Since the early 2000s, reality TV has dominated the p.m. airwaves. Countless millions of person-hours have been squandered watching so-called “real people” do any number of rather un-real things. Swapping wives. Surviving with strangers on exotic islands. Racing around the world searching for clues. You get the idea.
Whatever the theme, there are a handful of key elements which make these shows somewhat compelling:
a quest fraught with great challenges
a maximally motley crew
inexperienced people put in unfamiliar roles
plenty of DIY (do it yourself)
Additional mainstays of the genre are mean people and the constant threat of elimination.
But apart from the pounds we’re likely to put on watching from the comfort of our couches, there’s not much for viewers to gain by spending their time this way.
It recently dawned on me that one project I, and Hiram colleagues and students, have been involved in possesses all the...