Tap to Read ➤

What Type of Reality TV Shows Have an Upper Hand

Arun Prabhu
What the past decade has brought to the spotlight is a swarm of reality shows, keeping the common citizens latched to the TV like parasites to their host bodies. So which type of reality shows surpass the rest, you ask? Mark Burnett may be the only one to actually answer that.
If a line says anything about the face of reality TV, you will find none better than the words of Mark Burnett which says; "There's nothing like biting off more than you can chew, and then chewing anyway." He is a pioneer in reality TV; if the type of success attained by the shows he has made are anything to go by!
After watching all your favorite reality shows one after the other, you might just ask what type gets the upper hand. From The Apprentice to the Masterchef series, Extreme Makeover to The Biggest Loser, each comes with its own portrayal of man's behavior.
Inspired or determined, passive-aggressive or just plain bitchy, all the contestants go through whatever torture devices that the show producers can come up with. And we get to see it all, from the comfort of our sofas and behind our TV dinners! If you look at it with optimism, watching TV has never been better!

The Best in Reality TV

Let's take a look at the biggest grossing reality TV shows over the past decade and review the changing trends that took place.


Whatever the challenge may be, whatever obstacles may stand in one's way, the sense of achievement after you win each round is exhilarating. Viewers love to watch people battle each other to gain the coveted final prize.
Whether it's a cooking contest like Hell's Kitchen or an endurance competition like The Amazing Race, a viewer will generally pick his/her favorite and root for them till the end. It's the positive result after an episode filled with trials and tribulations that keeps the viewer hooked.
Survivor: Borneo picked up a record 18 million viewers on its second week on air. Shows like The Bachelor and Temptation Island present an alternate reality fueled by wealth and looks, while shows like The Biggest Loser aim for the compassion of the crowd, as the contestants lose weight and pour their hearts out on TV.

Reality Shows on Music and Dance

Shows like American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance amass a large portion of TV ratings. They are, in essence, one of the best chances for aspiring artists to get to the top, which is what makes these shows so loved.
Shows like these usually start off on rating lower than they started on, as more and more viewers gather to see who wins the show towards the end. They also use a public voting system to increase viewer interactions and keep them at watching the show.

Science-based Reality

Face it. No matter how simple some things can be, lab coats, safety glasses and special cameras can make them look spectacular! Time Warp is such a show that uses high quality equipment to capture things in super slow motion. Mythbusters follows tales, both old and new, and establish them as true, false or plausible.

Cooking Shows

This is a segment dominated by TV shows like Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations and Nigella's Kitchen. What mostly keeps the viewers latched is the preparation and presentation of the food. As obviously the viewer can't taste it, care is taken to ensure the best presentation pattern of food. It also revolves around global cuisines that most viewers may not actually get to taste, but generate an interest and liking for.

Celebrity Lives

Everyone wants a look into the personal lives of their favorite celebrities. For Paris Hilton, The Simple Life generated quite the ratings at first. So did The Flavor of Love, where they tried to find a suitable match for Flavor Flav. You also got to see the celebrities in shows that capitalize on them, terming their show as 'the celebrity version', where average Joes are replaced by well-known faces.

Uncommon/Popular Social Lives

This type of show uses a rather unconventional method (when it can find one) and gives the viewer a glimpse of people or families that are out of the ordinary. The prime example of this was the once successful (later became disastrous and eventually shut down) John and Kate Plus 8, the couple with twins and a sextuplet.
You got to see how they tried to manage regular life while trying to feed 8 kids. Another example would be Jersey Shore, which involves the social lives of 8 people in Jersey.

The Shows With the Edge

Taking all these shows into consideration, what would you think, is the biggest selling point of reality TV shows today? The answer - they play on human emotions; namely, the feeling of success and the consequences of rage.

Positive Emotions

Compassion and determination are the best ways to dominate ratings. Shows like Extreme Makeover: Home Edition keep you glued to the TV by trying to gain sympathy towards the participants. The human ability to focus and surmount against the odds is also a popular feeling for getting ratings.
The key to these positive emotions is that, to portray their significance, there needs to be a copious amount of negativity, like what the participants have already been through till now or what they are going to go through ahead.

Negative Emotions

Fighting, revenge, stereotypical jokes and foul mouthing seem to gather audiences as well. They may end up being the type of shows that you 'love to hate'. Jersey Shore is one example. Hell's Kitchen incorporates Gordon Ramsay's ever-increasing anger against the contestants. The Apprentice shows the dog-eat-dog ways of the corporate world.
Love them or hate them, reality shows have been around for the past decade and will still continue to exist. Whether the shows are ethical or not, can be held up for debate, but it won't change the ratings by much.
The main reason as to why someone will watch a reality show is the attraction to the morality and status of the contestants and the ability to fantasize themselves in the contestant's shoes.
Reality shows are a way for the common man to believe that there can actually be a way to become famous one day. The show that can do all of this, gains the ultimate upper hand.