Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Why people like reality shows

The Jakarta Post , Jakarta | Sat, 04/25/2009 1:33 PM | Entertainment

Some cry. Others laugh out loud. The rest frown in shock. Welcome to reality TV.

Sinetron TV soap-operas are no longer the only high rating shows around, reality shows have stolen the limelight.

The latest survey by AGB Nielsen Media Research, found that the majority of Indonesian teenagers prefer watching reality TV shows above any other programs.

Lisa, an 18-year-old college student, said she watched reality shows almost every week.

"The first time I watched Termehek-Mehek (a reality show on Trans TV) I was hooked and wanted to watch it every week," Lisa said. "This is more than a soap-opera because it's real," she said.

The survey found that young people aged between 10 and 19 years preferred watching reality shows over more traditional programs such as music, comedy, or game shows.

Termehek-Mehek, the survey found, is the most popular reality show for teenagers in the country. The program helps people track down friends, relatives, and past lovers they have lost contact with over the years, and is renowned for its unpredictable outcomes.

But do people watch reality shows for precious insight?

According to Helly Soetjipto, a social psychologist from Yogyakarta's Gajah Mada University, people use reality shows to compare their own life situations against those in the programs.

Watching reality shows, he said, makes people feel better about their own un-filmed lives.

"As reality shows feature the lives of ordinary people instead of professional actors, they encourage the viewer to see that other people suffer the same problems as themselves," said Soetjipto.

"These scenes compliment the commonalities of our lives."

With the potential to turn participants into national celebrities, at least for a short period, TV stations have started to produce and buy more reality programs. Trans TV and SCTV currently produce a large range of these shows.

While SCTV relies on production houses for the supply of their reality programs, Trans TV is the only station that has in-house production.

SCTV's public relations manager, Budi Darmawan, said many TV stations are seeking alternatives to scripted programs such as news, music and soap-operas.

Budi denied the booming of reality shows was related to the ongoing economic crisis which has forced TV stations to reduce their production costs. "It's just the right trend at the right time," he said.

Andi Christianto, the executive producer of Shandiego Creative Media, admitted the production costs of reality shows were much lower than scripted programs.

"The production cost *of a reality show* is about half *of a scripted program*. As reality shows aim to portray real situations, we're not expected to produce high quality pictures and we don't need to rent expensive cameras or use expensive actors," he said.

Herny Mulyani, the executive producer of several reality shows on Trans TV including Termehek-mehek, said the rising popularity of reality shows is part of this trend.

These programs, she said, have evolved over the last decade.

"Back in 2002, the trend was gossip shows. Many stations had five to six gossip shows," she said. "Reality shows today are a progression of this trend. People are fed up with exaggerated soap-operas."

- Matheos Viktor Messakh

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