Created By: Lyendith on June 3, 2012 Last Edited By: Lyendith on June 29, 2012
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Immoral Reality Show

It's immoral. It's disgusting. But it has sky-high audience ratings! (Show Within A Show only)

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A trope that became popular during the 2000 decade but dates back as far as the 50s: a given story will feature or take place in an extreme reality TV show where candidates (sometimes convicted criminals) are forced to do degrading or violent things, sometime even kill each other, just for the pleasure of fans all over the country or the world. If the show is "soft", they will just live constantly under the eye of the camera. The show will often include some participation of the audience like chosing which candidate to "eliminate". They will enjoy their sadness, breakdowns and betrayals, as if they were watching a movie. Such shows almost always have insane audience ratings, leading to the obvious implication that Humans Are Bastards that love to see others suffer. However, Stylistic Suck may intervene as the obvious immorality of the show can be used to contrast the normal morality of the universe the show is broadcast in.

It may or may not be a Blood Sport, but expect to see a Corrupt Corporate Executive counting his bills and grinning with delight while comtemplating audience numbers. Deadly Game would be a Sub-Trope. It can obviously overlap with Sadist Show.

Of course, for a few years it has been pretty much Truth in Television (minus putting the contestants in deathly hazards of course), but Bile Fascination has its limits and such shows are in decline nowadays. For that matter, see Point-and-Laugh Show.

No Real Life Examples, Please!.

Examples:

[[foldercontrol]]

[[folder:Anime And Manga:]]
  • Deadman Wonderland: The purpose of the titular prison is to force inmates to do degrading things for people's entertainment. However, that's not its true purpose.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Film:]]
  • The Truman Show is probably the Trope Codifier for the modern version, and ironically gave the idea to some real-life producers in the first place
  • In The Condemned, a bunch of prisoners condemned to death are dropped on an island to battle for the pleasure of the viewers.
  • The German movie Das Millionenspiel features a show where a contestant has to survive a manhunt for seven days to win the million deutsch mark prize. Similar to The Running Man, but as early as 1970!
  • Death Watch (1980) is about a woman with a terminal illness in a world where such diseases are rare. She is surreptitiously recorded and broadcast without her consent.
  • The Running Man, The Film of the Book of Stephen King's novel. In addition to the title game (which includes convicted criminals this time), there was a commercial for another game called Climbing for Dollars (Watch the clip here). It featured a contestant climbing a rope over a pit filled with angry Dobermans while pulling money off the rope. Partway up a pipe would blast the contestant with gas to try and make them fall. If they did fall, the dogs were waiting.
  • In The Muppets there is mention of (and we see a little bit of) Punch Teacher.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Literature:]]
  • The Running Man - The protagonist Richards is hunted down for sport on a TV game show. He volunteered for the show to try and get money to save his sick daughter. The book also has a couple of other gameshows - there's one where people with heart problems are wired up to a heart monitor, put on a treadmill, and asked questions. Every time they get it wrong, the treadmill speeds up.
  • Stephen King also wrote The Long Walk: a hundred teens compete to see who could walk the longest - those go too slow or fast get shot.
  • Acide Sulfurique, from Amélie Nothomb, features a woman named Pannonique who is abducted and forcefully thrown into a TV Show named "Concentration". She and the other "candidates" are horribly ill-treated and two of them are publicly executed everyday (first randomly, then chosen by the public). The heroine tries to resist by being emotionless and not giving viewers what they want, but that makes her their favorite instead. Needless to say, the book raised quite a scandal when it came out.
  • ''The Hunger Games" A group ranging from prepubescent children to young adults must be "reaped" every year from across the totalitarian nation of Panem. They are then taken to the capital city to be "Tributes" in a live gameshow of murder, mayhem and madness.
  • Robert Sheckley:
    • His 1953 short story, "The Seventh Victim", which was made into a film called The Tenth Victim in 1965, and a full novel the next year, featured contestants taking turns being hunter and hunted in a fully televised deadly game.
    • His 1958 story, "The Prize of Peril" was similar, but with a more traditional game show format, and is the basis for the German film Das Millionenspiel and considered a probable inspiration for Stephen King's The Running Man.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Live Action TV:]]
  • On Doctor Who, the Doctor and rose visit a tv broadcast space station where the whole population can get drafted into reality tv shows where loss equals vaporization. well, it ultimately turns out they're getting transmatted to dalek ships where they will be liquified and some of their cells turned into daleks, but the point is the same.
  • In Sliders, criminal trials are conducted via evil game show in "Dead Man Sliding".
  • The new Outer Limits episode 'Judgment Day' (season 6, episode 1) involves a TV where crime victims' families hunt down and kill the apparent killers. The guy the episode focuses on didn't do it, was framed by the show's producer, and uses the show to clear himself.
  • In one episode of Judge John Deed, a contestant in a reality show where contestants are divided into "slaves" and "masters" is murdered during a live broadcast.
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Puppet Show:]]
  • In the mid 2000s, the French show Les Guignols de l'info parodied this with Patrick Lelay and Etienne Mougeotte, the leaders of the biggest French channel TF1. They showed them in competition with M6 to find the most overt-the-top reality show possible, one being called "Rape Island".
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Video Game:]]
  • Ratchet: Deadlocked sends the hero in the survival show produced by Gleeman Vox, Dreadzone, where other heroes lost their lives. Going Commando and Up You Arsenal also had arenas called the Mega Corp. Games and Anihilation Nation, respectively.
  • Smash TV: This game was about a TV show in which the participant had to do an onslaught of many individuals to get cash prizes... including the infinite ammo thing but it included a lot of killing other human beings for "entertainment".
[[/folder]]

