Thursday, June 3, 2010

What Is The Most Socially Valuable Product on TV?

Reality TV producers concluded Wednesday a conference in Santa Monica, California, where they heralded the genre.

"I firmly believe it's the most socially valuable product on television," Rob Sharenow, senior vice president of nonfiction programming at A&E network told a Fairmont Hotel ballroom filled with people who nodded sympathetically, but then he was preaching to the choir -- or to people who wanted to do business with panelists up on stage, anyway.

"Who did more for a gay child struggling with their identity than Pedro did?" Sharenow asked rhetorically. He was referring to Pedro Zamora, the AIDS activist who became a pop-culture icon when he was cast on MTV's THE REAL WORLD: SAN FRANCISCO and died not long after that edition of the reality series wrapped.

Soap fans used to say these same types of statements about daytime soap operas. We still do on occassion but not as much these days. For example, in the late 1980s soaps were at the forefront of talking about AIDS and telling both entertaining and educational stories. I have to admit that Sharenow has a point about Pedro from THE REAL WORLD. He certainly had an impact on me.

Do you think daytime (or other) soaps are or have the potential to be the most socially valuable product on television?


  1. We're told again and again how expensive it is to produce daytime drama, yet how inexpensive reality programming can be. There's little or no risk for reality to be controversial, seemingly groundbreaking, topical. The audience has been trained to expect this and if for some reason it fails, the financial cost is minimal.
    However, risks in soap land are a bit more costly. If viewers are lost, will new ones come around? Do they dare bite the hand that feeds them? Until daytime gets over this fear, it certainly won't be considered socially valuable.
    I can think of at least a half dozen topics that they would NEVER dare address on a soap but affect us all daily.
    For the record, I detest reality TV yet I have spent many an hour glued to a good soap story - although, these days, not so much.

  2. Pedro was far too long ago for them to cite now as the reason reality tv is "socially valuable." It can be, sure. And it was in '92. But is it now?

  3. Greg, good point about the time since Pedro. I think it's a good example of what could happen on Reality TV. Other than American Idol, which I categorize differently, I don't watch any Reality TV. It's continuing for each season, but I like things that continue indefinitely. I watched REAL WORLD for many years then it started feeling even more manufactured.

    I will give some of the shows credit for diversity though, which is generally better than the daytime soaps.