Welcome, cherished reader, to the mind-boggling world of reality television, a realm that seems to polarize living rooms across the United States faster than a controversial Super Bowl halftime show. According to a Nielsen report, the average American adult watches about five hours of television daily. Within that generous time frame, reality TV has carved out its own significant pie slice. So, we’re left wondering—do you watch reality TV?
For the Devotees: “Yes, Regularly”
Why People Say ‘Yes’
If you’re in this camp, your DVR is probably brimming with episodes of “The Bachelor,” “Survivor,” or “Keeping Up with the Kardashians.” You just can’t get enough. But why is that? According to psychologist Dr. Pamela Rutledge, watching reality TV can actually be a form of stress relief. “Reality TV provides an escape and a chance to vicariously experience situations you’d probably never encounter in your own life,” says Dr. Rutledge.
Believe it or not, a study in the journal Psychology of Popular Media found that reality TV fans are more likely to engage in social activities and maintain an active lifestyle. So yes, it’s more than just couch potato life for you!
The Middle-Grounders: “Occasionally”
Why People Choose ‘Occasionally’
You’re the ones who flip through channels and sometimes stop at a compelling reality TV moment. You might not know all the contestants in “MasterChef” or “Project Runway,” but you can appreciate the tension of a cooking timer ticking down or the runway walks at the end of each episode. As screenwriter Aaron Sorkin once remarked, “Reality TV finds talented people who don’t have an outlet for their talents.” You appreciate the artistry, the conflict, and the real-life drama, but only in measured doses.
The Naysayers: “Never”
Why People Say ‘No’
Here we are at the far end of the spectrum—those who proudly declare, “I’ve never watched an episode of reality TV in my life!” For these individuals, the concept of reality TV doesn’t resonate. As film director Quentin Tarantino once opined, “I’d rather watch a good movie than a reality TV show.”
The popularity of reality TV shows can be gauged in various ways—be it ratings, cultural impact, or longevity. Here’s a list of five reality TV shows from the last 20 years that have made a significant splash in the U.S.
- American Idol (2002–present)
“American Idol” changed the game by turning the process of finding the next big music star into a national spectacle. Created by Simon Fuller and based on the British show “Pop Idol,” the series has spawned international adaptations and has been a platform for launching the careers of notable artists like Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, and Jennifer Hudson.
- Survivor (2000–present)
Perhaps one of the pioneers in competitive reality TV, “Survivor” drops contestants in a remote location to compete in physical and mental challenges, all while forming alliances and voting each other off until only one “sole survivor” remains. Its social dynamics and strategic gameplay have kept audiences hooked for more than 40 seasons.
- The Bachelor/Bachelorette (2002–present)
These twin reality dating shows have both intrigued and infuriated audiences for years. With a premise based on one man or woman choosing a life partner from a pool of contestants through a series of rose ceremonies, the franchise has led to multiple spin-offs, including “Bachelor in Paradise.”
- Keeping Up with the Kardashians (2007–2021)
Although it ended its run in 2021, “Keeping Up with the Kardashians” gave viewers an inside look into the lives of the Kardashian-Jenner family for 14 years. It has spawned numerous spin-offs and has had a profound impact on pop culture and the concept of “celebrity.”
- The Voice (2011–present)
In this singing competition, established artists like Adam Levine, Blake Shelton, and Gwen Stefani serve as coaches and judges. Unlike “American Idol,” the initial auditions are “blind,” meaning the judges can only hear the contestants, not see them. The show’s unique format and celebrity involvement have contributed to its success.
Each of these shows has carved out its own unique space in the reality TV landscape, engaging different demographics and sparking countless discussions, debates, and social media frenzies. Whether you love them or loathe them, their impact on American television—and culture at large—is undeniable.
Your TV habits are your own, shaped by a complex blend of your interests, values, and perhaps even your social circle. Whether you’re a die-hard fan, a casual observer, or a staunch objector to the genre, one thing’s for sure: the world of reality TV has made an indelible mark on American culture, for better or worse.
So, what’s your take? Do you religiously tune in to watch roses being handed out and tribes getting voted off? Do you casually enjoy the spectacle when nothing else piques your interest? Or do you steadfastly avoid the genre altogether? No matter where you stand, you’re part of a larger conversation—one that goes beyond remote controls and TV screens, delving into the very fabric of American leisure and lifestyle.
Remember, whether you’re saying “Yes, regularly,” “Occasionally,” or “Never,” you’re contributing to a phenomenon that’s as American as apple pie, albeit with a side of drama, tears, and occasionally, bug-eating challenges. Happy watching—or not!