The Impact of Reality Television and Drama Series


Reality television and drama series have become a national and global phenomenon. Many young people, as well as adults, are flocking to their televisions to catch the next episode of their favorite shows. Setting their digital video recorder in the event of missing a “live” episode. However, some of these reality television and drama series have their share of controversy. Many viewers claim that certain reality television and drama series glamorize issues rather than serve as a deterrent.

For example, Music Television (MTV), American reality series 16 And Pregnant, Teen Mom, Teen Mom 2, and Teen Mom OG, show viewers, specifically youth, the reality of being a teenage parent. The series also raises awareness on many issues such as teen dating violence, child abuse, domestic violence, substance abuse, abortion, adoption, and self-esteem. In a CNN interview, Lauren Dolgen, creator and developer of the MTV series explains her reason for creating the series.

In comparison to the American reality television series, the Shuga drama series also received public backlash. Produced jointly by MTV International and The MTV Staying Alive Foundation, Shuga is part of a multimedia campaign that educates viewers, particularly youth, on practicing safe(r) and HIV/AIDS. In addition, Shuga raises awareness on matters such as teen pregnancy, gender inequality, gender-based violence, sexual identity, child abuse, domestic violence, peer pressure, and family planning. Furthermore, Shuga interweaves African cultures and traditions through the art of storytelling while educating viewers. Shuga has attracted over 500 million viewers in various countries since it premiered in 2009 in Kenya.

Viacom Global Insights reported preliminary results of an independent study completed by the World Bank before and after exposure to Shuga.  Results show that the series has more positive outcomes than negative. Nowadays, through social media youth are finding it easier to communicate and discuss what they have learned, challenging major television networks to produce more series to keep youth engaged. Nevertheless, research results prove that youth and viewers received the messages behind 16 And Pregnant, Teen Mom, Teen Mom 2, Teen Mom OG, and Shuga. Is it safe to say, though the iconic song covered by Three Dog Night, “The show must go on?”


Why I created MTV’s ’16 and Pregnant (2011, May 5). CNNRetrieved from

MTV Shuga: Staying Alive, Retrieved from

Drama series “MTV Shuga” increases prevention of HIV/AIDS in Africa (2016, June 16). Viacom Global Insights, Retrieved from

Photo Credit: Pexels, Pixabay, License: CC Public Domain

Aneeta Pearson, MSW, MS


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