How real is reality?

Television is a mass communication medium that provides various both entertainment and information to meet the needs of diverse audiences.

It has existed for many years and its content has been presented in many ways; what we are going to discuss is the television shows that are categorized as “reality shows”. For the sake of this report we will exclude documentary, news, and non-fictional television programs from the definition.

The reality television programming popularly known as “reality shows” can be presented in many forms. Reality shows are produced in the form of games, quiz, or many other structures that in some countries, particularly Japan, can be regarded as absurd, silly, and ridiculous.
Even before television, radio produced programs intended to illustrate the realities of their subjects, people, or situations; these also were unscripted. There has long been an appetite for reality in the entertainment media. The audience wants to see into other people’s lives and producers love the low production costs.

An appearance on a television show can make people instant celebrities; however they need to sacrifice some of their privacy and dignity. Their lives become more open to scrutiny when the shows are broadcast. The early reality shows, starting the 1960s, were becoming too personal, they focused for instance on poverty, weddings and dating games. The reality shows with which we are most familiar started to become popular in the 1980s. The shows began utilizing modern technology; cameras and microphones became small enough to be easily moveable and virtually unobtrusive. Current technology shortens editing hours, and modern trends are to make quick cuts and to include dramatic or suspenseful music to make up for their lack on the raw footage.
Nowadays, reality shows are numerous and it is almost impossible to list them. This clearly demonstrates their popularity – both among their producers and the audiences.

With widely broadcast programs, the shows could make people instant celebrities, causing unprepared people a great deal of personal anxiety. Programs like Kontes Dangdut Indonesia (KDI), Akademi Fantasi Indosiar (AFI) and Indonesian Idol have made the participants famous. Not all of those people can cope with sudden fame; some of them ended up having psychological problems that created difficulties in their lives. One example is Januarisman (Aris), the winner of Indonesian Idol 2008, whose family became so disturbed by the sudden change of life style, as a result of the constant intruding of the fans.

It isn’t just the contestants who suffer negative impact, however. The audiences themselves suffer a degree of degradation. People seem to enjoy watching the humiliation of people pictured in the shows. We find that people are in an awkward situation and are being humiliated, but the viewers seem to enjoy the scenes. Things like this can be seen in Fear Factor or other programs, that encourage the audience to enjoy humiliation as entertainment.

However, reality shows have also some impact politically in some countries, especially those under authoritarian regimes. People in a country like China, for instance, find that unscripted shows demonstrate freedom of expression and doing thing differently.

In Middle East countries, particularly Muslim countries like Afghanistan, women are strictly forbidden to do things openly. Afghan women see that they really want to have the same freedom as the women who live in other countries. Reality shows have contributed a vision and depiction an alternative lifestyle. So it is not all that bad.

However, some shows sometimes are not really “reality”; they are made to appear as such by some coaching beforehand. This arguably makes a reality show a “fake” show. These participants can be seen more as actors, having gone through drills by the show crews and, of course, they would undergo some post-production processing before being broadcast .

Many people make negative comments about these shows, especially those which were produced by the local TV stations in Indonesia.

“Oh no, all reality shows in Indonesia are fake “, Titi said to her friend.

Sad to say, some television shows are copying each other’s ideas. Therefore, we may find many so-called “reality shows” produced by local TV stations; different types of shows yet with great similarities among them.

Like it or not, reality shows play an important role in our life. With a very simple concept, it could be seen as a reflection of ordinary people’s lives or even offering some insights into the lives of some successful or high achieving people.

The latter should be seen as motivating factors, inspiring people to try to reach similar achievements. Some reality television programs originally produced in the early 2000s in the United States have reached extreme popularity throughout the world and it can be seen that many countries, including Indonesia, have tried hard to copy the ideas. TV series like: The Survivor and American Idol have been at the top of the list in the United States and also have enjoyed a lot of publicity. As such they have had a wide impact globally. There are some other series that are successful and even have been franchised in many countries, including Indonesia, for instance: Indonesian Idol.

But, is it true that all reality shows in Indonesia are “fake” shows?

