Ratings

Everyone knows that controversy sells.  Look at what happened with UK’s Celebrity Big Brother.  The show was getting poor ratings until a couple of the contestants made a racist remark towards a fellow contestant, an Indian actress.  The remark received tons of media coverage, which in turn helped boost the show’s ratings.

MTV was hoping that its new show, Skins, based on a hit British show about the “true” lives of teenagers would be a huge hit.  Skins, would cover controversial topics, such has promiscuity and drug abuse.  When people started talking about the show and its risque content, MTV was sure it would become a hit. So it was a major disappointment when the show had to be cancelled due to extremely low ratings.

This website lists the top 20 greatest TV controversies.  All 20 are interesting but #16 clearly tells you that the controversy helped with ratings.  Drama and shock value draw audiences in.  Even though it was unfortunate that one of the contestants of Expedition Robinson committed suicide, we learned in class that the incident caused a stir among the public which in turn drastically increased the ratings for the show.  However, it must not be forgotten that controversy can act as a double-edged sword.  Controversies have the potential to cause the demise of shows.  Recent shows such as NBC’s The Playboy Club and ABC’s V were both cancelled due to the controversies surrounding each show.

I’ve already stated in a previous post that there has been much controversy with Beyond Scared Straight regarding the effectiveness of the various “behind bars” programs in America.  I want to look at how the controversy effected the ratings for the show.

These are the ratings I found for the show.  I got them from TVbytheNumbers; they had the ratings spread across 4 pages and I put them together for easier viewing.  There really doesn’t seem to be a spike in the ratings.  Does this mean that the controversy didn’t really effect the ratings?

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What do you think?

1. Why do you like watching Beyond Scared Straight? 

Here are some questions to consider: Are you curious on how the inside of a prison/jail looks like?  Did you know someone that was going to be on the show?  Do you just want to see these kids break down? (Because that’s actually why I watch it…I enjoy watching the aggressive inmates giving a reality check to these arrogant kids who think they know everything & are untouchable).

 

2. How do you feel about the various behind bars programs in America?

Do you think the whole “scared straight” concept works?  Does it make a difference?  Do you think these programs help in decreasing teen delinquency?  Should it be used as a form of parenting?  Does how you feel about the program affect whether or not you watch the show?

Ratings Record

According to deadline.com regarding the series premiere on January 13, 2011:

The premiere of A&E’s new unscripted series Beyond Scared Straight last night became the most watched and highest rated original series debut on the network ever. The series, based on the award-winning documentary Scared Straight! and executive produced by Arnold Shapiro, drew 3.7 million viewers, 2.2 million of them in the 18-49 demographic and 2.1 million in 25-54 for the 90-minute premiere, which aired at 10 PM.

Detailed Research Methods

To find out why exactly the show is popular, I will talk to fans about their perspective.  I will ask them why they enjoy watching the show and then tally the answers.  I will also read through the various Beyond Scared Straight discussion boards to see what exactly people are saying and how they are reacting after each episode.  What I have gathered so far from these discussion boards is that people enjoy watching these “tough” teens break down.  They find entertainment in watching these deviant teens walk into the program all big and bad, thinking they are tough and untouchable, go through the program and end up crying and being broken down to show their vulnerabilities.  People seem to like watching these teens truly get a reality check; that they are not as tough and invincible as they think they are.  The few fans that I have been able to speak to about the show all agree that they enjoy watching how these teens “get what is coming to them” and that they need to get some “sense knocked into them.”

SNL

Beyond Scared Straight has a big enough following that Saturday Night Live has done multiple skits on it with guest stars Betty White, Zack Galifianakis and Taylor Swift.

