How Reality TV Treats Its Audience Like Idiots
Opinion|Oct 21, 2019

How Reality TV Treats Its Audience Like Idiots

We Don't Expect Reality TV To Be Pitched That Far Above The Lowest Common Denominator, But Treating Its Audience Like They Have Brains At All Would Be A Good Start.
Ben Pobjie

It’s possible that you lead a rich and fulfilling life, and therefore have never seen the television programme Bride and Prejudice. If so, a quick primer: engaged couples come on the show to argue with the parent of one of them, who disapproves of the union. They air their grievances and then the suspense ratchets up as we wait to see whether the disapproving parent will show up to the wedding. Gripping stuff, right?

I guess that as a concept, the only flaw in Bride and Prejudice is that is patently a load of bollocks. Here, we are told, is a parent who loathes their child’s choice of partner. The very idea of their offspring pledging their troth to this person enrages them to the point where they are willing to contemplate cutting off contact with their own beloved progeny forever, rather than give the couple their blessing.

But also, we are told, a mother who hates her son’s fiancée so much she’ll disown him rather than accept her, when asked if she’d like to appear on TV with that fiancée and chat about the issue, says yes, sure, sounds fun!

Which leads me to say: Oh come ON. Do you, the people who came up with this cretinous concept and inflicted it on the public, actually expect us to swallow this blatant pig excrement? It’s so obviously phoney, so impossible to take seriously, that Channel Seven might as well come round to our house, kick us in the nuts and write “MORON” across our wall in lipstick, as present it to us as “reality TV”. They are telling us unambiguously that they think we are stupid. They are counting on it.

Now, some people will watch Bride and Prejudice, and some people will buy into the idea, thus proving that when networks decide to insult their viewers’ intelligence, they’re not being entirely inaccurate. But I’d like to think there are still enough of us out here with a modicum of mental acuity and a dash of self-respect to protest in no uncertain terms about the trend of TV producers assuming everyone who owns a set is a drooling imbecile.

Take The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, for example. At a pinch, we might be able to hear contestants on these shows assure us that they’re there to find love and that scoring a gig on breakfast radio played no part in their decision to apply, and let it slide as part of the necessary televisual lubricant that allows shows like this to run smoothly. But how many times can we hear the Bachelor/ette tell us about the extravagant date “they” have organised, knowing full well it was organised by a producer and the on-screen talent had nothing to do with it, before we cry, “Enough!”?

How many times can we be assured by Masterchef that the tasting happens within seconds of the cooking? How many times can My Kitchen Rules contestants pretend they’re in their own house? How many times are we to pretend that Dave Hughes is even trying to guess who the Masked Singer is, before we declare that we are not complete idiots and we’re sick of being treated like we are?

Look, it’s TV. I know it’s not a medium that can survive by pitching that far above the lowest common denominator. But I don’t ask that TV overestimates our brains: just that it assumes we have any. Is that too much to ask? Apparently, for now, it is.