The success of reality TV have started to affect televised Science Fiction in a bad way. This is a trend I am not particualarly fond of since I loath reality tv with a vengeance. Seeing adults degrade each other without any other purpose than to entertain us just feels wrong for me. I know there are a lot of people out there that like and watch reality tv but for me it feels like being a Peeping Tom. I like being entertained by someone telling me a story with a bigger purpose. This is about scripted shows trying to imitate reality tv, don’t get me started on the reality tv shows that are popping up with science fiction aspirations.
Reality television is a genre of television programming that presents purportedly unscripted dramatic or humorous situations, documents actual events, and usually features ordinary people instead of professional actors. The genre has existed in some form or another since the early years of television (primarily with game shows), but has expanded significantly since Big Brother first aired in 1999. Documentaries and nonfictional programming such as news and sports shows are usually not classified as reality shows.
The genre covers a wide range of programming formats, from game or quiz shows which resemble the frantic, often demeaning shows produced in Japan in the 1980s and 1990s (such as Gaki no tsukai), to surveillance- or voyeurism-focused productions such as Big Brother.
Virtuality didn’t make it to series on Fox but the pilot aired as a two hour movie last summer and it is a good example of what I mean. The story is set aboard earth’s first starship on a ten year journey to explore Epsilon Eridani, a nearby star. The ship has virtual reality modules to help the crew cope with the long mission. The crews experiences are broadcast back on earth as Fox’s reality television program Edge of Never: Life on the Phaeton.
Another close encounter with reality tv was the now canceled tv show Defying Gravity. First pitched to the networks as a Grey’s Anatomy in space it have much in common with the personal conflicts as portrayed in reality tv, it also has ‘confessions’ report similar to the confession booths. The show had some good points but the drama got a bit to much reality tv and too little science fiction. The show is follows eight astronauts on a six-year space mission through the Solar System, during which they are monitored from Earth via a real-time communication system. Part of the financing is made by a media company that airs the adventures and confessions of the crew.
Stargate Universe 1st winter season has had many good stories centered on survival that have been good and science fiction. But there have also been a lot of reality tv type drama that threatened to overshadow the genre parts of the story. I love SGU for the record but the reality tv aspect of it is something I have a little trouble with. SGU starts it’s winter season tonight and I have great hope for more aliens, space travels, technological marvels than earthbound drama, that would make my day.
One could say that one part of SF and literature in general has always been to throw a group of strangers into a room and see what happens but I feel that there is a difference in style between that and reality tv. The change might be from more intellectual conflicts towards emotional rantings.
Maybe I should combine this with Soap Operas? The shows above plus Caprica and Kings all have a big portion of soapy drama that at one time or another have covered or threatened to cover up the genre parts?
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