Sunday, October 24, 2010

Are shows like the X Factor and the Apprentice good or evil?

The safe view, especially in such a purportedly high-brow blog as this, would be that reality TV shows are a bad thing. It wouldn't take long to come up with a whole host of arguments to support this view. For example - The X Factor puts money into Simon Cowell's already over-loaded money-bag, the show puts too much pressure on the vulnerable contestants (witness Susan Boyle in BGT), there's a pantomime element to the arguments between the judges and. above all, surely watching the X Factor isn't the good life? Similarly, the Apprentice has made  a hero - nay, a Lord -  out of Alan Sugar, gives air time to some rather unpleasant and over-ambitious characters and  lauds crude capitalist values.
And yet, and yet ....in her book on Positive Psychology. Ilona Boniwell points out that research shows that whilst watching TV in general reduces happiness (so go on a TV diet!) watching TV soaps like Eastenders is actually correlated with increased happiness.  My hunch is that  this is mainly because watching Soaps  creates a sense of community with their friends, family and colleagues who also  watch the show. So whilst watching TV is bad for you, having a sense of community is good for you and outweighs the harm from watching TV.
Could the same apply to watching reality TV shows like the X Factor ? Well,maybe, just maybe. Speaking personally my young family and I look forward to watching these shows and have a lot of fun debating the merits of various contestants and predicting what will happen next. Would it be better if we spent the winter evenings discussing Plato or playing old games like charades or writing stories for each other? Quite possibly - but then would we be doing those things if we weren't watching the X Factor?
So it's a cautious  thumbs up from me. Do you agree -  or am, I, to follow the theme of this week's X Factor show - just rationalising one of my own guilty pleasures?

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