I like reality TV.
It is “modern” in the sense that the players are largely who and what you make of them.
Joey on Friends is pretty much Joey. If you asked ten people who or what Joey is, they would all come up with pretty much the same description. You don’t spend a whole lot of time wondering whether, or to what extent, Matt LeBlanc is really like Joey, or what Joey does when he is off-screen.
With reality TV, by contrast, there is an added dimension. The constant question of who this person that you are watching really is. How much is authentic, and how much is the product of the awareness that he or she is on TV. How much is the result of the way the show is edited? What happens when the cameras aren’t rolling? What is on the cutting room floor? If you ask ten different people who or what Mike from the Real World is, they would each probably come up with a different interpretation. The players are largely in the eyes of the beholder. The show is largely what you make of it.
Of all the reality TV shows, I like The Apprentice the best, because it is almost always relatable to my own work experiences. If, on Survivor, for example, the players are competing in some obstacle course, there’s not much point in trying to imagine what I would do if I were on the island. I would either do well or I wouldn’t. On The Apprentice, by contrast, each player has his or her own leadership style, personality issues, and other challenges which are familiar in the ordinary course of human experience. Maybe I have never designed a billboard before, but I can imagine, being assigned that task, what I would do, and how I would do it.
One thing that seems to be common to all reality TV shows is the apparent differences between the sexes they reveal. Women always seem to play the game better initially, and put themselves in a position to win. But then, at some point, they shoot themselves in the foot, and turn on each other, out of either mistrust or some type of vindictiveness. The men, by contrast, are always doing something devious, leading either to an over-emotional guilt-ridden breakdown or the rationalization that this was all just good strategy.
You have to wonder the extent to which this was all casted, anticipated, hoped, designed, edited, framed, engineered, or even pre-determined by the show’s producers?
(which you really wouldn’t think about while watching a sitcom or a drama – although, you do sometimes wonder, in a series how much was planned at the outset versus how much was made up as they went along or perhaps even altered in light of renewals or cancellations along the way)
In the end, human nature prevails, and whoever “deserves” to win generally does. Although if you ask ten different people what the criteria is, they would each probably come up with a different interpretation.