[[folder:Western Animation:]]
  • As revealed on South Park the entirety of planet Earth is this. Some aliens dumped a bunch of humans and other animals on the planet and just watch the outcome.
[[/folder]]

[[folder: Web Comics]]
  • Last Res0rt supposedly centers around a reality show where condemned criminals fight for survival.
  • Schlock Mercenary offers a treatise on the link between social upheaval and depraved entertainment, though the reality show the Toughs were hired to take down was a fairly normal fashion show.
[[/folder]]
Community Feedback Replies: 51
  • June 3, 2012
    Mauri
    Mmm it may be on the "judging table" but some examples include:
    • Western Animation
      • The Simpsons on the episode where they go to Japan and do in the end participate in a TV show to get their tickets home being forced to act as a family atop an "active" volcano.

    • Video Games
      • Smash TV: This game was about a TV show that the participant had to do an onslaught of many individuals to get cash prizes... including the infinite ammo thing but it included a lot of killing other human beings for "entertainment".
  • June 3, 2012
    Bisected8
  • June 3, 2012
    lexicon
    • In The Hunger Games everyone watches as 24 teenagers have to fight to be the last one alive.
  • June 3, 2012
    Reiizm
    Jersey Shore. A reality show starring handful of Italian "Guidos" just young enough to drink go clubbing multiple times a week to get drunk and bring back someone to "Smush".
  • June 3, 2012
    randomsurfer
    • Film: The Condemned, where a bunch of prisoners condemned to death are dropped on an island to battle for the pleasure of the viewers.
  • June 3, 2012
    reub2000
    The Truman Show is missing a pothole to Unbuilt Trope.
  • June 3, 2012
    youkeepusingthatword
    Death Watch ( 1980 ) - a woman with a terminal illness in a world where such diseases are rare is surreptitiously recorded and broadcast without her consent.

    Series 7 ( 2001 ) - A TV series where six contenders fight to be the last alive

    The Running Man ( 1987 ) - Convicted criminals are hunted down for sport on a TV game show

  • June 4, 2012
    Lyendith
    Wow... the Unbuilt Trope page is actually a mountain of treasures for this trope. I didn't think there were that many examples in the 80s actually.

