Reality is about to come crashing down on TV and online viewers.
In a matter of days, Linda Ikeji will launch an online streaming service that will bring to its subscribers a vast number of reality shows. From “Gidi Girls” which shows women acting in the “Real Housewives of Atlanta” style, to “Ajegunle with Love” which is targeted at showing one of the popular slums in Lagos and some of the people that live there. Also, on the list of show to take off is, Tonto Dikeh, who is set to bring the drama with an intense new show that gives exclusive access to Nollywood’s most controversial actress. The teaser for the new show already had millions of views as Tonto lets her fans into her world by showcasing never-before-seen moments of her life including her recent cosmetic surgery.
But she’s not the only Nollywood star with a reality show on the network, fellow actress and producer, Toyin Abraham will be bringing fans into her life and Chocolate city rapper, Ice Prince will be showing his ‘naysayers’, that he is still ‘grinding’. In the history of digital programming, there has never been such a huge dose of reality TV making its debut all at once.
With all of these slated to hit the digital landscape soon, let’s talk about the whole notion of reality TV.
The Big Brother Nigeria game show is the most popular reality show to make its debut in recent times, across Nigeria. The show mixes drama and skills. It brings regular folks to the spotlight and gives us an insight into different human behavior. Big Brother Naija, season 3 ended over a month ago and has created a number of young Nigerian influencers in the online space.
The show is still hotly contested on online platforms. The biggest draw for the show has been its ability to connect an audience to personalities that look like them, or those they extremely reject.
Big Brother is a climb — a testimony for many. To go through three months locked in one house, the world watching you in your high and low moments, and to leave the house N45 Million rich is “pure goals” for the online masses. Or to go into the house with 105 Instagram followers and return to over 500,000 followers is still “goals”. Right? These are true figures that have been earned from the reality show. These are the type of results that millennials want to relate to. Even marketers want to feel this type of surge for their products.
Fame + Money is never a bad thing on the surface.
Big Brother could mean exposure to gaining a million followers (Bisola Aiyeola) which could bring millions to the bank. Or getting more access to film opportunities (T boss, Bambam, Bassey) or reaching a new audience with music (Teddy A, Debby Rise), reality shows are proving that they play a big part in the climb to popularity.
Aside from Big Brother, we have seen singing talent game shows give us Iyanya (Project Fame), or for acting Ivie Okujaiye (Amstel Malta Box Office), Belinda Efah (Next movie Star), Tonto Dike (Next movie Star), Bayray Mcwizu (Amstel Malta Box Office), and OC Ukeji (Amstel Malta Box Office).
Reality shows cannot be removed from the idea of popularity. For the already-famous people, they go into the process to improve visibility (Toyin Lawani) or to clear certain notions of themselves (Omotola Jalade).
Ebony Life TV launched a number of reality shows, the most famous being Toyin Lawani’s “Tiannah’s Empire”, the title being the name of her clothing brand. For many people that had a particular notion of the designer, they were able to come into her business to explore ventures that she was into. Skin care, styling (hair and clothes), being a designer and more.
Reality shows have been part and parcel of the entertainment scene in Nigeria for a long time.
On the downside:
Omotola Jalade (The Real Me) or “Jim Iyke Uncensored” were not the best decisions for these big stars. While for Omotola her intention was to give a glimpse of her life to her fans, it was not a beneficial move for such a star actor that needed to create a scarcity to her person. Jim Iyke, has granted interviews where he says some of the events from his reality show were scripted, including his relationship with Nadia Buari. This has an impact on how their fans, who love them without the extra toppings from reality shows see them. Whether lies or not, Reality Shows mean exposure for unknown faces but for bigger stars, it could mean the beginning of a drain of their star power.
For unknown faces also, it does not always mean fame or money. Many talent shows have seen the stars of such shows go into obscurity. Okiemuti of the 9th edition of Project Fame is yet to enjoy benefits in the music industry that shows she was worth coming out as a winner. Iyanya and Chidinma remain the biggest exports from the show. Omawunmi, Yemi Alade and Johnny Drille had to make a case for their talent by detaching themselves from their history with Reality TV; and forging a new path in their respective careers that has earned them respect across the country.
There are reality TV contestants that hit fame and were unable to bear the burden of it, they continue to struggle in the public eye. Fame means that there is about an equal level of scrutiny on every move they make. This has been the nature for many that have tasted the reality show waters.
The Future of Reality Shows in Nigeria?
In the past, talent reality programming like “MTN Project Fame”, “Nigeria’s Got Talent” and “Maltina Dance all” went from popularity to obscurity. Even “Big Brother” went through a decline before the revamp. What this says about the future is that, in the long run, reality shows are hardly sustainable. While bringing it to the digital space could give viewers a different experience, reality shows are dependent on the narrative that the masses want to feed on at a particular moment. It is not like the movies that people go in and wait for the climax or the resolution.
Short clips online could make for viral viewing, like it happened on Big Brother, but those are the moments that a majority would be waiting for. It does not happen all the time and in moments that it does not happen, what sustains us? Are the personalities that go into reality TV interesting enough to make us keep up with daily conversation. After all, it is also a medium of escapism.
Not many shows can keep up with Big Brother and even Big Brother was heavily reliant on influencer collaboration to spread its reach.
The idea is not about seeing how people live their lives in luxury or in shams, what meaningful contributions will reality shows bring to the current state of our lives.
Entertainment? How toxic will this entertainment be to those that follow up?
Experience? Are these experiences damaging, for click baits or have a potential to shape?
Influence? What are the implications of an eager audience picking lifestyle habits from what is on reality TV screen?
What are your thoughts on reality TV?