Competition has always been the engine of the American economy and we have long been entertained by the competitive nature of sports. But, in recent decades, cable television has introduced an exploding array of competition-based programs to a ravenous, tube-watching public.
Spearheaded by the likes of American Idol and Iron Chef, this programming offers an expanding array of competitions between performers, chefs, bakers, designers, survivers, travellers, daredevils and dieters, among others. In most cases, the competitors are systematically eliminated over the course of the season and the viewing public is often involved in the judging process.
While talents are displayed and hard work is rewarded, these shows are popular due to the drama, turmoil and heartache that accompanies the competition; in other words, viewers tune in to witness the stress of those striving for celebrity and are entertained by the suffering that comes with criticism and defeat. As is often the case, these programs, like much of American television, reflect the dark side of human nature and highlight a distrubing undercurrent in human society.