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The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

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Voyeur vision?

If you ever wanted to be a fly on the wall, to see what's happening behind closed doors, several new TV shows are aiming at your nosier instincts.

Several cheap-to-produce (no stars or writers) reality-based shows offer what might be labeled "voyeur vision." Making the Band (ABC) debuted in March, giving a behind-the-scenes look at what happens when eight young men try out for a band and are whittled down to five.

This summer's offerings include Big Brother (CBS), where nine or 10 adults spend 100 days in a house wired with 24 cameras and 59 microphones as they interact without the diversion of TV, radio, newspapers or phones. The group periodically expels members.

Survivor (CBS) shows 16 adults living off the land in Borneo as they compete for $1 million. They, too, boot each other out one by one. A yet unnamed Fox show could offer an enlightening look at daily life in a Chicago-area high school.

"Reality TV is part of the escalating crossover between entertainment and real life," says Quentin Schultze, a professor of communication at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Mich. "These shows create a sense of public reality for many viewers, just as the news has always done" — something to talk about around the water cooler.

"Part of their appeal is a kind of voyeurism that turns private lives into public gossip," says Schultze, who offers a resource, Internet for Christians, at www.internetforchristians.org. He says the grittier kind of reality TV — focusing on car crashes, crime, sexual conduct and conflict— offer viewers "an overly pessimistic view of society in general."


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