A reality show is just entertainment. If you see most reality shows in Indonesia, you’ll see that they are generally something that relates to people, events or current situations. A portrait of life may be featured by an ordinary person, not a celebrity. The only reason not to use the celebrity as the actor is because the story is about real daily life activities. It is simple, yet it is intended to be an entertaining program.

What makes people judge that reality shows in Indonesia are not really reality?

There is no reality show that is one hundred percent real. If the producer tries to make it a “real” reality show, it might not be a reality show; it should be called a documentary. The mission of a reality show is to entertain society and to be enjoyed. With a little bit of exaggeration, the show will be more dramatic. But, the show must be good so people will not get bored while watching the show.

Among the reality shows currently being shown on the local TV stations in Indonesia are:

1. Pacar usil (Naughty boy/girl friend): shown in AnTV – it is a rather unique program featuring the naughtiness of a boy or girl friend making fun on each other.
2. Orang ke tiga (The 3rd person), featuring a problem of a spouse with the 3rd person entering in their lives.
3. John Pantau: criticizing the life style of people. For instance, the life of the government employees.
4. Termehek-mehek: stories about man or woman who wanted to rebuild a relationship with their ex.
5. Maafin dong ( Please forgive me) : a reality shows supposedly to help people to express their regret and asking for forgiveness
6. Cinta monyet: is about the first love stories of early teens.
7. Pacar pertama (First boy/girl friend) : about the first girl or boy friend
8. Cinlok: is about love affairs between celebrities during the film making at the shooting location.
9. Kacau (chaos): is regarding the chaotic situations in one’s life in a day.
10. Playboy kabel : featuring the life of four playboys trying to get some ‘victims’
11. Backstreet ; about secret or unapproved love
12. Makin gaya : about improving the appearance of person through changing their make-up and dress style
13. Mata-mata : is about unapproved boy or girl friend by the parent
14. CLBK : featuring of the returning old love
15. Jika aku menjadi.... (If I were….) : is about people who must try to live in the conflicting situation from the one they have.

As we can see, some of those programs are simply made to entertain and as stated before, people love to see other people being victimized, but many of them are about boy -girl relationships.

Everybody should realize that Termehek-Mehek, Katakan Cinta, Playboy Kabel, three shows categorized as “Love Reality Shows”, are selling dramatic love scenes regardless of their relation to reality.

“Ah, Termehek-Mehek is fake. It is all scripted. The story wasn’t making any sense at all” said Titi, an extra on CLBK when I asked her opinion on reality shows.

What is now becoming very popular but sacrificing the privacy of many people is the kind show that is called “infotainment”. These shows usually are very gossipy and intrude in the personal matters of the celebrities.

What is disturbing is that the privacy of the people in the show is being openly described, often up the level of humiliating the persons. Even those who are facing marital problems that may lead to real divorce, nothing is hidden and even some very private matters are exposed openly. The programs are also on the celebrities that are still in the initial stages of developing a relationship, but it is not limited to that. Some feature the sad part of a celebrity’s life like what happened to the late Sophan Sofyan who died tragically in a motorbike accident in East Java while participating in the Independence Day 2008 celebration.

The Nielsen Media Research (NMR) survey found that reality show viewers may also want the chance to shine in their life, as we see in their favorite reality shows: star-search contests. Shows such as Indonesian Idol, AFI, and KDI give ordinary people the chance to change their lives 180 degrees by becoming singing stars or comedians.

"More young Indonesians want the chance to appear on such shows. In conclusion, many of them want to improve their lives dramatically," NMR executive director said during an interview.

People seem so desperate to change their lives by taking short cut – a quick, easy way. In reality, it is not that easy and may even lead to a lot of difficulties in their life.
Nielsen did not explain the new trend, simply saying that horror and mystery shows remain the most popular for TV audiences. In terms of popularity, children's programs and entertainment shows, including reality shows and celebrity gossip programs, followed horror and mystery series and are still favored by the Indonesian viewers.

