Having raptly watched the entire season of “WORK OF ART: THE NEXT GREAT ARTIST”, I couldn’t get the program out of my mind. I began to reflect upon the program and its concept. While this show broke new ground with its art and artists theme, the format was a TV staple- the reality game show.
Reality television shows of this type first crossed the Americans consciousness with the broadcast of CBS’ Survivor. That show introduced television viewers to a cast of 16 men and women who competed with each other in a succession of physical and strategic challenges over 13 weekly episodes. Every week, the host Jeff Probes would portentously brief the players (organized into two ‘tribes’) about the new game, its rules and conditions. Taking place on a remote tropical island, the play would begin with scenes of the contestants struggling to complete physical tasks that were later cut and edited and amped up by an emotional soundtrack. At episode’s end, the host would reappear at a tiki lit fire circle meeting of the tribes to review the challenge results. Building suspense with lingering pauses and shimmering music, one cast member would then be eliminated from the game. Survivor captured the attention of an astonishingly large television audience and was one of these American cultural moments where the show was endlessly promoted and discussed in most media, including the serious press. As the show’s cast diminished, who the final winner might be became a national obsession. Anyone residing in the US would have had to be well insulated from any media to have remained unaware of the show.