    Also, should we add a Real Life section for the most... disturbing real-life examples?

    ^ What media is that Death Watch? There are a 2002 Death Watch and a 1966 one, but none from 1980 on the wiki...
  • June 4, 2012
    MicoolTNT
    I'd say it would be safer to call no Real Life examples to avoid Values Dissonance and YMMV. Also change the description so it's clearer it's talking about shows-within-shows, because I took one look at this and my first impression was, subjective flame bait.
  • June 4, 2012
    Frank75
    German movie Das Millionenspiel, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Das_Millionenspiel

    Like Running Man, but from as early as 1970!
  • June 4, 2012
    Lyendith
    Okay, after a little walk on the wiki, I would say this could be a super-trope to Deadly Game and Condemned Contestant, though not quite sure about the latter...
  • June 4, 2012
    randomsurfer
    I believe in at least one iteration of Gen13 Everyone Meets Everyone while they're all trapped in a "kill the metahuman" reality show.
  • June 4, 2012
    youkeepusingthatword
    Death Watch: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0081182/

    Because it's such a popular title, that's why I knew I had to mention the year. Apparently it is aka "La mort en direct." I had seen it but I hadn't thought of it as a French film since it had Harvey Keitel.

    Death Watch and Series 7 were films. Running Man was a Stephen King book that was adapted to film, so it could go under both film and literature.
  • June 4, 2012
    Lyendith
    Funny... "La mort en direct" was also a short-film starring French rapper MC Solaar as a man sentenced to death, where the public decided if he should be executed or not, with an anchor and all... you just reminded me of that.
  • June 4, 2012
    Shrikesnest
    We must keep in mind that this is in-universe examples only. It's the Reality Show equivalent to Super Gorefest Chainsawer 3000, a common joke made about how vile another genre is.
  • June 4, 2012
    zarpaulus
    Web Comics
    • Last Res0rt supposedly centers around a reality show where condemned criminals fight for survival.
    • Schlock Mercenary offers a treatise on the link between social upheaval and depraved entertainment, though the reality show the Toughs were hired to take down was a fairly normal fashion show.
  • June 5, 2012
    NightNymph
    Would the reality show MILF Island on 30 Rock count? It's not immoral in the exact way of your description of people having to fight for their lives. However, based on the in universe description: "25 super hot moms, 50 eighth grade boys, no rules" the immoral part would seem to apply perhaps.

    Also: These in-universe shows will often be an example of Stylistic Suck. (Because as from your description, they are not necessarily supposed to be of good quality and so will sometimes be portrayed as worse quality than the original show itself.)
  • June 8, 2012
    Lyendith
    Eight grade... what age does that make already? I don't know what the principle of the "game" is, but yeah, that doesn't sound very clean...

  • June 8, 2012
    TrustBen
    ^Kids tend to be 12-13 when they enter eighth grade and 13-14 when they leave. So it would be morally questionable, yes.
  • June 8, 2012
    undefined
    Movies: Death Race, Battle Royale?
  • June 8, 2012
    Lyendith
    The Battle Royale is not a TV Show, is it?
  • June 8, 2012
    Blork
    It's kind of on the border of the No Real Life Examples rule, but one episode of Derren Brown's The Experiments was based around getting the studio audience to participate in a mild version of this. The premise was that they had cameras following the unsuspecting victim around, and the audience were allowed to vote on whether to do something nice or nasty. The audience without fail voted for the meanest option, right up to the final prank which got out of hand and ended with the victim being run over. At that point it was revealed that the last five minutes of the candid camera footage had been faked, and the show was making a point about how a group would agree to things that the individual wouldn't have.
  • June 8, 2012
    JonnyB
    Would Hunger Games count?
  • June 8, 2012
    NightNymph
    Lyendith: I see you added my Stylistic Suck comment (thank you), but I don't think I explained that correctly. For example, with the MILF Island example, the reality show in-universe is popular, but we the audience (and most likely the show executives putting it on) know that it's pretty sleazy (and want it to be so). Therefor to illustrate that, the quality of MILF Island is noteably sleazier than 30 Rock itself.

