Analyzing the reality of ‘reality’ shows

In less than three years, «reality» programs have become a staple of Greek TV. Beginning with «Big Brother,» of Dutch origin, we are now being offered a variety of similar programs with so-called «ordinary people» living with each other for weeks on end and, more importantly, competing to oust everyone else and be the ones to earn the big prize. The settings may vary, but the idea is the same. Besides acquiring a devoted audience, the reality programs have added, to the horror of language purists, a new word to Greek vocabulary: ÚÈ¿ÏÈÙÈ. Academics in other countries have already tried to analyze the phenomenon. Not all of them have been dismissive, as we might expect. Evangelos Sorongas, in the Greek contribution to the debate «The ‘Reality’ Phenomenon» (Kastaniotis, 2004), correctly points out that the obsession with the private lives of the famous and the «ordinary» had already been given expression in news shows which are now aptly called «infotainment.» To him, the reality programs are an expected outgrowth of privately owned TV stations that chase high ratings from a fragmented audience by offering homogenized programs that appeal to a (low) common denominator. Sorongas, a professor at Athens University in mass media studies and a former TV producer in the US and Greece, has the necessary background to analyze the phenomenon. He may not offer spectacular conclusions and the prose is a trifle dry. Still, for those who wish to scratch below the surface, this is an interesting read.

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