Project Abstract (2017)

Survivor, a competition reality show, is the longest-lasting series in reality television, the fastest growing television genre. Reality television serves as the main form of entertainment for many Americans. Furthermore, according to Dorothy Hopson, professor in television studies, the television Americans choose emulates their social and economic being. In other words, the ways that people choose to gratify themselves reflects their consumption priorities. Thus, reality television provides poignant insight into American consumption culture; however, reality television is the least theorized genre. Since Survivor is uniquely long-lasting, examining how the competition reality show has continually appealed to consumers can reveal American values. Current research suggests that media in general has become more repetitious, as individuals are drawn to the familiar. Therefore, this research aims to determine if Survivor has become more formulaic over its 16-year run to continually gratify traditional American television viewing audiences. A content analysis analyzed Survivor’s format through tabulations of time dedicated to different elements of the show. The tabulations were rendered into percentages, which conveyed the time dedicated to a certain element within the overall time of the show. Those percentages were then compared by creating trend lines across seasons to determine if there were any patterns in Survivor’s composition. By determining if Survivor has become more formulaic, this research will not only obtain valuable insight into how the entertainment industry in general is shifting to continually appeal to consumers, but also how American consumption culture is evolving.

Surviving Modern Reality Television: A Content Analysis of the Hit Reality TV Show Survivor