It's taken a little time but Reality Television has reached Slovakia. In fact wherever you go on public transport, in offices and bars, everyone seems to be talking about it. We take a loser look at the television genre that's taken Slovakia by storm...
In the second half of 2004, devices such as the "people meter", recording the number of TV viewers, were introduced onto the Slovak market. Ratings and shares are now more accurate than ever and Slovakia's three biggest TV stations have decided to use one of the most effective weapons to compete for viewers - reality shows.
Every one of these reality shows is and will be successful, says Jan Vopalensky, media analyst from the Faculty of media communication in Trnava. Reality shows were introduced towards the end of the 1990's - an idea that must have come from a genius!
"Behind it all are needs, which I would say are not very cultural. There is the need to participate in something and social voyeurism, which means that people want to see the forbidden or primitive because they can't see it in real life."
The first big reality show in Slovakia was introduced by TV JOJ. Ludovit Tooth is its PR and promotion manager:
"Ours was the first reality show in Slovakia. It was made for, let's say one fifth of expenses of Superstar."
By this Mr. Toth is pointing out the fact that the show was not licensed, but an original created for TV JOJ. The show called "Girl for a million" presented 10 girls who all competed for the post of TV presenter, or talk show host.
Girl for a million is undoubtedly one of the most successful of TV JOJ's shows. I asked around the Bratislava pubs and restaurants to see how people evaluate it.
"Actually no one really likes the show. They only like how the girls look and not really what they say ... but everyone watches it."
"Yes, I really watch every part of it and I really like it"
"The whole show was about a girl saying nasty things about the other girls and I didn't really like it."
"At home I already have a girl for a million so I don't really watch things like this."
More than 16,000 applicants have registered for a new show that's currently being prepared by TV Markiza. "The Mojsejs" is about a quite controversial couple that lives a very luxurious life - some say, without taste. Vladimir Repcik is General Director at TV Markiza:
"This reality show I think will be very, very successful, but it will also be very controversial, but I think that it is the base of every reality show to be controversial. Without controversy it would be very boring."
The winner of the show will receive 2 million Slovak crowns. Money, as Dr. Jan Vopalensky, media analyst from the Faculty of media communication in Trnava says, is one of the biggest motivations for people and a factor promising a successful show.
Slovakia, just like our neighbouring countries, has been caught in the storm of the "Superstar" mania:
"Oh, I watch Superstar every single week."
"Next year I'll be there and I'll be the greatest Elvis in Slovakia ... like "Love me tender ...". I'll be there, I'll win it, I am sure."
"The people that go to Superstar either can sing and are pathetic or they can't sing and are even more pathetic."
"I love to laugh on some people that can't really estimate their possibilities."
More than 3,000 youngsters are competing for the title of Slovak superstar. Superstar is the first reality show on public broadcast television since it underwent reform in 2004. It is watched by all age groups and the show brought more viewers to Slovak TV than was expected says Peter Kavecky, PR manager of STV:
"People love our finalists. For example Samuel Tomecek, one of the first finalists went home with a taxi and the driver gave him the ride for free, because he saw him on TV."
Reality shows that feature plastic surgery operations or the giving away of babies are popular topics of discussion. But where should the limits of reality shows be? Jan Vopalensky:
"The borders are currently pushed further. For the future reality shows, Big Brother will only be a fairy tale. I have a feeling it is a trend that can not be stopped. And I fear this. In fact our whole lives are reality shows. We have live coverage of war!"
As Andy Warhol once said, in order to have their 15 minutes of fame, people - in their need to exhibit themselves - will do almost anything. And in reality shows everything is possible.
Although experts say reality shows are very shallow and work with primitive needs, it is interesting, that such shows have captivated people of all age, education, sex and geographical backgrounds. Everything in the media tends to be more and more reality and thanks to this format Slovaks live their American dream of a nobody becoming a somebody, live on their TV screens.
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