Zack Galifianakis

 

Mad TV has also done parodies

Shapiro Interview

The creator of the show, Arnold Shapiro is interviewed by Senior VP of Programming at A&E.  The interview is split into two parts.  It is a question and answer session where Shapiro answers questions asked by the fans of the show.  A few of the questions that I’ve had about the show are answered, such as what do the inmates get for participating in the “scared straight” programs and how real is the show?  According to Shapiro, the inmates volunteer to speak with the teens and they receive no perks for participating; they do not get monetary gain or time taken off their sentence.  Shapiro also states that he and his crew are simply there to capture what regularly goes on during these sessions.  No one is given a script or asked to act in a particular way.  Shapiro states during his interview that Beyond Scared Straight is “a documentary, not an exploiting reality show.”

Part One – 16:03

Part Two – 13:17

Differences in the Seasons

So far, there have been two seasons of Beyond Scared Straight.  In the first season, there were 7 episodes.  In the second season, there were 5 episodes.  I have watched every episode and I feel that season two is much more dramatic than season one.  It seems as if inmates and correctional officers have gotten much more aggressive and have taken intimidation to another level.  Is it coincidence that the inmates and correctional officers in the jails and prisons in season 2 are simply more antagonistic than the ones from season 1?  Or did the producers of the show have something to do with making the show more dramatic to raise ratings?

You can judge for yourself…

Season 1, Episode 3 – Corcoran, CA (state prison)

Originally aired Feb 27, 2011

Inmates are more like mentors and the correctional officers are stern and authoritative

 

Season 2, Episode 4 – Oklahoma County, OK (county jail)

Originally aired Sep 8, 2011

Both inmates and correctional officers get in the faces  of the teens and yell into their ears

Presentation Proposal

Beyond Scared Straight is an hour long show on A&E that follows at-risk teens during their visit at a local jail or prison.  These teens range in age from 11-19 and have been getting into trouble for drinking, fighting, doing drugs and engaging in other illegal or harmful activities.  During their visit, these teens get a first-hand look at how life is “behind bars.”  Inmates and correctional officers threaten and intimidate these teens to show them that they need to veer from the destructive path that they are on.

This show has gotten a lot of mixed reviews from the public.  On the one hand, there are many who applaud the show and the various “behind bars” programs that exist in the United States.  They feel that the show and such programs help our youth change their ways for the better.  On the other hand, there are many who feel that the show portrays a program that is not effective.  They claim that studies show that those teens who participate in such programs are more prone to a life of crime.

Do such controversies help with ratings?  I want to explore how shows such as Beyond Scared Straight gain popularity among viewers.  What makes this show so popular?  Are people simply curious about America’s prison system?  Do people enjoy watching delinquent teens suffer and squirm?  Or is the show popular because people care to learn that the lives of these law-breaking reckless juveniles get turned around for the better?  I will conduct a literature review, explore the show’s discussion boards, get fans’ perspectives and attempt to speak with producers from the show to gain more insight.

Clip from show

For those who have never watched the show before, below is a sneak peek video created by A&E to promote their show.  The show follows teens who love to fight, engage in deviant behaviors and talk back to authoritative figures who are signed up by their parents, teachers or guidance counselors to spend a day in jail being threatened and intimidated by inmates and correctional officers.  The aim is to deter these at-risk teens from entering a life of crime and basically “scare them straight.”

Just the beginning

For my project, I would like to explore the show Beyond Scared Straight.  It first aired in January 2011, on A&E.

According to MSN Entertainment, this show is: “Based on the multiple award-winning documentary “Scared Straight!” from executive producer Arnold Shapiro, “Beyond Scared Straight,” much like the original, profiles unique juvenile crime prevention programs in prisons across the U.S.  Each hour long episode follows a handful of at-risk teenagers as they attend a program, which includes an intensive one-day session in a prison.  A month later, the teens are asked what, if any, lasting impressions the program had on them.”

I am still not 100% sure on how I want to analyze the show.  I might look into why society would find such a show entertaining.  Or I might investigate marketing techniques and product placement.

This site is a work in progress…so stay tuned for sporadic updates!

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