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The Truth About the Fact: An International Journal of Literary Nonfiction

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The Truth About the Fact: A Journal of Literary Nonfiction is an international journal committed to the idea that excellence in the art of letters can play a vital role in transforming the planet we share.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Reality T.V. Equals a Cheaper Alternative

In just the past five years, reality television has overflowed all television networks, demonstrating both people’s obsession for the “real” aspect this genre provides along with a commentary on how capitalism affects art consumption. Networks are airing more and more reality shows because they are more cost effective. These stars absolutely get paid, but not as much as say a star on Grey’s Anatomy. For example, Ellen Pompeo of Grey’s Anatomy makes 200,000 dollars PER episode and that isn’t even including how much she gets for re-runs. Then you have “reality” television such as The Hills, where Lauren Conrad is making 75,000 dollars per episode. On that same show, Brody Jenner makes 10,000 dollars per episode. Then, you have real reality shows where a salary of 10,000 dollars would be more than enough.

These numbers may seem unimportant but in the large scheme of things, think about how much more appealing a reality show would be to networks. First off, they do not have to pay their celebrities as much. “The Hills” is a different case because that is more like an episode of “The O.C.” than an episode of dancing with the stars. Celebrities on real reality shows make a lot less than many television stars.
Networks get to become capitalists when they are able to pick and choose how much they distribute to these “real people” rather than having to pay millions of dollars to over-demanding and over-paid celebrities that make up the rest of television. The people in charge of these networks are able to make private decisions based on the distribution of their wealth, which is one of the main factors of capitalism.

With our economy at the state that it is, networks are bringing us reality television at an even cheaper cost. An article in Entertainment News brought to us by KSL states that “reality shows were already TV’s low budget alternative”, but with the recession and “diminishing advertising revenue”, network producers are working even harder to provide without losing a significant amount of their money. Reality shows cost less than a million dollars to make, whereas a scripted drama can come close to two million dollars. Ryan Nakashima of KSL states that “reality shows don’t use expensive actors and writers”, which MAJORLY cuts the cost of creating their shows.

Viewers at home are not the only people experiencing the recession. TV networks are also suffering and having to cut costs where they are able to. In fact, one of MTV’s newest shows is “College Life”, which is yet another reality show but this is one that really narrowed down its expenses. Anyone who has seen previews for this show can tell that it is extremely low budget. The college students participating in the show are their own director and camera man/woman. MTV distributed handheld cameras to them, which enable them to film their true experience in college, bringing the handheld with them wherever they go and whenever they choose to bring it.

Every major network is hopping on the bandwagon for cheaper costs and the creation of more and more reality shows. Networks such as NBC, CBS, and the CW have apparently green lighted around 30 new reality shows, which is much higher than years before. Reality shows are also able to cut expenses by working with advertisers who would normally be featured on commercials in between the show. They feature these advertisers’ products in their show and they work with them as sponsors for the “prize” on many reality shows. Rather than offering a million dollars in a recession, they are offering other alternatives such as dinners, makeovers or the chance to be in a professional photo shoot. Reality shows are “real” and like its viewers, these shows are experiencing the tough times in this economy. Many people may question how real this form of television is, but regardless of whether it is real, scripted, not scripted, the bottom line is that it is entertainment and a cheaper alternative for networks. Cutbacks are necessary, but entertainment is still possible and no network is going to stop providing us with the entertainment our society constantly craves.

E. O'Neil


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