to stay.
Reality TV? Well if that is the future of television I think it is time to dump my TV into the garbage pit and go live on an island. Yeh that's what I will do. I will become a survivor and get away from the hype!!!!!!!
This 'reality' thing just shows what a mindless, unimaginative, boring lot we've become if our lives are that dull that we have to watch other peoples dull lives. The words 'DOWN' and 'DUMBING' spring to mind. Of course TV companies love it...It is cheap!
As someone who dipped into both BB1 and 2, one of the reasons they work is intelligent scheduling, letting those who couldn't catch it 24/7 watch daily to weekly highlights. 10-10pm is fine; Survivor tried too hard to compete with BBC1's 9pm drama slot while Paddington Green on the other hand, is on 11.30pm weeknights - who's going to bother being late for work to watch that?
The difference with this series was (in my opinion) Brian was almost pre-destined to win from the minute you saw him (and before the Daily Mirror started their campaign) - but well-deserved congratulations anyway.
The fact that more people voted someone off Big Brother than those who voted in the General Election is perhaps the most useful product of another consumer-entertainment craze. It shows that people in our society care more about their entertainment than about politics, the state of humanity, society and all those things which actually matter.
However, if Big Brother didn't exist something else would've (and always has) proven the point, so why waste our energy debating a house full of some of the most boring, socially useless people anyone could possibly find?
Survivor was more about real life, if they didn't catch food, they didn't eat. Big Brother is just a competitive holiday compared to Survivor.
Who needs reality TV, if the reality of life stares you in the face every single day, are people's lives so empty?
I thought Big Brother II was a hit - but an increasing number of people are getting digital services. This is the road for television future - and a perfect chance for digital extras to set off. Big Brother Interactive, in my opinion, was a great service - but with sparse choices. There needed to be more things to do on it, like choosing camera views and this time going into the famous Diary Room.
Survivor also had an interactive option on it, but I didn't see that. I think Survivor II will be in Africa, and it should be better, again with choices for different things to do on interactive. Reality TV, in my opinion, is a stepping stone for having better media and television services - so long live Reality TV!
And poor Helen - i wanted her to win!!!
Justin Bryant, England.
Reality television - the ultimate oxymoron! Come on, people. Reality is readily available any time of the day. It's everything outside the perimeter of that brain-sucking creature in your living rooms.
Reality TV can never be that real, with the contestants hand picked, the scenes carefully screened and edited so that something happens.
But apart from these facts, we the public like to have this level of reality TV. It will always be popular if the people are interesting, and the programme well put together, but people will soon get bored of watching other people do what they do, and reality TV will then become more absurd, till they do something shocking and unreal.
Out of curiosity, i wandered through the audience comments on 'reality TV' and soon realised I was in a land of 'oz'. The people who wrote about the programmes were obviously their fans. It reminds me of the American sports industry.
A lot of people with a lot of money are generating a lot of enthusiasm about an amazingly insignificant human activity. At least in sport you do get to see some talented atheletes. If narcissism were a sport the people involved might bear watching.
'Americans' are not enthralled by this 'reality', most of us are bored cross-eyed. A small number of us easily entertained by this orwellian programming are in serious need of a 'real' life.
Survivor was just a bunch of greedy people who would do anything they could to their colleagues to win money.
If they really wanted to see Survival, or the lack of it, why didn't they go to a country where children and babies are dying every minute of the day, and help out there.
After all, Princess Diana did it, as well as many others, not looking for reward.
Reality TV lives or dies on the quality of its contestants - and how much you leave them alone to get on with it. In the USA, Big Brother crashed because the contestants were all duuuuulll and legally vetted before they went in. Survivor won over there because of interesting people and relatively little interference. Whereas BB here chose edgy people and Survivor did too much "corrective surgery"...
What are you guys on? Survivor was the best TV programme this year. It was unpopular because no-one would even look at it. We had Big Brother first and that hugely successful. As a result everyone was too scared to watch Survivor because we already had the "perfect" reality TV show. Look at America. Survivor came first there and was hugely popular there. Then they had Big Brother which bombed there.
I think that no-one was prepared to give Survivor a chance because we had experienced Big Brother first and we had became adjusted to that format of reality TV.
If you get another chance to watch Survivor or if they produce a Survivor 2, do watch it. Give it a chance.
Also, well done to Charlotte and Brian for winning Survivor and Big Brother respectively. You both thoroughly deserve it. Enjoy your money.
Interactive TV was designed for Big Brother; it is not just a half-hour slot on a terrestrial channel, it is so much more. It is up to the viewer to decide who stays and who goes in, the footage on E4 shows it is genuine, then you have access to other add-ins like BBLB to discuus issues further.
This is only the start of reality TV. There is still room for improvement, but it can be improved for next year.
The great feature, that all channels will be impressed at, is the way different mediums are integrated.
A good series! Well done!
Glenn Horlock, UK
Reality TV is a misnomer. How real can someone be under 24hr surveillence? And in any case, what little passes for entertainment nowadays.
Here in Canada several attempts at reality TV, excluding Survivor, have crashed and burned. The fact is that most reality shows are very badly casted. Once the contestants have been focus grouped what you have are a bunch of homogenous, boring people.
They should choose random people and lump them together instead of employing this current "4 men, 4 women, 2 blacks (one male one female), one homosexual..." formula.
In my own opinion, and as a fan of both BB series, Big Brother 2 has been a success due to two major factors: The show has been managed very well - the characters have been varied enough to give us a good range, from villain to hero and all in between. We have been taken through some character development this season also, although this had a long way to go and could have been helped along with some shrewd tasks.