Reality shows apparently provide a glimmer hope for many ordinary people, but most of them will probably never get their big break to appear on let alone win on these shows. At least, these shows have some educational value for the contestants, in that they may at least gain some performing experience at the auditions.

Whatever one thinks of reality shows, the truth is they are not real. They can’t be real. Having a camera and a microphone in an ordinary person’s face is not reality. It is, however, entertainment. That’s why they are produced and that’s why they are watched. If one wants genuine reality, one would be well advised to turn off the television, get up from the sofa and go out into the real world.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Ah, jadi inget pas kuliah di Komunikasi Unair juga... Gr2 kul di Komunikasi, aku jadi gak suka lg nonton gosip, reality show n sinetron... Hehe2.

    Btw, buat sarannya di paragraf terakhir yg di bold, klo dimatiin TV nya, gmn nasib sinetron mu, Cha :p???

  3. huehehe.
    i think, i will get migrain if i continue reading. :D
    kidding cha.
    keep writing!

  4. sekarang ni memang banyak "reality show" yang ditayangkan di tv..bukan sahaja di indonesia & malaysia sahaja, malah seluruh dunia! aku sendiri di Malaysia pening kepala dengan program2 reality show ni.. =/

    "If one wants genuine reality, one would be well advised to turn off the television, get up from the sofa and go out into the real world."
    hahahaa good statement & advice! believe or not, i never watch any program "reality show"! for me; live in the truth world is more exciting than joining any 'waste' program like that! >:)

    don't mad! its just my 2 cent.. ;)

  5. @d-Wee hehe. Terserah orang kan mau nonton apa ga... :) itu hak mereka.. Lagipula, memang seperti itulah duni per-tv-an dan perfilman... :)

  6. @mydudezz Nope.. It's ok... Lagipula, kalo Icha mau marah, ngapain juga nulis kayak gitu. hehe I won't write something yang aku sendiri ga mau di kasih masukan atau kritik ;)


  7. @d-Wee!:
    maybe kalau tv dimatiin, icha akan jadi bintang singer laa kot! tak perlu tv pun takpa, radio ada! :P

    aku faham..icha mesti udah pikirin dulu good/bad about sumthngs u want to write, right? pada aku, tak salah if we share what we feel wit others..maybe some people won't agree wit us but some kind does! ;)

  8. tapi sebenernya reality (semi) show itu adalah sebuah kebohongan besar yang ditampilkan kepada publik dan itu adalah sebuah tantangan terhadap para media apakah layak dikonsumsi masyrakat atau hanya sekedar mengejar uang tanpa melihat dampak negatif yang diakibatkan dari ini semua !

    Bahkan ada acara yang "Curhat" tentang masalah pribadi dan diselesaikan dengan "ada" sedikit kekerasan yang tidak layak dikonsumsi masyarakat .

    lebih kedepannya semoga para media tidak mencari materi namun juga memikirkan dampak negatif yang akan ditimbulkan .

  9. biasa d.... org ga pernah puas...
    klo 100% unscripted, dibilang membosankan...
    klo scripted, walopun cuma beberapa % dibilang palsu...

    great writing anyway... :D
    rada byk aja.... >.<
    otaknya ms blom masuk blajar mode abis liburan

  10. nah, sekarang coba komen lagi deh.. moga aja bisa.. kayaknya kemaren icha denger waktu dini bilang nggak bisa komentar di blog,,
    BTW, mumpung lagi turun gunung so bisa komentar dikit2.. moga icha betah and sukses disana... wish u all the best deh!

  11. "...people love to see other people being victimized..."

    waow it's really benar2 proyek brainwash budaya sakit jiwa...

    dan 'mereka' benar2 really serius agar akhirnya gue yg jd 'korban'-nya. sialan.

    anyway, thanks for posting this one yo. :)

  12. Did you really write this? I totally didn't expect this from you and you know why?

  13. hahahaha.............
    asoy dah postingan mbak satu ini. Btw promosi nih kayanya???? Hehehehehe...........

    kunjungi blog gw dong. www.emmanuelthespecialone.blogspot.com
    Thx b4