sealPurdue News

February 3, 2003

Expert explains why reality TV dominates rankings

A Purdue University communication professor says it's no surprise that reality shows, such as "American Idol," "The Bachelorette" and "Joe Millionaire," are expected to be leaders in this month's television sweeps.

Glenn Sparks, an expert in mass media in the School of Liberal Arts, can talk about why people are attracted, and in some cases nearly addicted, to reality television programming.

"Many of these shows encourage us to get deeply involved in the lives of a few people, and that may be catering to a need to fill a void that many of us have in the domain of close relationships," Sparks says. "Some of us are living vicariously through these programs.

"At the same time, reality programs can create opportunities to bring people together. We hear about groups of friends getting together for 'Survivor' parties."

Sparks, whose specialty is cognitive and emotional effects of media, has authored "Media Effects Research," and is the co-author for "Refrigerator Rights," a book that deals with the loss of close interpersonal relationships in America.

CONTACT: Sparks, (765) 494-3316,