The presentation of the show itself had all the slick editing, punchlines, characters and eviction-day pazzaz that the first series had, but the producers seem to have an excellent feel for WHO their audience is.
Whereas BB2 is slick and clearly aimed at the 20/30 somethings' market, Castaway and the like are very over-produced - more like a game show than a documentary view. Who is that aimed at - EVERYONE!!??
I believe that to an extent we have taken these people at face value, as if our own friends, because that is how the show is produced. If 'reality TV' is to thrive still, we need more interactivity - a chance to be and play a part.
Reality TV can never just be something we watch, we all need to take part because we can, and we all know that we can.
Please no more reality TV. Haven't we already suffered enough?
How can these people be superstars ? Are we this sad that we resort to making nobodies superstars ?
Big Brother is a bunch of rubbish made for money and while you 7.7 million idiots are wasting your time watching, the 'fat cats' are simply getting fatter and richer at your expense.
Big Brother was interesting in periods, however, the producers attempted to hype evey little occurrence as if it was ground breaking TV.
Survivor was "made for TV" tripe - a bunch of people each picked for their ability to grate on each other and hopefully cause newsworthy scenes, much the same as BBC's Castaway last year, which actually managed to produce a society of the most mismatched souls, with the producers' remit, "light the blue touch paper, start filming and keep an eye on the ratings" !
Having caught only a bit of the first 'Big Brother' I found it far from 'compelling' - as I do soaps and I didn't see any of the later one (or any of Survivor). Reality TV is a fashion - hopefully short-lived. That being said I did enjoy parts of the celebrity version.
Big Brother is one of the most incredible media scams of our time.
Think about it, you put up a measly £70k prize money, you build a shed, and in exchange you get 10 people to give up three months of their lives, you get them to do all the entertainment for you, you get three months of easy television and the public drink it in. It's one of the cleverest money making ideas for years.
I was determined not to get caught up in Big Brother 2 but couldn't help it.
What would be good for BB3 would be for the public to be able to vote for any of the housemates each week without the nominations from the house itself. That way, no one would be certain to stay in and bores such as Elizabeth and Dean would have made way for those more deserving and, at the end of the day - entertaining such as Bubble.
I'm sure Brian would have still won regardless and good luck to him, a talent
not to be wasted on novelty records and daytime TV.
I can¿t agree more than with Phil from the UK, I would like to see BB3 and let the public do all the voting. Brian got our vote and he deserved it, him and Narinder kept us laughing for hours. We were sure Dean would go before Elizabeth and that was a shock to us.
Why not just pick 10 normal people at random, pay them 15 grand each and shove them in the house for 64 days? Why bother with all this false 'intrigue' over voting people out? Why not just let people be themselves?
People say that putting 'normal' people into reality programmes would make for bland TV, but I can't think of anything more bland than 10 wannabes screaming and shouting their way to a life of c-list celebrity.
And it's about time someone twigged that 'reality' shows just aren't that popular. Yes, the newspapers pick up on them and use the whole minority bandwagon to boost their sales, but that's all the 'phenomenon' will ever be - a minority interest, blissfully ignored by the majority of the country.
It's time to end the farce of reality TV and start to give us programmes that the majority will enjoy. It's no wonder that TV ratings are dropping so much these days...
I think its quite interesting that while Survivor was wildly popular in America and Big Brother hardly caused a ripple, the opposite is true here in the UK. Perhaps this is a cultural thing.
The UK loves shows like Coronation Street and East Enders dealing with the everyday lives of "regular people". America prefers glitzier, "bigger" shows about powerful, important and beautiful people as in "the West Wing", and Dallas and Dynasty from the eighties.
The laugh on so-called 'reality' tv is that is represents the polar opposite of reality. It is contrived and artificial. It appeals to the lowest common denominator of the human animal. Eisenhower once bristled when he was told that 50% of Americans were below average intelligence. He quickly realized, of course, the statistical truth of the statement. Reality tv appears to appeal to the below average 50%. How else account for its 'popularity'?
As long as Big Brother is able to capture our imaginations with undoubted superstars such as Brian and Helen it will be a success. However, I feel that the second series contained a lot more "wannabes" than the first.
Big Brother engages the audience by allowing them to have a say in the outcome. Survivor, on the other hand, was already decided before the first frame of TV was screened. Who is going to be that enthused by a gameshow with no drama and a pre-defined outcome?
Big Brother will return next year. Survivor has got some serious thinking to do.
The very fact that Big Brother was "Live" and that the winner truly was not known until the final day made it a whole lot more gripping. Survivor was much less gripping because the outcome was "known" in that the filming had been completed before we got to see it, and this gave the show a fabricated feel.
Reality TV was dead at the end of Big Brother 1; Look at the abysmal failure of Castaway 2000 and Survivor since. Whereas BB1 kept us guessing, being a completely new concept, BB2 suffered from the whole "been there, done that" element throughout its 64 day tenure. It's sucess was wholly supported by the goodwill earned from BB1; now it's over Reality TV has coughed its last. Unless something radical is done to the proposed BB3, it runs the serious risk of being ignored. Either way, I loved this series and I'm glad Brian won - he deserved it.
It's a case of formats that work, and those that don't. Big Brother works, Survivor didn't (really). You can't judge the whole genre en mass. Like any other type of programme, there will be those productions that get it right and they will be successful, for a few years at least.
I think the advantage that Big Brother has other the other so called "reality" shows is that it was genuinely live and real. I could go to the website, or view E4 at virtually any time and see what was going on. Shows such as Survivor held no interest for me whatsoever, because they didn't have the degree of accountability and the ability to be inspected, such as Big Brother. In fact, Survivor looked overly produced and pretentious, which put me off.
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