Reality TV is a television format in which ‘ordinary’ people willingly participate. They don’t act; they do, for real. A reality TV show is hence defined by the activity it features. For example, if the participants are going around in cars, arresting people; you have a ‘cops’ reality TV show.

The reality TV genre has an identifiable sub-genre. For example, Masterchef. In this sub-genre, the participants not only do things, they get lectured at by experts. Often, a participant does badly and gets shouted at. He or she may lose and get eliminated. Sometimes a participant does well, and wins. He or she then goes through. Usually, a participant has a chance to improve. This is always the case if the participant is featuring in just the one show: at the beginning of the show, he or she does badly, gets lectured at, is made to cry if at all susceptible, and then improves.

We need a name for this sub-genre. ‘Improvement TV’ is an convenient choice, but it suggests self-improvement, and that’s too woolly a concept. ‘Results TV’ might be better. After all, results are what matter. The fillet of tuna must be perfectly cooked, and the sauce must be delicately flavoured. The dress must be just right, and the make-up must be exquisitely coordinated. At the same time, a participant can’t spend all day about it, so perhaps ‘performance TV’ is what we want. The idea is that, with guidance, the participant will learn to consistently perform at an excellent level. Come to that, why not ‘excellence TV’?

Then again, failure means bad things; bad as in worse than a brow-beating. Putative dates will mock; wealthy and demanding customers will not pay; the participant’s business will fail. If the show is a contest, the participant may be eliminated, once the fruits of his or her poor efforts have been thoroughly reviewed. So perhaps another name candidate might be ‘consequences TV’. Fail, and there will be consequences.

We’re still missing something, though. We’ve been focussing on the participant and his or her efforts, and we’ve ignored the expert. But the expert is crucial to the success of, well, everything. There must be standards; the expert sets them. There must be motivation and encouragement; the expert provides it. There must be specialist knowledge; the expert has it. Crucially, there must be an ethos of success; the expert knows what this is, and will impart it, if the participant pays attention (the participant is very lucky to have the opportunity). In short, the expert is virtuous; the participant, less so. So there’s our coinage; ‘virtue TV’. It’s the stuff of our times. Draw near and be made virtuous.

1 thought on “VTV

  1. Actually, there’s a perfectly good name for this kind of programme already: aspirational tv, in which middle class people get to try and fulfill their dreams of becoming a chef, moving to the country or finally buying that villa in Tuscany, while the equally middleclass audience aspires to one day too become a candidate on the show.

Comments are closed.