Where to begin? As a starting point, I looked at an old Radio Times article – no, it’s not available online, I actually have the issue in front of me. It’s the 21-27 July 2007 issue, which I never got around to chucking, and it just so happens to have a feature on “Unreality TV”.
Upon discovering that “science fiction and fantasy are suddenly not only acceptable but, dare to whisper it, cool”, Radio Times writer John Naughton asks “How did the geeks inherit the Earth?”
Some (unspecified) people regard this as evidence of “a society where no-one wants to grow up”, but Matthew Graham, co-creator of Life on Mars, takes a different view. “I think people just respond to good stories, whatever their age,” he explained in the aforementioned article. “There’s no sense [in America] that because it’s science fiction, it has to be for children.”
Tim Kring, the creator of Heroes, takes yet another view. “There’s a kind of wish fulfilment to watching this, which is that your ordinary, seemingly impotent life could be filled with both purpose and adventure.”
How philosophical. The article also featured a list of “the Top 20 Unreal Shows Ever”, but I fear it is unusable, since they refused to let people vote for Doctor Who in order to “give the others a chance”. This may have been a mistake, as the list contained many surprises. For example, who would have thought that Red Dwarf would come first (the X-Files was only one percent behind), or that no shows with the word “star” in their title would make it into the top 5?
My research has began. I plan to embark on a survey, to see what “unreal” dramas people enjoy watching, and I’ll post the results here. In the mean time, I now live in dread of how much my spam count is likely to go up now that I’ve used the word “impotent” in a blog.