Reality Television (Survivor)

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Sarah Johnson
T/R 11-12:15
Research Paper
7 Dec 2010
What Makes Reality Television Survive?
In the year 1992 a new idea was introduced to America and it was called reality television. MTV produced a show called, The Real World that had seven strangers living in a house together and had everything they did filmed. After many failed attempts at trying to make this reality trend catch on, CBS launched Survivor, which pioneered the way for all reality shows to follow in the next decade. It was a show about people battling it out in two separate tribes to their wits end in the jungle and it spread like wildfire across America. Survivor premiere debuted to 28 million viewers and is still on today, a decade and 21 seasons later (McCraley). Reality television did not have the power to tip and become an epidemic until producers began to use clever marketing strategies to bring Survivor to the mass of America.

It has been almost twenty years since MTV first attempted to air The Real World with hopes of creating a new type of television America would love. First broadcasted in 1992 it is now the longest running show in MTV’s history and is currently on its twenty-fifth season. It is credited with being the first reality television show aired but it was not the first to grasp America and change the way we watch television. Reality television’s first big tipping point came the night Survivor premiered in May of 2000 on CBS and producers were beyond ecstatic when receiving the numbers the next day of viewers that tuned in (Metz par. 1). An epidemic had begun and it was here to stay.

The American Survivor was derived from the Swedish version of the same show but only the first season of America’s Survivor had the same format. Throughout the seasons the producers have added new twists, turns, and contests. The United States version of Survivor is produced by Mark Burnett and hosted by Jeff Probst (Metz par. 1). This one single show caught the eyes of millions of Americans and since then all of our basic channels have been flooded with what we call ‘reality’ television. The format and concepts have changed drastically but there still seems to be a demand for reality television so producers will continue to come up with new ideas until America no longer seems to show interest. Reality television has become a constant target for controversy and complaints but seems to be one of those things we either love to hate or hate to love. Reality television that used to just be fun competition has turned into pregnant teenagers, partying Guidos, rich kids in Los Angeles or eight roommates all sleeping with each other in one house. Each one of these presents obvious controversy for the public eye but the producers do this for a reason. If there is nothing to talk about then no one will talk. The more buzz a producer can build about their show the more people will want to watch (King par. 2). Reality television producers seem to have a certain niche for stirring up as much debate and controversy as they can. As ridiculous as reality television shows have recently become with at least 6 different ones all involving competition of baking the perfect cake, Americans are what propel this industry. We continually watch them and keep their ratings up so they are beginning to take over other shows such as sitcoms and dramas. Some reality television shows are even getting signed for more seasons than non-reality shows are receiving. Survivor and The Real World being prime examples, both having over twenty seasons of airtime (Metz par. 1). It is not a question of whether or not reality television is or is not an epidemic, it is a question of how did Survivor manage to turn this industry around and make everyone fall in love with it. The gist of Survivor goes a little something like this; the show starts with sixteen average Americans who are brought to a remote island to fend for themselves. The island is usually a very unforgiving place with no modern...
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