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'Reality' TV

Reality
"Big Brother"  

The changing faces of fame

July 19, 2000
Web posted at: 5:22 p.m. EDT (2122 GMT)

NEW YORK (CNN) -- All of a sudden, all over the airwaves, shows like "Big Brother" and "Survivor" are making celebrities out of ordinary citizens. It's reality, with all its warts, and people are tuning in to watch.

So-called "reality" TV programming has roots in earlier series, but became a televised force with "The Real World," created by MTV. That show, and its successors, are helping change what it takes to become famous.

"Viewers of television are much more savvy about the inside mechanics of television and of show business generally," said Time TV writer James Poniewozik. "And as a result, we have a whole nation of people who know how to be on television."

  ALSO
CBS expanding 'Big Brother' to six nights a week
 

Fame came as a surprise to Gretchen Cordy, the most recent reject from CBS' "Survivor."

"I didn't think about that at all," she said. "I didn't expect it to be a big CBS prime-time show. I think I was really naive about that."

The same goes for Janet, from MTV's "The Real World: Seattle."

"If I had known about the fame and all the stuff that came afterward, I think I would have hesitated much more," she said. "I don't think a lot of the people who actually go on these reality-based shows have any idea what they're in for."

Poniewozik doesn't believe that's true of everyone, though.

"You watch programs like this -- you see some people who appear to be so clearly acting out, trying to be eccentric, stand-out personalities in a way that must be contrived for fame," he said.

Teck, who reveled in his outrageousness on "The Real World: Hawaii," said he was born to be famous.

"If you don't want it, don't go on the show or don't put yourself in that situation," he said.

Now he's set to turn his TV debut into a weekly series called "Direct Effect," which airs on MTV in September.

And former "Survivor" star Stacey is back on TV, too - this time, in a commercial pushing merchandise for Finish Line sporting goods.

"I think that people are so busy, willing to give away their personal lives to get on television and to get famous, that they don't have time to stop and say, `Well, wait a minute. What have I lost?'" said Stuart Fishoff, professor of media psychology at California State University Los Angeles.

Maybe the public's sense of your true identity is the trade-off, Janet suggests.

"It's hard, because it dismisses everything that they were about before," she said. "It dismisses that they're an actual human being -- they're not just this character on your television set. There are consequences to all this, you know."

But there is an upside to this newfound fame: It's usually fleeting.

Cordy of "Survivor" recognizes her 15 minutes of fame may be up.

"Yeah, my advice to people who haven't had their 15 yet -- pick something where you can take a bath."



RELATED STORIES:
'Big Brother': Are you just a snoozy sibling?
July 7, 2000
Reality bites in MTV's 'Real World'
July 6, 1999

RELATED SITES:
"Big Brother"
"Survivor"
"The Real World"


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