    In the case of this trope, the Stylistic Suck may be a sort of an aesop kind of thing. The Immoral Reality Show will be brutal, sleazy, intrusive, etc. in style to designate it as such, but the morality of the movie, TV show, book, etc. that the reality show is in will be illustrating how immoral and wrong this show is (usually - I can't think of any examples where the immoral reality show is glorified or considered a good thing rather than villified, but I suppose there could be an example like that somewhere.) This is where the Stylistic Suck comes in. Otherwise if the show-within-the-show is done in the same style or moral voice as the rest of the show (although this could also be the case, so Stylistic Suck may not always apply), then the moral of the story may not have as much impact.
  • June 8, 2012
    electronshock
    On Doctor Who, the Doctor and rose visit a tv broadcast space station where the whole population can get drafted into reality tv shows where loss equals vaporization. well, it ultimately turns out they're getting transmatted to dalek ships where they will be liquified and some of their cells turned into daleks, but the point is the same.
  • June 22, 2012
    Xtifr
    I can track this back before the seventies! :)

    Comedy (or possibly Radio):
    • The Firesign Theatre's 1968 comedy album, Waiting for the Electrician (or Someone Like Him) has a segment with a game show called "Beat the Reaper", where participants are injected with deadly diseases, and must guess the disease from the symptoms before it kills them.

    Literature:
    • Robert Sheckley:
      • His 1953 short story, "The Seventh Victim", which was made into a film called The Tenth Victim in 1965, and a full novel the next year, featured contestants taking turns being hunter and hunted in a fully televised deadly game.
      • His 1958 story, "The Prize of Peril" was similar, but with a more traditional game show format, and is the basis for the German film Das Millionenspiel and considered a probable inspiration for Stephen King's The Running Man.
  • June 22, 2012
    animeg3282
    yes, the Hunger Games is a televised spectacle in which teenagers fight to the death.
  • June 22, 2012
    Duncan
    In The Muppets there is mention of (and we see a little bit of) Punch Teacher.
  • June 23, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In Idiocracy the most popular show on TV is "Ow, My Balls!" which is just this one guy suffering one Groin Attack after another.
  • June 23, 2012
    Alvin
    TV: The new Outer Limits episode 'Judgment Day' (season 6, episode 1) involves a TV where crime victims' families hunt down and kill the apparent killers. I don't remember if they were convicted or what, but the guy the episode focuses on didn't do it,was framed by the show's producer, and uses the show to clear himself.
  • June 24, 2012
    randomsurfer
    As revealed on South Park the entirety of planet Earth is this. Some aliens dumped a bunch of humans and other animals on the planet and just watch the outcome.
  • June 24, 2012
    Shrikesnest
    See also: Point And Laugh Show, which is the real-life equivalent.
  • June 24, 2012
    Irrisia
    The book of Running Man also has a couple of other gameshows, as well as the titular Running Man - there's one where people with heart problems are wired up to a heart monitor, put on a treadmill, and asked questions. Every time they get it wrong, the treadmill speeds up.
  • June 24, 2012
    Riptiderex
    Renamed it to "Wheel of Misfortune and put the hunger games up there
  • June 24, 2012
    NimmerStill
    Sliders: Criminal trials are conducted via evil game show in "Dead Man Sliding".
  • June 24, 2012
    reub2000
    The title is a Bad Snowclone. The old name was fine.
  • June 25, 2012
    nitrokitty
    • Deadman Wonderland: The purpose of the titular prison is to force inmates to do degrading things for people's entertainment. However, that's not its true purpose.
  • June 25, 2012
    Arivne
    Film
    • The Running Man, The Film Of The Book of Stephen King's novel. In addition to the title game, there was a commercial for another game called Climbing for Dollars. It featured a contestant climbing a rope over a pit filled with angry Dobermans while pulling money off the rope. Partway up a pipe would blast the contestant with gas to try and make them fall. If they did fall, the dogs were waiting.

