Reality shows on television are the most happening things these days. Open your TV and you are sure to find at least one reality show if not many in every channel. I cannot exactly pinpoint the first reality show that happened in India or the west but my earliest memories of a show on TV which wasn’t made according to a fixed written script (although reality shows are scripted to an extent) are the famous Amitabh Bacchan hosted quiz show Kaun Banega Crorepati, the dance show Boogie Woogie and the music talent hunt Saregamapa which I watched as a kid. But then, how exactly do you define these? Do we call them reality shows or are they mere competitions?
What differentiates a reality show from documentaries and unscripted programs is the special attention give to the back stage drama and action which occurs in the lives of the participants. Eliminations are also a major part of these shows leading to one or more winners at the end of the show who is/are awarded with monetary prizes amongst other things.
One major question that arises is - what purpose do these shows actually serve? Apart from having high entertainment value, these reality shows sometimes claim to change the lives of the winners, if not of all the participants. There have been several examples to prove this claim. Our music industry for example is filled with singers who started out as contestants on reality shows. Be it our Indian singers like Arijit Singh, Shreya Ghoshal, Sunidhi Chauhan, Bhoomi Trivedi, Monali Thakur, M. Sreerama Chandra or be the international stars like Kelly Clarkson, One Direction, Leone Lewis, and Nicole Scherzinger, all of them were recognized first on a reality talent hunt singing show. Apart from this, several contestants from the very popular dance show Dance India Dance got their Bollywood dream realized when they got the opportunity to star in ABCD: Any Body Can Dance. Also, Sunny Leone got her ticket into Bollywood through the reality show Big Boss where she was a contestant.
There has also been another debate about how these shows could be harmful despite the numerous advantages they have. There have been several reports where contestants had a meltdown due to the intense pressure to keep up with the challenges that are regularly thrown at them. Many contestants have also been injured during performances. If rumors are to be believed, many contestants have also reported that they were mentally harassed by their fellow competitors or judges.
My person opinion asked, I would prefer very young children be kept away from these shows. Even though a lot of children get a very good exposure through them, there are high chances of them missing out on school and being traumatized due to the intense pressure that is a part of these shows which they are not mentally prepared to handle so early. Adults, however, should be able to take criticism properly and maintain a healthy competitive spirit, for there have been instances where the contestants who got eliminated during the show ended up being more popular later in their career.
While these off stage incidents are said to be unscripted and totally spontaneous, it is highly doubtful in certain cases if such claims are actually true. The fact that a vast majority of the audience seems to identify somewhat with some of the participants and roots for their victory by the end of them show makes these shows more popular than their scripted counterparts. Good or bad, it is most certain that these shows are here to stay for a really long time as their popularity doesn’t seem to be decreasing at all.