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Are Reality TV Shows With Positive Black Representation Most Likely to Get Cancelled?

I’ve always admired my close friend’s family because they have a structure that isn’t commonly displayed on television today. A mom and a dad, who are married and happy, with sisters and a pet dog all living in a two story house in a great neighborhood. I told her that it would make a great reality show and she replied “it would be too boring and get cancelled the first season. We don’t have any drama.”

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Photo Credit: VH1

Photo Credit: VH1

With very few shows anchored by black leads and exhibiting positive black representation on major television networks, there has been an increase of shows produced with an all black cast for a high demand form of entertainment — reality shows.

 

In a social media, pop-culture obsessed society, where twitter beef, DM scandals and Instagram feuds make the “most trending” news and receive coverage on news outlets, reality shows and social media sites prove that anyone with a large following can become a celebrity or admired as one. It seems that every other day, a new show is pumped out like fast food meals and tested among the masses.

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Why are reality shows so successful? People watch for different reasons. For some, it provides relief and a distraction from everyday issues. It gives us a glimpse into the lives of other people in the same way that we scroll through our news feed and look at snap-stories of the people that we follow. We are given the impression that cameras are following people for an entire day, exposing the drama and embarrassing moments that they encounter. To some, it feels good to know that even the most seemingly glamorous lives aren’t all that they appear to be behind the filters and 15 second videos.

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“Love and Hip Hop” is notorious for its soap-opera formatting — baby momma drama, fist fights, cheating, sex, manipulation and family problems. Though focused on very little love and hip hop, it attracts millions of viewers every week. Originally centered on people New York, it has expanded to Atlanta, Hollywood and is set to cover more cities in the future. Housewives of Atlanta, on BRAVO, covers the lives of women living in Atlanta as they juggle their businesses, social lives and families.

 

Similar to Love and Hip Hop, it barely favors the title, with little-to-no housewives at this point. Interestingly enough, Kim Fields, was brought on the show for Season 8 and viewers, as well as some cast mates complained that she wasn’t a right fit for the show. This is odd, because she is a woman who, in the confessionals, talks about how much she loves her family and enjoys being a mom/wife. Isn’t that what the show was supposed to be about in the first place? This makes me wonder…is a reality show likely to fail without drama or do people still desire to see something more heartwarming?

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According to Edictive, there’s different formats of reality television could be simplified to a list of seven subgenres including documentaries/Docu-series, Competition/Elimination and Makeover/Renovation. This makes it easier for producers to start the casting process. Docu-series applies to this discussion the most because the scenes are edited, like a scripted television show and multiple plot-lines are tied together to make it a seamless story.

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Reality television can help a channel that is struggling with factors such as the lack of viewer engagement and brand visibility, correct those problems and compete with big competitors. This style of programming isn’t new but the presence of social media enhances the opportunities for brand expansion and profit maximization.

 

Anyone with a concept can pitch a reality show to a production company. It’s especially easy for brands to advertise themselves on these shows, which is why cast members are constantly meeting up at restaurants to discuss drama and then leaving without eating any food, and a wide shot of the businesses’ storefront or banner is shown at the top of the scene. Bringing in non-celebrities may cost you less than to hire current or established ones…so if you’re watching a show like Love and Hip Hop and wondering why there’s a bunch of “nobodies” on the cast, keep that in mind.

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Is reality television real? I think about it this way…anything that involves heavy editing for ratings isn’t completely (real). Production and cast members understand that if they don’t bring the drama, their checks could be smaller and the show could get taken off of the air.

 

There’s different types of drama and the production team makes a conscious decision of what will be included in the final product and which scenes will be trashed. Everything is manipulated for your entertainment.

 

When people do these confessionals (which basically involves them sitting in a chair and answering questions about moments throughout the show and other cast members), I imagine that the people behind the camera ask certain questions to stir up conflict.

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Having a camera following you around all day, while hanging out with people that you aren’t close to off camera can take a toll on you mentally — along with being watched and criticized by millions of people. Of course reality stars wouldn’t come out and say that the show is heavily contrived but that’s probably because they’re under a contract.This is similar to how employers make you sign papers to make sure that you can’t talk crap about your job if they hire you without facing consequences.

 

The checks earned from being on a reality television cast are probably bigger than anything that a typical job would pay. It would make really great television if a bunch of stars came together to discuss just how phony it all really is and explicitly illustrate the process from the auditions/interviews to the months of filming. I’d watch that!

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Woah, wait, so you’re basically saying that popular reality shows that are out today don’t have positive black representation? I’ve seen really nice moments on some shows, like the beautiful scene between Phaedra Parks and her son, Ayden, as she was driving him to school for his fist day. He was scared, telling his mother, “I want you to go wherever I go.” This led to a prayer, as she held his hand, reaching out to the back seat. He brought her and even myself to tears.

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Credit: Life & Style

 

The love story between rappers Remy, Ma and Papoose on Love & Hip Hop: NY, as they prepared for their wedding was my favorite. I do however, without a doubt think that both franchises had the space to go in another direction, but the production teams chose to go with contrived material instead and push it on the cast members. Reviews and comments across social media platforms have proven that people want to see something more fulfilling and would enjoy it if they saw it on a show every week.

 

Reality TV

Photo Credit: VH1

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I have to disagree with my friend. There’s nothing boring about a show that focuses on a family. T.I.’s: The Family Hustle (VH1) documents the professional and family life of rapper, T.I. and has been running for five seasons. On “Runs House” (MTV), cameras followed the rapper-turned-reverend, Joseph Simmons aka Rev Run and his family.

 

“It’s a Manns World” (BET) features the family/professional lives of entertainers David and Tamela Mann and is on it’s second season (as of 2016). I caught the show when it was on and was instantly drawn in. The episode was about David and Tamela Mann preparing for a fashion show competition among family members and celebrity guests to see who had the most style. These shows prove that there are possibilities for family focused shows to achieve longevity and success.

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The reality is that anything on television can be taken down. They are just products being tested and if it achieves success, they will continue to get reproduced over and over. Producers pay attention to the analytics and keep what works. If the episodes with the fights get more views, then that’s what they will keep.

 

What many viewers don’t realize is how much power they have. “Sorority Sisters” is an example of this. It showed women who represented well-recognized sororities stirring up drama and arguing. People boycotted the show because they felt that it was disrespectful to the history/culture of Greek Organization and it was pulled before the season even finished. If viewers decide that a show should get taken down, they can make it happen. If you don’t like a show, watching it won’t do anything but add to the viewership.

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The staying power of reality shows depends on the engagement of viewers. Understand that no one is force-feeding you anything. Producers care about their brands too and when money isn’t coming in, they will listen to the complaints. I feel that the same could possibly lead to the increase of more shows with black leads. Without viewers, these shows would be nothing, but if a lot of people aren’t complaining, things will stay the same.

1 Comment
  • I couldn’t resist commenting. Perfectly written!

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