They think it’s all over…

Posted by Laura

 …But it’s only just beginning. Just when all the reality TV-phobes among you thought it was safe to switch on your set and start reading tabloids again, up they pop at any seaside town night spot, half-empty shopping mall and the warm-up party for the glittering opening of not very much actually. Not even the once-hallowed muddy turf of über-cool festival backstage events is safe from the former housemates’ quest for fame (we’ve got the video here to prove it). Yes, you may even see more of the Big Brother celebrities now the show’s over than you ever saw of them before, as they try to beat the ticking time-bomb of eventual obscurity.

We can’t totally knock the show though. Even though its popularity appears to be declining, it’s certainly got a high proportion of you hooked. The word on the street was that this year’s Big Brother was suffering from the Bryan Adams ‘Everything I Do’ effect; it managed to maintain its position as the nation’s zeitgeist for so long, yet no one would dare admit to liking it. All the Big Brother stories we’ve run this week seem to show there are more than a few closet viewers. From our TV critic’s acerbic look back at the series, to Nikki and Pete’s best bits, the BB fans out there are still hungry for their final fix.

So will the reality TV coverage now cease? Alas, no. With X-Factor already beaming its best banshees on to our screens, Love Island still trying to enforce romance upon its wannabe stars, and Celeb Big Brother looming on the horizon, it looks set to be a permanent screen fixture for some time yet. This leaves team here with two choices: denigrate it – or embrace it?

And, without wanting to flog an already-buried horse, perhaps the latter is the best option. But in the true egalitarian spirit of Big Brother, we want to bring a little democracy into the proceedings and give you the chance to have your say. Welcome, then, to Big Blogger – your chance to vote for the homepage mate you think has the best take on reality TV and how to cover it over the coming months. We can’t promise we’ll steer clear of the populist screen fodder, and we can’t guarantee back-to-back musical critiques of Sharon, Simon and Louie’s acts, but we’ll definitely take whatever you say on board.

Dom ‘Did you see the Liverpool game last weekend?’ Brookman

I have to admit that I’m quite a sucker for Reality TV – when it’s done well. Big Brother has tended to go down the ratings-chasing, sensationalist path more often than not in the last couple of years, but even so, it still holds more interest for me than a bunch of Z-list ‘celebrities’ moaning about their pitiful problems whilst lounging around on the beach (Love Island).

I’m a fan of the human interest stories that shows such as The X-Factor tend to bring to our screens – anything that goes beyond mere base voyeurism gets my vote. Unfortunately, with TV companies pre-occupied with the never-ending chase for TV ratings, I predict that reality shows will get more and more desperate over the next couple of years to shock and surprise the viewer – and they’ll end up turning into nothing but freak shows for the masses.     

One thing that it’s been pretty impossible not to notice in my first month on the MSN homepage is that reality shows are incredibly popular – even a simple text link can generate tens of thousands of clicks. The refreshing aspect of our approach is that we’re in no way sycophantic, and can choose our own agenda pretty much as we please – whether positive or negative. This week, for example, after Big Brother had finished, we promoted an article on our homepage from TV critic Stuart Bak, which put forward the view that it had been the worst run of the show so far. The amount of clicks the article got showed that it certainly struck a chord with our users, whether they were enraged or nodding their head in agreement.

This healthy approach to the reality shows – provocative and questioning, but never patronising or condescending – is the stance I think our coverage should take.

Ian ‘I know all the words to the Top Cat theme tune, me’ Jones

I’m always suspicious of people who construct an argument entirely on the basis that reality TV = the end of the world as we know it. Giving reality TV a kicking just because of what it is – well, that’s like saying the news should be axed because you don’t like what’s on it. It’s the correct marshalling and mixing of the ingredients of reality television, not the notion itself, which is what separates fresh, exciting telly (The Apprentice) from botched plunderings of previous programmes (remember Popstars: The Rivals) or something cannily conceived but inconsistently executed (Fame Academy). In truth this most controversial of all TV genres, regularly lambasted for being so base and obvious, is in rude health. It’s just when the pieces of the jigsaw are put together in the wrong order, or are forced together so they fit but only by being twisted out of shape, that everything falls apart. I think we nailed this dilemma pretty thoroughly in our coverage of this year’s Big Brother (a healthy scepticism, not cynicism; a detached interest in the hype and hysteria), but maybe not so successfully in our similar attempts to report on Love Island. I’d like to hope we’re able to bring the same combination of informed bemusement and self-awareness to our handling of The X Factor.

Laura ‘excuse any typos, I can only type with one hand’ Simpson

I just want normal TV back. It feels like the entire summer has been some sort of hiatus where anyone doing any of creative job in television went on holiday and insightful, inventive programming was replaced with a one-size-fits-all approach. Reality TV was pretty good when Big Brother first hit our screens, and I’ve got no objections to it per se, but I wish TV bosses would change the formats a little. Put people in totally exceptional circumstances, order them to perform a bit,  perhaps throw in some celebs, singing and some engineered romance or fighting, and hey presto! it’s a producer’s dream. But what you actually end up with is a bizarre menagerie of the fame-hungry and, in some cases, the exploited.

I don’t think we should necessarily decrease our coverage of reality TV shows, but I’d vary it more. We should always strive to find new angles on the latest twists, and be creative in our approach to the features, even if the producers of the said programmes aren’t.

Whose opinion do you agree with? You decide.

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