In line with the ‘Big Brother’ audition feature, I am called upon to write a comment on Reality TV. Unfortunately I have nothing to say (there is nothing to say) that has not already been covered in the plethora of existing literature on the subject. Furthermore my own opinions have evolved from the derogatory (“it’s just so Plebeian”) to the condescending (“well it can make excellent entertainment”) to mere exhausted acceptance. I have no more insight into Reality TV than I do into the passing of time; it’s just something that happens.
So I come on to the point. The concept of ‘Reality TV commentator idol’ is for me to present you with a selection of other writers’ views and you to pick your favourite. Email your choices and nouse will contact the winner with the auspicious news of their triumph.
First up Julie Burchill, back in her Guardian days. “Let's get this straight: all entertainment is manufactured. By its very nature, there is no authenticity in any of it – that's why it's called entertainment! If it were authentic, it would be called facts. All entertainers go into it for the half-assed "glory", to be bigger and better than the hoi polloi – if politics is showbiz for ugly people, showbiz is politics for silly people.” Fair enough but one wonders how Ms Burchill prefers to spend her evenings: with ‘Wife Swap’ and a bottle of Jacob’s Creek? Or perhaps she prefers more “authentic” forms of entertainment aimed above the “hoi poloi”.
Next the Daily Mirror’s Kevin O’ Sullivan has his say. Also their film critic, the hallmark of O’ Sullivan’s prose is invective, unqualified by evidence, structured in crass assonances and assinine alliterations. To whit, “Only a moron would want lousy Lisa to carry on polluting TV's tedious house of horror. Who needs her? She's a lying old bat whose mission to spice Big Bore up has been nothing short of a disastrous failure. But while the Cardiff crone continues to appall on a round the clock basis, bone dome Ray has started to shine. The criminally dim Irishman's astonishing stupidity is just about the only entertaining aspect of a useless programme that really is becoming unacceptably dull.” In the way of understanding and observation, however, O’ Sullivan can safely be said (in his own, entirely imitable, style) to be both a crap critic and a rubbish writer.
Finally the BBC media correspondent, Nick Higham, feels that the concept is becoming tired and predicts, “With Survivor we in the UK have now seen all of the really original Reality TV formats. So far as one can tell, most of the rest now showing around the world are merely variants of those we have already encountered. Reality TV still has a lot of life left in it yet, but the genre may have peaked. Like the docusoap it may soon be history.” So how much life is “a lot”? Well Higham wrote this in May 2001, so assuming all post-Survivor Reality TV has been part of an incremental trough of ideas, the genre is to be praised for its vitality in the absence of originality. Conclusions. Everyone with an opinion and an opportunity has written something on Reality TV since its ascension to ubiquity. However the existence of such opportunity does not make their opinions necessarily qualified, relevant or prescient. As to which of the above should win ‘Reality TV commentator idol’ – you decide.