    Watch the clip here.
  • June 25, 2012
    Routerie
    The previous title was better

    • Stephen King wrote two books about these under the penname Richard Bachman. In one, The Long Walk, a hundred teens compete to see who could walk the longest - those go too slow or fast get shot. The Running Man, which inspired the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie of the same name, one man had to evade his pursuers as long as possible.
  • June 25, 2012
    Xtifr
    Thirding the vote to change the name back. The current name really gives no idea whatsoever what the trope is about. Wit is good, but clarity is far more important.
  • June 27, 2012
    Lyendith
    D'oh, many things happened here while I wasn't looking. Anyway, yeah, I'll change the name back, "Wheel of misfortune" is neither clear nor really accurate.

    Still, if you have a witty title, propose it, but don't impose it.
  • June 27, 2012
    elwoz
    I would be quite surprised if Max Headroom hadn't made use of this at some point, but I do not actually know.
  • June 27, 2012
    Lyendith
    @Night Nymph:

    I tried to summarize what you are trying to say about Stylistic Suck in the description, is that accurate?
  • June 27, 2012
    BOFH
    Live Action TV
    • In one episode of Judge John Deed, a contestant in a reality show where contestants are divided into "slaves" and "masters" is murdered during a live broadcast.
  • June 27, 2012
    chicagomel
    Actually, the book The Running Man was different from the movie. The part about convicted criminals didn't exist; Richards volunteered for the show to try and get money to save his sick daughter.
  • June 27, 2012
    TwinBird
    Lyendith: Battle Royale was at least partially televised, wasn't it? I know that they were using it to make clear how quickly teens would turn on one another.
  • June 27, 2012
    NightNymph
    Lyendith: That's pretty good for conveying my suggestion. The description for Stylistic Suck will take care of the rest (while saving lots of words). Better than I could've done. (Mc Wordy should be my middle name).

    The way you worded it can also cover the moral point - where a movie, TV show, book, etc. that has one of these shows may be trying to emphasize the immorality of it through the Stylistic Suck. As I said, I can't think of any examples where the point of the movie, show, etc. is "Yay this kind of show would be awesome!" though I am guessing the Stylistic Suck likely wouldn't apply there as much since I am guessing the entire movie would likely have a similar kitchy feel (i.e. so bad it's awesome).

    So, yeah, good job in my opinion.

    I can also see that with your refining of the description, my "MILF Island" example no longer fits, sleazy and immoral though it may be (and funny - because one can see how it skirts the line of what would actually be a real "reality" show).
  • June 28, 2012
    Lyendith
    ^^^ Noted.

    ^^ I only have very vague memories of the movie, I think I remember a passage where they announced the names of the survivors on TV, but not more... if anyone remembers a bit better...

    ^ Okay, that's good to know!
  • June 28, 2012
    randomsurfer
    • Queen For A Day. Four women come on the show to talk about their sucky lives, while the host makes fun of them. The winner gets something (which might help their situation), the others get nothing except to be humiliated on national television.
    Plus when choosing contestents, they didn't even judge by who was most in need but by who needed their sponsors' products the most.
  • June 28, 2012
    Xtifr
    ^ No Real Life Examples, Please. This isn't for complaining about how much show so-and-so sucked, but to list how writers portray sucky shows to show their characters are living in a Crapsack World (or whatever).
  • June 29, 2012
    Lyendith
    Pretty much, yeah. Well, I'm launching this, so, if you have something to add, this is your last chance.

Three days must pass before this YKTTW is Launchworthy or Discardable

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=l0cmh68r8e1lv5hic7mdtfd9