Reality farce

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November 25th, 2009 Sarmistha Neogy

Marketing guru Jack Trout aptly called it the ‘tyranny of choice’. You visit a superstore to buy something specific but invariably come out with more stuff than you really need or can handle, simply because the merchandise displayed on the shelves screams at you in various colours in order to grab your attention. So many goodies, don’t know what to buy, so let me pick up as much as my pocket allows. Fine, but you soon find out that half the stuff is worth less than a quarter of what was paid to acquire it.

Pretty much the same with television these days, isn’t it? I’m talking of the garbage that has given itself a fancy nomenclature — Reality shows. So much of, ahem, reality happening on the idiot box, you just can’t figure out how to insult your intelligence. If money limited your choices at the superstore, the remote control does that in the drawing room.

Take one of the more recent and, the more “top-of-the mind”, Rakhi Ka Swayamvar. Can’t imagine how NDTV Imagine pulled off a 6.3 TVR when the grand finale was aired. Surely, viewers weren’t so dumb as to believe she was going to tie the knot. Was the sheer excitement of watching an in-the-news-for-all-the-wrong-reasons ‘item girl’ garland an egg-faced businessman called Elesh Parunjanwala too tempting, then? How much more fun watching the ‘newly-weds’ cope with the challenges and frustrations of married life in full public view?

Not to be outdone, another reality farce, Pati Patni Aur Woh, merrily plagiarises from international show Baby Borrowers to show the pains, pangs and pleasures of parenthood from childbirth to adolescence.

Which pea-brained girl would ever vie for alleged wife-basher and dope-downer Rahul Mahajan as a husband? Yet the man whose actual marriage ended in a controversial and well-publicised divorce had 15,000, yes, 15,000 results thrown up on google for Rahul Dulhaniya Le Jayenge — that’s a cool 40 per cent more than Rakhi ka Swayamvar.

Reality doesn’t always dwell on oomph or scandal value as in Sawant and Mahajan.
Hero Honda Dadagiri 2 thrives on the bizarre to grab eyeballs. Contestants are made to do outrageously filthy /dangerous things such as digging out coins from a heap of hot coals, gobbling insects and dunking themselves in a barrel full of glue. All through the ordeal, they are abused and hooted at by the hosts. The losers don’t just forgo the Rs 10 lakh prize money but also suffer the ignominy of having dung smeared on their faces. A friend who is a part of the production team once told me, “Our team will be happy if someone actually dies while doing these odd jobs.”

The much hyped Sach Ka Saamna, an adaptation of the world-famous reality show ‘Moment of Truth’ ended abruptly on September 18 because of numerous controversies. The show came under the scrutiny of the Parliament for coercing contestants to wash the dirty linen in public for a top prize Rs 1 crore, which nobody eventually got. 

If UK has Big Brother, we’re not far behind with Big Boss 3. Wasn’t it fun damaging your sensibilities watching self-proclaimed actor, director and writer (haha), Kamal Khan trying to hog the limelight, flaunting his wealth, riding rough shod over co-contestants and finally getting booted out a la Jade Goody?  I know, I know, he back. Big deal. Anyways, this show too walked into trouble with the satraps at the I&B Ministry for ‘offending good taste’ and using vulgar language.

My guess is reality shows catch your fancy for being out-of-the-ordinary, not extraordinary. They invariably fail to create a long-term impact as they are remembered not for their concept (which is stale and often borrowed) but for the numerous controversies they brew. An overdose of reality shows and the eventual saturation is lost on the channels as they race to garner as much TRPs as they can, longevity be damned.

News channels too have joined the bandwagon as they give, and most probably get paid for, minute-by-minute update of these shows on their channel.

Unfortunately, there is a huge psychological downside to this brand of entertainment. Sixteen-year old Shinjini Sengupta, a class-XI student of Kolkata turned into a vegetable after she was shown the door in the elimination round of a show on a Bengali channel.
In extreme cases viewers begin to identify themselves with the participants, as was the case with a 32-year-old woman who committed suicide after watching the final episode of Sach ka Saamna. There were also news reports of couples who started doubting the fidelity of their spouses after only watching, and not participating in, this show.
Worse, these shows have now begun enticing children to participate and parents are only too eager to see their wards on the idiot box for the fame and money they can bring.

The bottom line is that if you get a raw deal at the superstore, at the very worst, you won’t go there again and probably dissuade your friends from patronizing it too. Reality shows, on the other hand, work like opium. You know they’re bad, you know some legitimize sleaze, you know others encourage peeping-tom tendencies, but you still watch. Worse still, that is exactly why you watch.

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21 Responses to “Reality farce”

  1. mahesh jayraman Says:

    Very nice blog and well concluded. Wait for another blogs… :)

  2. Ashwin Says:

    Nice Blog …………………Good Waiting for new blog to come from you..

  3. P K Bagga Says:

    The blog is well written and well meaning . However, it does not offer any solution. Perhaps it was meant only to highlight , and was hoping that someone will find a solution. Should there be regulation of this content? or should it be left to the mature viewer to boot out such shows with the remote. Maybe some respected critics/reviewers should immediately rate these shows as “unsuitable”. Pretty soon I am sure these guys will be cajoled otherwise!! Could some wise guy write write a regulation under which such reality shows would not be aired , I doubt it could be done without getting tied up in knots . The shows come up precisely because they grab eyeballs and loosen (advertisers) purse strings and reflect precisely what the society cosmos wants to do ( not necessarily what it does) !! Why do corporates sponsor such shows ? Should it be woven into corporate governance? In the end we get the society we deserve, because we the people make it.
    So lets say NO to Trash on TV.. even if the cable operator bundles it with other stuff.

