Reality TV Does More Harm Than Good


Video Lessons

Warmer questions

  1. Have you ever watched TV shows like Big Brother, America’s Next Top Model, Cast Away, or any other programme?
  2. Why do you feel they have become so popular over years?
  3. Is it reasonable to say that these shows are in fact documentaries and not just for entertainment? Why or why not?

Reading section

The bicycle for the mind

In the last 20 years, reality TV has become a very popular trend with millions of followers all around the globe. These programs deal with real people placed in real life situations and conflicts in order to see how these resolved and how their relationships work out. The main idea of these shows is attractive: zero actors, real contexts and a lot of drama. In addition, the shows are set within different dynamics such as survival, physical competition, musical talent contests and a long list of etcetera which includes the fan favorite social experiment and dating kind of shows like “Jersey Shore” or the “a day in the life of” type of show, like the Kardarshians reality TV program.

There is probably a reality TV show that caters for almost every kind of audience these days, everyone knows about them and everyone has most likely watched them at some point, but are they good or bad? Some people say claim that reality TV is only meant to be addictive to get the attention of the audience and that It can promote negative values among the young. They also say that people who participate in these shows are only looking to profit their 15 minutes of fame and that they place poor goals in people’s lives. Defenders of reality TV shows affirm that you can decide whether to watch or not these programs whenever you want and that parents should be responsible for the contents that their children watch on TV. Whatever side you are in, this debate surely ensues a lot of controversy about a topic that many people consider “normal” everyday TV.

Ideas to consider:

  1. Is there too much reality TV these days?
  2. What is the main concern about reality TV and young people?
  3. Parents should control what kids watch on TV, but can they really control everything?
  4. To say all reality TV is bad would be a big overgeneralization, is there no good reality TV?
  5. Obviously, every network wants to create the most attractive reality show to attract more audiences, but does that mean it still has to be poor in content?

Vocabulary matching

Using the words on the left, match them to the correct definitions on the right.

1. Reality show a. Too dubious or improbable to be believed / extraordinary, impressive.
2. to cross a line b.  A strong desire, goal or ambition.
3. complaint c. To examine and change or remove (parts of a book, etc.) that are considered inconvenient, incorrect or not appropriate.
4. aspiration d. A TV program without actors: real people in particular real contexts or competitions showing how they deal with them and the situations around them.
5. medium e. To prohibit or forbid something.
6. to ban f. One of the means or channels of general communication or entertainment in society, like newspapers or television.
7. to censor g. To do something really bad and go beyond from an acceptable level or limit.
8. painkiller h. Stupid, meaningless or without any sense.
9. unbelievable i. An expression of discontent or dissatisfaction.
10. mindless j. Drug or treatment that relieves pain.

Reality shows A TV program without actors: real people in particular real contexts or competitions showing how they deal with them and the situations around them.
to cross a line To do something really bad and go beyond from an acceptable level or limit.
complaint An expression of discontent or dissatisfaction.
aspiration A strong desire, goal or ambition.
medium One of the means or channels of general communication or entertainment in society, like newspapers or television.
to ban To prohibit or forbid something
to censor To examine and change or remove (parts of a book, etc.) that are considered inconvenient, incorrect or not appropriate.
painkiller Drug or treatment that relieves pain.
unbelievable Too dubious or improbable to be believed / extraordinary, impressive
mindless Stupid, meaningless or without any sense.


Video: Is reality TV good or bad?

The video below is taken from a UK TV show where guests quickly share their opinion on various subjects. While countries like the UK have enjoyed such TV shows for a considerable about of time, their controversy has not subsided.

Video comprehension questions:

First, try to guess the answers to the questions below. Next, watch the video above and try to listen out for the answers.

a) How many complaints did Big Brother receive?
b) According to Lorraine, what do reality shows promote?
c) What artist is quoted by Lorraine?
d) Who feels social pressure over watching reality shows?
e) According to Kevin, are reality shows illegal?
f) What is the name of the reality show where Jake participated?
g) Did Joe do something new in the reality show?
h) What are the people from Big Brother getting out of the show according to Kevin?
i) Is Kevin fan of all reality shows?
j) What is the last phrase that Lorraine says?


a) Over 300 complaints.
b) They promote bad behaviour and bad English according to her.
c) Andy Warhol.
d) Young people
e) No, they aren’t.
f) Splash!
g) He jumped out of a plane.
h) Money.
i) Not at all.
j) “It’s mindless programming watched by mindless people”


Arguments for reality TV

  1. Reality TV reflects the taste of the people of our times. Many people read tabloid newspapers and this type of show is the same but for TV.
  2. People no longer wish to watch structured TV as they no longer connect with what is being made for them. They are looking for authentic stories that are unscripted.
  3. People love stories. They love how other people experience problems or success. How people react is totally natural and a genuine human reaction. By watching these shows people are being informed about how a broader range of people live and work.
  4. It is just entertainment and fun to watch.
  5. Everyone watching and taking part have done so because they have chosen to be a part of the adventure.

Arguments against reality TV

  1. It is low-quality television and slowly destroys more established traditional cultural habits. These programmes little by little change what the average TV should be like. Over time, every show will contain elements were once only in reality TV programmes.
  2. Popularity does not mean it has good taste.
  3. People are easily influenced and these shows encourage people to behave in a way that is not truly natural. These shows often have tasks which are not regular events, it is still scripted and driven by emotion.
  4. It creates celebrities who are not famous for anything except for being on TV. They are talentless and young adults look up to them as a role model when, in fact, they ought to be ignored.

Potential debate motions

  1. There should be a limitation in the amount of time that networks use to present reality shows, that way we ensure it is really limited.
  2. Another solution: let’s create a TV channel specialized only in reality shows: 24 hours of reality TV! That way we don’t have to deal with realities in all the rest of the channels and people would still be able to decide what to watch.
  3. Reality TV shows are not the problem, people and their education is the real problem; society should focus on that and not on the product of that.
  4. Banning all reality TV really is the true solution after all are there really any constructive and educative realities on TV?
  5. If you ban all realities, we risk the possibility of banning many other shows too for the sake of “appropriate censorship”.
    Let people do whatever they want: realities don’t really affect the lives of people who don’t watch them, so what’s all the fuzz about them?
  6. Young people really are influenced by realities: every reality should ensure that it presents good and appropriate contents for teenagers and if not they could suffer from penalties and even closure.
  7. Whatever you do, young people are still going to find a way to watch the shows they like, so what do we bother so much about it? Let’s just focus on kids.
  8. Some reality shows like Master Chef or The Voice are exciting and appropriate, but others, like Jersey Shore and some celebrity realities, are simply dumb and even vulgar, so people should vote on the reality shows that they think should continue or not on TV, that way it is truly fair.
  9. Let’s mix reality shows with other shows or try to integrate topics of science and history in them to make them more productive for young people, even if they become a little bit more boring, that’s not important at all.


You have probably watched or at least have watched a reality show in the past, so you must have your own opinion about them. Whatever that opinion is, remember that it is very important to consider other people’s thoughts about this, even if you think you are right. Reality TV is a fairly new phenomenon and it might lose its popularity as other things in time, or maybe it could evolve into something much more sophisticated and better as networks look for new ways to keep people entertained, so it is important to see how it evolves and in order to draw better conclusions and opinions. Can you imagine a reality show in 50 years?

Reading list

Reality: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) by OUP Oxford

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