Thursday, 1 March 2007

Reality Shows - Are they real?

Reality shows are catching up in India big time. They are considered a welcome change from the daily soaps, chat shows and film-based entertainment shows and enjoy a huge following, a loyal audience and a die-hard fan club. I have not been a big fan of reality shows, not having watched the popular American reality shows like “The Apprentice” or that show that promises a scholarship to an ivy-league school to the deserving school or even those old Indian “Swayamvara” style shows where you choose your life partner among the contenders after dating, dining and wining them.

I had my first taste of these reality shows during the past six months when I have watched and kept track of the much advertised and awaited Indian version of the UK reality show, Big Brother that made headlines in India because of the racist comments purported to have been made against one of the show participants, our very own Bollywood actress, Shilpa Shetty.

“Bigg Boss” was a change from the usual shows that I had been used to after having literally grown up on DD’s Hindi serials and Chitrahaar and my first taste of American serials coming from “Street Hawk”. Whether it was a welcome change or not is of course open to debate. After watching the first few episodes and satisfying my initial curiosity, I got skeptical and began to have strong doubts on whether it was really a non-scripted show. The more I watched it, the more this suspicion turned into certainty. Are these reality shows really and truly “real” as claimed by the show producers and participants or are they scripted albeit to a lesser extent compared to the traditional TV shows?

“Bigg Boss” had lots of drama, fights, politics and tears. It even had an element of romance thrown in with Aryan Vaid and Anupama Verma’s friendship showing signs of becoming more than that. All this looked too good to be real. The flying rages, conspiracies, constant bickering and bitching seemed to be done to attract an audience. With the celebrities being paid very good money to be a part of the show and the kind of publicity that they were receiving from just being on the show, would winning the show really matter so much that they would resort to plotting and sketching against their fellow housemates? It is really hard to believe that the producers would want nothing to do with the TRP’s and would be comfortable with the uncertainty surrounding a format that primarily depends on the show stars to drive the ratings. I strongly believe that producers decide what happens in the show and when. But, of course, unlike in the other shows, stars here will have more say on how it happens and it will mostly be left to their discretion to decide the ‘how’ part.

Of course, this one show is not enough to make a judgment on all reality shows in general. But, if the other shows are anything like Bigg Boss, I would bet my bottom dollar (actually, it has to be rupee in my case) that they are manipulated, scripted and doctored to win TRP’s just like any other TV show.

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