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The TV landscape has changed dramatically over the past decade, with reality television now playing an integral part in TV schedules across the world. A loose definition of reality television is ‘unscripted television’, however, what this means in reality is very broad. It can encompass anything from talent shows to live topical debate programs. Murray and Ouellette theorised that there are eight sub-genres of reality TV, ranging from dating shows to makeover programs. However, the idea that reality television is totally new is not true. There are several examples of the genre dating back to the 1950’s and 1960’s, though it is fair to say that it used to be a marginal part of television and now it dominates the TV landscape.
But why is reality television so popular now? In its inception, it has been argued that reality television was a kind of social experiment; something which is evident in the Big Brother franchise, with the format having been screened in over forty countries. Due to its unscripted nature, this genre of television is relatively cheap to produce, compared to something scripted which needs a writer, several sets and multiple actors or presenters. This is cited as the most common reason for so much reality television being commissioned.
There are many arguments about why reality TV has become so popular with viewers. Initially it was a novelty, but why does it still remain so popular? Many believe the answer lies in the inclusion of normal people. From makeover shows to cooking contests, people enjoy seeing normal people on television. This is probably closely related to the idea that reality television can make virtually anybody famous, which, in theory, it very well can. People enjoy the possibility that they could potentially gain success and fame through a simple TV show.