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Reality TV Shows Can Be an Educational Resource for Teens
by Dan Blankenship 
12/03/06
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Reality TV Shows Can Be an Educational Resource for Teens
By Dan Blankenship
© 2006 Dan Blankenship



Reality TV…people seem to love it or hate it. Count me among the people fascinated by a few of the shows that eliminate the need for screenwriters and actors. Now this is not an endorsement of those reality shows that like to cross the line concerning foul language and sexual references; those shows that seek Jerry Springer-type fame quickly find their place among the cutting room floor confetti.

One of my favorite reality shows is Survivor. The hit reality TV show has had thirteen successful seasons on CBS. The Mark Burnett production involves sending people from all walks of life to a deserted area somewhere on the planet to fend for themselves and compete against each other for rewards and immunity from being voted off the show.

I have watched twelve of the last thirteen seasons of this show. I watch because I find it fascinating to see the wide range of people who end up being cast for the show. Survivor is as close to being a college class on interpersonal relationships as a television show can be. Almost every emotion is displayed openly and sincerely on the show by people who are not professionally trained to make their actions polished and distinct.

Competitors on Survivor compete for thirty-nine days. They must find their own food, build their own shelters, and brave the attacks of insects, animals, and some of the world’s worst weather conditions. Sixteen competitors, with the exception of the most recent show which had 20 men and women, are competing for a million dollars. The goal is for one individual to outwit, outplay, and outlast the others.

In life, relationships and the way we develop, nurture, and sometimes destroy those relationships are the very center of human existence, even as it is concerned with our relationship with God. Of course, we are never going to outwit, outplay, or outlast God. But Survivor offers teens a glimpse into the skill building essentials needed to deal with adult relationships, adult pitfalls, and rejection from adult peers.

Doctors, bartenders, lawyers, cooks, dancers, and astronauts have all competed for the million dollar prize on Survivor. Almost all have discovered that being away from their families for 39 days has been one of the most difficult challenges of their adult lives. Almost all the castaways have learned the importance of a strong work ethic. If they don’t work hard to keep the shelter built, the campfire burning, and the food supply in the black, their poor health can affect the way they perform during reward and immunity challenges.

People from all faiths have appeared on Survivor, and some Christians have actually gathered their tribe together to say grace or pray for safety and strength. On the show, Christianity is rarely portrayed as a hindrance to society’s inability to move forward, as it can sometimes be depicted by the mass media.

Teens who are looking for good unscripted television should check out Survivor. I’m not declaring the show perfect family entertainment, but it is a show that seems to be a cut above the rest of what’s on television today.


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