Robbie Williams recently told GQ magazine, “I never watch shows in which actors appear. Only reality shows.” Is he on his own or do others agree that the drama of ordinary people is more gripping than that dreamt up by scriptwriters? Reality TV isn’t anything new. There have always been talent shows and in the 1990’s concepts like Big Brother burst onto screens around the world. Then came the many competitions starring celebrities, where they learnt to dance or sing or bake. But in the past few years, British television has been flooded by new shows following the trials and tribulations of groups of friends in various parts of the country. They come with the warning that parts have been ‘set up purely for your entertainment’. However such editorial tweaking hasn’t stopped millions becoming addicted to the antics of Essex girls and posh Chelsea boys. The shows feature everything from the mundane manicure to explosive love triangles. Although the characters are somewhat manipulated by the producers, it’s easy to become attached to individuals, knowing that they are in fact real people, not the invention of an author. But can reality shows replace actors and the dramas they star in? There is no denying that the scripted elements of the reality shows can be painful to watch. They lack slick delivery and often end up feeling much more false than a purely fictional scenario. There is none of the powerful, memorable dialogue that defines many TV series. And the fact that the ‘characters’ appear only to further their own careers, means that the shows are without direction or conclusion. It really is just a bunch of people living, on camera. If you’re primarily interested in watching people do what you do, with the addition of money or funny accents, then reality shows are perfect. However there isn’t yet any reason for actors and actresses to worry about being made redundant by these shows. In my opinion, there is plenty of room on air for escapist, epic drama that takes you far from your own experience and plunges you into the world of the White House or Downton Abbey. (But, who knows, maybe the next reality show will be ‘The Obamas at home’!)
Do you agree with Robbie? Would you rather watch real people or actors on TV?