The other day Mike and I were talking about one of our favorite things, reality TV. And because we are both compulsively analytical, we decided we needed to come up with a categorization scheme for reality TV. And that is the kind of topic that needs to go on my poor neglected blog. Enjoy!
Level 1: Celebrating Stupidity and/or Money
Examples: Jersey Shore, Real Housewives
This is the lowest level of reality TV. No educational value, no celebrating anything about the human experience. I'm not judging. These shows are escapist and allow you to tune out mentally. I love Real Housewives - I watch both NJ and Beverly Hills, mostly to gawk at the money and the fights. I can't bring myself to watch more than a minute of Jersey Shore though.
Level 2: Dream Crushing
Examples: American Idol, The Bachelor, America's Next Top Model
This takes the experience of reality TV up a bit. Sure, these shows are great for the WINNER, but everyone else just gets their dreams crushed. Mike is a huge fan of dream crushing. I feel bad for the crushed, but these shows have been around for so long, the contestants know what they're getting into.
Level 3: Self-Improvement
Example: The Biggest Loser
The next level of reality TV is self-improvement. I'd put most of the weight loss shows in this category. There's also an awesome dating one that I'm forgetting the name of. People come on these shows to try to improve themselves in some way. They go through a transformation that is dramatized incessantly and there are lots of tears. But at least the contestants are seeking something bigger than just undeserved fame.
Level 4: Talent/Strategy
Examples: Top Chef, Project Runway, The Amazing Race
This is the highest level of reality TV. There's a reason The Amazing Race wins Emmys. They draw on contestants' innate talent, intelligence, ability to think on their feet. You don't have to feel guilty about this kind of reality TV because it's actually educational and inspirational.
I'm not sure how to categorize some of the classics, like Survivor and Big Brother. They seem like strategy, but also celebrating stupidity. My general rule is that if it generates "reality TV stars", it's Level 1.
One more. Fear Factor is coming back. With Joe Rogan! That gets its own category. The Awesome category.