There is no doubt on the popularity of reality TV. It is one of the few remaining elements of popular entertainment where characterization is considered as the plot. There are many reasons why reality television does well. People became voyeurs to the life of women who are privileged and rich in Real Housewives and there exists an awaited climax in Survivor.
In terms of the narrative value of Real Housewives, engaging in pettiness has become productive because it transforms into storytelling. Reality television storytelling is exploratory because it does not demand linear progress; the temperaments of the characters whether authentic or played up for the cameras dictates the agitation that creates a narrative.
One of the beautiful and rewarding aspects of reality television is it allows characters to move freely from a spectrum of heroism or villainy. In the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, Kim Richards has transformed from being lovable and nostalgic to a depressing addict who is manipulative many times over in a single episode. However, in spite of the contradictions in personality, the reality characters remain legible as personalities.
In the realm of reality television, there are only a few current creators who have been able to work in this patient, dynamic and narrative mode. The current three according to Andrea Siegel are Matthew Weiner, Louis CK and Will Forte. Weiner works in the narrative mode of characterization that can be described as literacy and God only knows what will be the finale.
Louis CK knows that just because a joke is using space as a resource, it isn’t something that can be crammed like a hamper and it does not mean that a story is not actually happening. Will Forte has recently pulled off what can be considered as a network television miracle by using a plot that was about the audience getting to know who the protagonist is. People did watch which must really have made some of the note giver’s heads to pop over at Fox. Allowing alternative narrative in popular entertainment is pretty obvious yet when you turn over a plot to people upstairs; you can be treated as a failure in writing.