Reality TV anything but real

By Taheerah Abdul-Rahmaan

Is it just me or is it a fact that reality shows have officially taken over the airwaves of local and cable television?

There are more than 75 reality television shows on basic cable and local networks, according to

From MTV and Diddy’s (no more P. Diddy) “Making the Band” and Fox’s “The Simple Life,” to A&E’s “Flip That House” and PAX TV’s “Extreme Fakeover,” television networks are constantly finding new ways to make the reality-show boom continue.

It’s ironic to know that among television’s most die-hard fans, the teenage and young-adult age group, many find reality shows repetitive and seem to think the networks are running out of ideas.

“I like [reality shows], but they are getting weaker and less real,” said Ivan Palamore, a senior engineering major whose favorite reality show is “The Surreal Life.”

In an unscientific poll I conducted last week, I asked 30 NIU students if they felt TV networks were putting too much emphasis on creating reality shows over sitcoms. Sixty percent said yes.

Television commercials are powerful marketing tools, and those reality shows must be addictive because 90 percent of the students said they regularly watch at least three reality programs a week.

Reality does bite.

I don’t watch a lot of TV because most of it’s uninteresting to me, (where are the good sitcoms?) but I had to catch this past week’s premiere episode of Diddy’s season three of “Making the Band” which aired Thursday night on MTV. I also had to catch the premiere of Damon Dash’s show “The Ultimate Hustler” which aired on BET Tuesday night; not to mention the first two shows of the fifth season of “America’s Next Top Model.”

Most interesting was Damon Dash’s new show, which is the hood version of Donald Trump’s “The Apprentice.” It features 16 wanna-be hustlers battling each other for Dash’s approval and the ultimate goal of attaining a position in one of Dash’s business investment firms.

Rest assured, the show is entertaining, and I will be in front of my TV screen every Tuesday at 9 p.m. watching BET.

But I’m not supposed to like reality television because it’s so not like reality.

In what real world do seven good-looking, perfectly petite and muscular strangers get picked to live in an ultra-plush, IKEA-meets-decadent, urban style condominium and engage in all sorts of fun and adventurous worldly activities?

In what world does a real person get to travel through exotic islands in a big SUV with six strangers wading through muddy waters and winning prizes some people save checks for months for (think plasma television and Scion cars)?

For all their real fallacy, why are they so popular?

“The elements of having an everyday person compete for out-of-this-world prizes has something to do with reality show popularity,” said Ciera Gilchrist-Fisher, a senior political science major.

I guess it is exciting to witness people go after prizes, often by humiliating themselves; there’s a sense of seeing yourself in that common person.

On, Rob Flanagan, the first person fired from the second season of “The Apprentice,” said many people enjoy reality television because “people enjoy seeing other real people in real tasks and actually enjoy the demise and rise of real people.”

Ironically, wasn’t the original intention of television sitcoms to mirror the real-life society of America, albeit through comedy or drama?

But the only thing constant in entertainment is change, and television’s no different.

Thankfully, I have Nick-At-Nite to catch the nostalgic episodes of “The Cosby Show,” “Who’s The Boss” and “Fatherhood” after getting my dose of reality TV thanks to Damon Dash, Diddy and Tyra Banks.

Columns reflect the opinion of the author and not necessarily that of the Northern Star staff.