Reality TV…what reality?


Made in Chelsea and TOWIE don’t reflect reality for many of us yet millions tune in to watch an ever-growing collection of TV shows.


By Elise Chamberlain

One of the first questions every child is asked is ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’

This question usually elicits storybook responses such as “Ballerina”, “Astronaut” and “Doctor”.

Of course, there will always be one who gives a somewhat surprising response.

My friend, for instance, quite assertively informed her parents she wanted to be a mantelpiece when she grew up.

While some children’s life objectives may become their adult reality many will change with age.

My adult sense of reality does not involve out-pirouetting Darcey Bussell or performing groundbreaking surgery.

It is also fails to include sharing my innermost thoughts and feelings with the British public, relying on trust funds as displayed in Made In Chelsea and sporting a year-long tan as showcased on The Only Way is Essex.

This type of existence does not reflect reality for many of us and yet we, the British public, tune in weekly in our millions to watch an ever-growing collection of television shows dedicated to portraying so-called ‘reality’.

Since our homes were first invaded by a group of strangers, innumerable cameras and the booming omnipresent Geordie sound of “Day 1 in the Big Brother house” in 2000, reality television has spread throughout television channels and UK homes at, some would say, an alarming rate.

What is it about reality TV which continues to grasp the attention of British television viewers so fervently?

“There’s the comfort in seeing everyday people on the television and watching them go through a big event or a struggle,” said actress Jessica Gunning, of South London.

“There’s also this fascination people seem to have with fame.”

The 25-year-old, who has recently finished filming the BBC2 series White Heat, says this obsession with reality TV is having a huge impact on the difficulty actors and actresses face when trying to launch a successful career.

Miss Gunning said: “We want producers and broadcasters to make interesting, exciting projects that we’d like to be a part of but because of the popularity of shows like the X Factor, it’s become very much about viewing figures and hitting a certain ‘quota’ of ratings.”

In the long-run it will probably create a distorted sense of reality for children, she added.

It was made clear when young girls’ responses to this age-old question began to include “WAG” and “glamour model” that children’s perception of reality was shifting.

Miss Gunning is one among many actresses hoping future generations can avoid being sucked into the overnight stardom and fast-track notion of fame promoted by reality TV.

She said: “Thousands of actors have worked for years to get where they are today; that journey is much better and far more respected that skipping all the middle steps and zooming straight to the top.”

“As a generation we are obsessed with fame and celebrity,” agreed actress and model Melissa Walton.

“Reality TV suggests you don’t need to have acting talent or have worked hard to suddenly be famous; it’s really changing people’s perception of actors and actresses.”

The 21-year-old who found fame in Channel 4’s Hollyoaks says, to many people there is no difference between seeing someone go about their daily business in Made in Chelsea and watching actors portray inherent human emotions in soaps, dramas and award-winning television series.

“It is a new era of entertainment,” said Miss Walton.

While this new era of entertainment continues to sweep the nation experienced, talented actors and actresses everywhere persist, working tirelessly, to ensure their dream becomes their reality.

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