  4. Prashanth Says:

    Are ‘blogs’ not the ‘Reality shows’ of Internet?

  5. Krithika Says:

    As a slight contradiction to the many comments, I would like to just say that the article lacks a level of proffessionalism. It comes off as an opinion, slighlty colloquial even and could have been far sharper. I do agree with the concept and the attrocities that reality TV has given birth to though.

  6. Abhinav Says:

    “News channels too have joined the bandwagon as they give, and most probably get paid for, ” are you a journalist or a teenage chic?They surely get paid. Why can’t you call a spade, a spade.

    TVs and Newpapers (including BS) sell news space with advertisement. The fictitious TRPs and other stories are paid. Then on the other hand they let a blogger like you question the farce.

    The root reason is that no news channel or News Paper have a ‘Editorial policy’. Hope you have heard this phrase before. Leading publishers like BBC, The Economist allow readers to see their Editorial Policy on the net. This prevents journalist from filing in senseless stories because people cross check it.

    If BS has a Editorial policy, at least its readers will not be subjected to farce. I suggest BS make a policy and provide a link to the policy with each article so that readers can check it.

  7. Lalit Says:

    This piece is Sarmistha is enough to bring out the REALITY FACTOR of so called Reality Show. Even you can’t get fun out of these anway.
    My plea to all the Channelwallas , we are not so DUMB after all….

  8. Kedan Says:

    Jumbo…!! Cool stuff.. certainily tired of the realty.. is there any realty in the shows.. or just cooked up controversies… Oops.. reading this was very refreshing.. and obivious.. but can someone stop this farce.

  9. Archana Says:

    Well written. Now that u mention it, Elesh certainly reminds one of an egg! ;)

  10. sidhartha sarkar Says:

    Extremely appropriate article reminding us of how idiotic we can be at times! There are many more relevant social issues which need to be highlighted by the Indian media. Until and unless India gets rid of the various social inequalities, we may be left behind watching the rest of the world march ahead. Here the media has a very big role to play since its reach is to every nook and corner of India.

  11. deep Says:

    Hats off for such a great article…and more importantly, relevant article in our times. I have simply grown so sick of the garbage on TV that i only switch on the TV for watching sports!

  12. Swapna Says:

    Great to read, thank you!

    I have a family which engages in most of what you have written: (1) three generations watching soap operas (Peyton Palace, Dynasty, Bold&Beautiful, Indian ones too) for three generations (2) WWF (don’t we wish we could punch our bosses like they do) (3) IPL, News and other “reality” farce.

    Till date, no calamity has hit us through this escapism (touch wood). And, none have tried to achieve Warhol’s 15-minutes of fame through this route (touch wood twice).

    It is crap (who doesn’t know that) but I do not want any Big Brother like Parliament or any censor board to decide what I can see/read.

    The market might be full of idiots but they do get the price right most of the time (if you do not consider investment bankers).

  13. Sagittarius Says:

    Could’nt agree more with this well written article.. the only reality behind these so called reality shows are the TRPs and the jingling cash them or hate them but cannot ignore them !

  14. Debs Says:

    awesome ! Knowing those reality shows are all farce, we still are getting intoxicated with the opium like idiot box, keeping our brain in our pocket- channels are making their profit by making us fools - Rakhi Sawant is a mother of a teenager, but how a lady of her age can understand the psychology of a teenager ? ALL BUCKWAS HAI !

  15. Alex Says:

    I totally agree more with this…….. the executive heads of various channels airing these stupid reality shows may say that the audience knows whats in good taste but as aptly written in this article these reality shows are like an opium…drugs…we get addicted to it even though we know its so bad…..

  16. chandrima Says:

    well written.i also do agree with the blog.Controversies are created to boost the TRPs.these shows have become an arena for the celebrities to gain publicity.i do hope this trend of reality shows vanishes very soon.

  17. varchasva Says:

    I totally agree with this blog….it actually brings out a point that television programming needs to have a novelty factor. And moreover it raises the question on the acceptability of audiences who like trash-bins sit in front of idiot box to watch all the crappie programming.

  18. Sunny Says:

    people enjoy watching reality show for a change…the trend will surely die one day.. Imagine so many people were glued to TV to watch special show of rupali ganguli revealing her extra-marital affair in public…”JO DIKHTA HAIN WAHI BIKTA HAIN BOSS”

  19. Aritra Chatterjee Says:

    Good one….n good how you conclude it….

  20. Jagan Says:

    Touche. As Andy Warhol said, “Publicity is like eating peanuts, once you start you can’t stop”. This is precisely the reason why these dimwit shows get the all-elusive high TRPs. In the voyeurism of Reality TV, the viewer’s remains vegetated and takes in the every Chicken McNugget of mundane details being shoved down his throat. What’s more, he feels superior at watching familiar strangers make fools of themselves. Reality TV looks in only one direction: down.

  21. flashes-in-the-pan Says:

    very true….these shows are bringing out the worst voyeuristic tendencies, making them publicly acceptable and worst of all, leads me wonder if that’s really what the ‘reality’ of our times is….hope not!


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