Thanks for the question Raul!
Reality television. Who does it better? Belgium or the U.S.?
No question, the U.S. takes the cake and then some when it comes to the sheer numbers and popularity of reality television programming. On one extreme some American reality television shows are aired twice a year while on the other end, Belgium actually “shares” shows with its neighbor Holland. I have said many times that the average Belgian is much more moderate in their living than the average American. And as such, Belgians simply do not share the passion Americans have for television, and for reality television the numbers dwindle that much more.
And then there’s me, the Korean-American living in Belgium who enjoys reality television probably more since taking away $500,000 from 12 other people when I won Big Brother.
I get my fix of American reality television through the almighty world-wide-web and I get to write about it for a part-time living from thousands of miles away, for Reality Nation. Even if I didn’t write for a living, I would still watch Big Brother, but most certainly not the live feeds. But I don’t know that I would be as devoted to Survivor and The Bachelor. The Amazing Race lost me many moons ago. And although the top rated reality shows in the U.S. are “talent” based, the only full season of one I’ve watched was American Idol and maybe a few episodes of Dancing with the Stars.
Update, September 2013: RIP Reality Nation
Here In Belgium, by and large, television viewers prefer exposé news programming and cooking programs and quiz shows. This isn’t to say there isn’t a reality television viewing population, because there is, but the extent to which the fandom makes noise is at a bare minimum compared to reality television fans in the U.S. Although there is one horrid Astrid Bryant woman from Belgium who has her own reality show because she managed to marry some creepy pale old bald wet-kissing mega-rich Hollywood mogul and moved to LA to not eat and party and self-medicate.
But besides her show, the Wikipedia pages for most Belgian reality shows (if they have one at all) are nothing compared to the fact-worshipped pages of American versions.
The six American reality television shows I chose above are shows that Belgium also aired.
~ American Idol. I did blog Belgium’s “Idool 2011”, airing the year I moved here to live. It was a quasi-familiar show from home for me. Note: The one relatively “big” celebrity to come out of Belgium’s Idool franchise is Natalia, from back in 2003. She has built a career from her experience and now also judges on Belgium’s version of The Voice. That’s it, really, just her.
~ Big Brother. I’m sad I missed the boat on Belgium’s Big Brother because after nine seasons, two of which were VIP seasons and one All-Stars season, the franchise died. Note: The one relatively and somewhat embarrassingly “big” celebrity to come out of the Belgium’s Big Brother franchise is Betty, the pretty and buxom shotgun wedding butcher’s wife who applied just “to try something different” and post-season divorced then went on to Playboy and other adult industry money maker making.
~ Dancing with the Stars. I have never watched a full episode, of either American or Belgian version. I just can’t.
~ Survivor. I’ve seen parts an episode here and there of Expeditie Robinson. This show is shared with Holland, so it’s disconcerting to me as an American viewer trying to imagine the same scenario with the U.S. and Canada “sharing” Survivor. Woah.
~ The Amazing Race. Peking Express is another shared show with Holland. I have heard zero Belgians ever talk about this show.
~ The Bachelor. The one season of De Bachelor was pathetically boring with negative sexual chemistry besides the lust “Joffrey” had for his infinite number of scarves and blazers.
And there are some newer, promising reality shows here in Belgium like De Rechtbank (“The Courthouse”, inside Belgian courthouses) and standbys that pop up like The Voice Van Vlaanderen (“The Voice of Flanders”, basically The Voice) and Komen Eten (“Come and Eat”, a cooking show where four average home cooks host and cook for a party of four). And plenty of dance competition shows like SYTYCD, every one hosted by the same crew of judges plus Dan Karaty, etc…
In the two years I’ve lived here I’ve noticed there is less celebrity made out of reality television contestants, and more celebrity attention for judges. I’m more than okay with that.