chapter  1
23 Pages

Introduction: Reality TV

It is no mean feat to make a mark in today’s media landscape. The world is littered with failed films, television shows, music, magazines, mobile apps and websites. And reality TV is no exception. For every successful format like Strictly Come Dancing (BBC Worldwide) there are many failures. Producers say content is king. But with reality TV, this is not always the case. As this viewer said ‘The X-Factor, I’m a Celebrity … just rubbish really, but I think I’ve watched all of them’ (23-year-old female shop assistant). For example, Splash! (Eyeworks) is a reality show about diving.

Time’s TV critic named it one of the top ten worst TV shows of 2013: ‘some reality shows achieve brilliance by embracing ridiculousness. This awkward, unpleasant diving competition just bellyflopped straight into it’ (Poniewozik 2013). Despite dire reviews, Splash! still had 4.4 million American viewers on ABC for its finale, four million more than expected for a show about celebrities jumping into water (Hibberd 2013a). In the UK, the first episode attracted five million viewers on ITV1. This TV critic wrote: ‘It’s almost certainly going to be awful, and you almost certainly won’t be able to stop watching it’ (Heritage 2013c). It became a source of gossip for people, tabloid headlines, celebrity magazines and social media – ‘Splash! becomes our TV guilty pleasure’ (Daily Mail 2013).