A Glimpse at Reality

The impact of the pandemic on reality television

Jadyn S., Staff Writer

The pandemic has impacted nearly every aspect of people’s lives, as many have been adapting to the “new normal” for over a year now. 

However, the virus has also taken a serious toll on the entertainment industry, specifically, reality television. In shows like Survivor or Big Brother, ordinary people are placed in a different environment and rely on social interaction, usually in order to win large sums of money. 

“Last year the joy of cocooning in a show was compounded by the fact that pre-pandemic content also served as a hermetically sealed world. One where stories and characters were protected in the past, existing in a dream state we didn’t realize was precious till we praised from it,” said Wendy Syfret in her article titled, “I turned to reality TV to escape during the pandemic- until reality caught up.”

To cope with the strange world we are living in, many people, including Syfret, turned to watching reruns of reality television, as it seemed more realistic and familiar than current events.  Watching these older shows give viewers the chance to reminisce on the past when life was simpler and allow them to look forward to better days ahead. However, shows that have continued production are beginning to create programs that integrate elements of the new status quo, making reality television less of an escape from the real world.  

Despite many TV shows being able to continue filming in these challenging times, some had to halt production to keep their contestants and crew safe.

For example, the Amazing Race, a television series that was first produced in 2001, had to temporarily cancel production of the thirty third season amid filming. 

“My heart went out to the cast, who had taken time off from work, who had sacrificed a lot to come onto the show. We got everybody home safely to their families, which we told them was our number one priority. It’s the one thing we lose sleep over, making sure that we can get these amazing people around the world safely,” said Phil Keoghan, host of the Amazing Race, according to TV Series Finale in their article, “The Amazing Race: Season 33; Phil Keoghan Talks Shutting Down Production of the CBS Series.” 

The series The Amazing Race has contestants travel around the world, racing through overcrowded streets, and competing in various competitions that test players’ physical, social and mental abilities. Various forms of transportation are needed, and contestants must communicate with natives of the country they are visiting for directions and further assistance, which would increase their chances of contracting the virus.

With travel restrictions, producers predict that The Amazing Race will not return to filming for quite some time. 

“It was one of the first US-based shows to shut down, and by our estimation, it could be one of the last to start,” said Matt and Jess Carter, writers for a television commentary and blog website. 

As production of the Amazing Race series is currently on pause, the host, Phil Keoghan began to find other ways to bring joy and entertainment into people’s homes. He created the show Tough as Nails which celebrates America’s hard-working individuals that keep this country running. 

Unlike the Amazing Race, Tough as Nails is not centered upon traveling around the world, but for the recording of season two, several restrictions were still established to ensure the safety of both the participants and production team. 

“It’s fascinating to watch shows about human interaction at a time when that’s the one thing we’re not really able to do,” said Dr. Tanya Horeck according to “The power of reality TV in a pandemic” by BBC News. 

Horeck is specifically referring to the television show Big Brother, a competition primarily built on establishing relationships and forging alliances. Amidst the quarantine, when social gatherings were rare, people turned to these reality television shows, as they seemed familiar in a time of uncertainty. 

The pandemic made reality television less relatable, as the quarantine forced people to isolate themselves from one another. Most reality television shows are based on social interactions and relationships, which many were deprived of during the shutdown. However, by watching people interact, viewers can imagine the better future ahead, and revisit the pre-pandemic world that no one will ever take for granted again.🔳