Nearly five million viewers watched the season finale of Jersey Shore back in January, making it one of America's most popular TV shows. Bravo has set ratings records with its Real Housewives series. A&E's Hoarders is their top-rated telecast of 2010.
What IS it about these crazy shows that makes us love to watch so much? Whether it's people screaming at each other and overturning tables, people getting drunk and sloppily hooking up in hot tubs, or the antics of mentally unstable folks who should be pitied instead of mocked, reality television's just getting more and more extreme—and in the process, creating more and more wannabe shows that try to capitalize off a winning formula.
Over-the-top behavior virtually guarantees the ratings these days, but why do we celebrate the worst human behavior this way? What makes it so entertaining, exactly? Are we tuning in because we can't wait to see what will shock us next? Do these characters make us feel better about ourselves in comparison? Are we forgetting that it's reality, and treating violence and mental illness like it's been manufactured for our entertainment?
Believe me, I don't have the answers. I watch some of this crap too, and I couldn't begin to tell you why.
Of course, the more popular a show grows to be, the less authentic it becomes. Producers try to give us what we want, and what we want is scandal, and lots of it. A well-loved reality show can't stay real for long, as the cast members revel in their newfound celebrity. Now we've got an entire strata of reality show television stars, famous for nothing more than acting obnoxiously in front of the camera.
Do you think it's possible we're witnessing the beginning of the end of real acting talent? Will the great entertainers eventually be replaced by a thousand variations of Snooki?
Image via MTV