Over the past decade, reality television has become increasingly popular worldwide. This relatively new format incorporates everything from the drama to everyday events and competitions into a broadcast. The dramatization of some of these television shows seems so unreal and yet still audiences from all different countries have become more and more enamored with these reality TV stars. So what makes reality TV so popular?
One extremely well-known reality television series would be The Bachelor. Since 2002, there have been 19 aired seasons in the states. Several spin-off series have formed as well, such as The Bachelorette, Bachelor in Paradise, and The Bachelor Pad which have been deemed as successful as the original Bachelor series (Fitzpatrick, 2015).
“Sarlanis says creator of the Bachelor, Mike Fleiss [and his producing team], has been evolving the show, in juxtaposition to the booming trend of soapy storytelling on unscripted television, seen on ‘Keeping Up With the Kardashians’, which Sarlanis worked on at E!, before he joined ABC’s team. ‘Story soaps were blowing up so they said, let’s infuse that storytelling, but ease up on the format’”(Wagmeister, 2015).
As of late, Bachelor and Bachelorette series have been spreading like wildfire across most of Europe and several other locations in the world. We now see Bachelor copycat series in Germany, New Zealand, Switzerland, Slovenia, Romania, Israel, Brazil, Norway, Sweden, Australia, Poland, France, Ukraine, Russia, Canada, Finland, and the UK. Bachelorette series have popped up in Romania, India, Germany, Switzerland, Slovenia and Australia (Fitzpatrick, 2015).
“Cultural products increasingly circulate across national borders. Images, sounds and narratives are borrowed and adapted from other places on an unprecedented scale, producing new hybrids but also, for some, reaffirming the value of cultural authenticity. The long-standing domination of cultural trade by the USA may be diminishing” (Hesmondhalgh, 2013).
The streamline of similar TV formats seems a bit redundant yet they still manage to entertain the general public audiences and receive great ratings. One thing we must incorporate into this is the characteristics of US dominance, like we discussed in class lecture (Hesmondhalgh, 2013).
Tracking what the audience is feeling and what they want is an important tactic for the producers of reality television shows. “The way that the cultural industries conceive of their audiences is changing. There is greater emphasis on audiences is changing. There is greater emphasis on audience research, marketing and addressing ‘niche’ audiences.” (Hesmondhalgh, 2013).
The TV market in the states relies on success, formulas, and reputation. In the Bachelor, they normally choose the next person in the series, such as the Bachelorette, from the pool of women that are already on the show and who have gained a fan base. This guarantees (to a certain extent) that there will be viewers for the show. From the audience’s perspective, they may have gained a certain emotional attachment to their favourite contestant and want to see how the rest of the journey plays out in the next season (Hesmondhalgh, 2013).
The aspect of competition also plays an extremely important role in the Bachelor. The states is predominately a capitalist society that thrives on competition. The Bachelor and Bachelorette play off of the audience’s emotions and feelings towards romance, yet the competition aspect is quite relevant. Each episode, a contestant gets voted off if they haven’t ‘connected’ enough with the Bachelor or Bachelorette. It seems a bit vile to have this in parallel with the romantic aspect of the show, but with such a wide audience, it sparks interest for different reasons creating a larger audience scope.
The strength of globalization through the lens of cultural economy is that it unifies the interests of our society, as well as worldwide. Creativity isn’t original, so it gives for a chance for more variety, even if they are starting from the same point. Now starting this can get us into the other argument of why globalization is bad. The weakness is that things become too mainstream, redundant and unoriginal. Oddly enough the strength and weakness of this concept overlap, but the industry seems to be split over the idea of it (especially regarding TV formulas). Like I mentioned in my previous post about creative industries and big company take overs, this format moves us into the industrial side, which can potentially remove the creativity from the project and autonomy from the artist.
I think the Bachelor and Bachelorette is an excellent text to observe for this purpose. They fit the criteria for a formatted television show, extend to a wide range of audiences and ages, while still keeping the interest of the people.
David Hesmondhalgh (2013). The Cultural Industries. 3rd ed. London: SAGE. 1-3.
Fitzpatrick, M. (2015) Here’s what the bachelor and the Bachelorette look like in 18 countries. Available at: http://fusion.net/story/163528/heres-what-the-bachelor-and-the-bachelorette-look-like-in-18-countries/ (Accessed: 22 February 2017).
Wagmeister, E. (2015) ‘The Bachelorette’: ABC exec talks why the franchise is so successful. Available at: http://variety.com/2015/tv/news/the-bachelor-bachelorette-abc-ratings-success-1201509586/ (Accessed: 22 February 2017).