Well, this might sound like an academic piece, let me assure you, it’s not. In other words, let’s have a lighter look at the important genres of reality shows in Malayalam television.
Reality shows is one of the major genres in the television industry. It came into existence during the 1990s. The “Bournvita Quiz Contest (BQC)” hosted by Derek O’Brien, was the first of its kind reality show in India, which aired in 1992.
In Kerala, reality shows in Malayalam television laid its stronghold during the 2000s. Since its inception here, it has become a major source of income for various television channels.
Before we move onto the sub-genres of reality shows in Malayalam television, a question remains left unanswered – “Are reality shows actually real?” or “What is the level of reality in a reality show?”
As a student pursuing a Post-Graduation degree in Communication, I can say that no reality shows are a cent percent real and can be understood as semi-scripted, also known as “soft-scripting”.
By semi-scripted, I mean that a basic outline for the show is drawn beforehand and the contestants/participants are left to follow that basic script. Since individuals react differently to similar instances, the uncertainty of their various outcomes is banked on as reality television. Certainly, how a person reacts to an instance cannot be judged or defined earlier; which is where the actual reality kicks in. But the fact that they respond to a pre-defined instance created by the show’s creators, points out the fact that it is semi-scripted.
I’ll give you an example. For instance, Bigg Boss follows a semi-scripted pattern. They have pre-defined tasks and games; and if they see the ratings drop, another task that can potentially spark the audience attention is introduced. The contestant’s responses are unpredictable and that makes it real, though they are put in those instances with proper planning. This is what I meant by a semi-scripted show.
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Now, let’s move on to the genres of reality shows in Malayalam television. Though, they can be classified under number of areas depending on the content, the target audience, etc., we’ll try to understand the dominant forms of reality shows that exist in Kerala.
Our very own “Idea Star Singer” is the best example of this.
Reality shows like India Star Singer search for different talents. Star Singer was a musical reality show, while D4 Dance was a dance reality show. Cooking competitions that mostly happen during the Onam, is also an example of the same. Dhe Chef, which aired on Mazhavil Manorama was a successful cooking reality show. Comedy stars in Asianet, though not a favorite now, was a successful comedy reality show during its inception.
These shows put the contestants through various rounds with frequent elimination processes. The final few contestants are given a final showdown opportunity, from which a winner is selected and given a grand prize by the sponsor of the show. This has been a basic format for almost all talent reality shows.
To increase audience interaction, the voting process is greatly influenced. Earlier, ‘SMS’ was used to vote and later with the arrival of various platforms, online voting has taken its place.
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This might not particularly come as an individual sub-genre alone, as it usually appears under the game show genre. But in Kerala, Quiz shows have a separate audience for themselves. “Ningalkum Aakam Kodeeshwaran” hosted by the iconic superstar Suresh Gopi, got so etched into our minds, that a replacement for him is beyond unthinkable.
The show set up a perfect platform for the audience to participate and win a huge amount of money. This was heavily viewed by the Malayali audience as parents liked the whole general knowledge aspect of it.
The quizzing culture in Kerala started much early with the show Family Tele Quiz hosted by Rekha Menon. This sub-genre has been a very successful reality content with a number of Malayalam channels adopting programmes similar to quiz shows with alternate approaches like Udan Panam in Mazhavil Manorama, Flowers Oru Kodi, etc.
It is not the kind of reality show that is frequently employed but tends to have a huge following if done rightly. Minute to Win it, hosted by Nyla Usha on Mazhavil Manorama was one such show that garnered appreciation. Various games are given to the contestants who would win prizes if they successfully completed them.
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Deal or No Deal, that aired on Surya TV was also another show that followed the gaming show pattern based on luck, probability and mind games. Another successful game show is Star Magic, which airs on Flowers TV. Though the show invited a lot of negative comments and backlashes for the derogatory comments and remarks made; it still continues with a huge fan following. Also, the programme cannot be fully undermined as the show has produced some pure comedic elements and is a stress-buster for many, which is also the reason why it is a fan favourite.
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Personality based Shows
Now, if you academically look for this sub-genre, you might not probably get results, as this is a title that I personally give for such shows. You need an example for it, right? Bigg Boss is the best example of it.
These are shows that put contestants from various backgrounds together in a house with no access to the outside world. This sounds great on paper but it would be total chaos if not executed with a basic plan; which is why I initially talked about the semi-scripting aspect. The audience votes for and support their favourite contestants based on their personality during the show and how they play the game; which is why I classified it as a personality-based show.
This concept is adopted from a Dutch show titled “Big Brother”. Kerala saw this concept first through the show “Malayalee House” on Surya TV. But it got popular, only after Bigg Boss came on Asianet.
Other shows on various channels like Veruthe Alla Bharya and Midukki on Mazhavil Manorama, etc. are all variations of a personality contest.
There are other reality shows like television courts (Janakeeya Kodathi on 24 News), and Kadhayallithu Jeevitham on Amritha TV. The shows that try to resolve conflicts between families have a huge audience.
Why Do Malayalis Love Their Reality Shows?
A major reason why reality television is greatly accepted is because of the catharsis it provides to the audience. Catharsis refers to the purge of emotions, and through reality shows, the audience can connect at an emotional level. Another reason is the curiosity humans have about other people’s lives. These are some of the basic reasons that can be understood by any layman. While there are a number of psychological aspects to it too, it requires another article for itself.
Reality shows will continue to excel in the field of television, as it is a major genre that can pull in audience attention, even without the knowledge of the audience themselves.
I hope this article didn’t sound too pedagogic (just for fun, I meant preachy). If you have a wider perspective the next time you watch reality television, I, as a writer would be content.