It’s that season again, the one that brings back the most popular of Nigeria’s reality tv shows; Big Brother Naija, the seventh season. With its rave taking center stage at the moment, and many more fanning out beside it, it seems an army of reality tv shows has come to invade our screens.
But what are reality tv shows, and why are they causing so much craze among Nigerians? What is their origin? Where dem come from?
Well, reality television is a genre of television programming that features unscripted situations, documents actual events, and usually presents unknown persons instead of casting professional actors. As with the name reality, the goal of reality tv shows is to cast the participants in real-world situations as opposed to the simulated environment of other genres like movies and series.
Reality tv shows usually contain various standard tropes and may include frequent interviews with the participants; this can double to serve as the show’s narration. They may also have an emphasis on personal conflict and drama between the participants. In the case of competition-based shows, which is a popular subset, they usually have additional elements such as a panel of judges, one participant being eliminated per episode, and the concept of immunity from elimination.
History of Reality TV Shows
Reality television began in earnest in the early to mid-1990s, with shows such as The Real World, Nummer 28, and Changing Rooms as the forerunners. Following the global success of series like Big Brother and Survivor, the genre then exploded as a phenomenon in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Along with a number of others, these shows proceeded to become global franchises and went on to spawn local versions in dozens of countries.
Reality television, as a whole, has become a major staple of television programming. In the United States, various channels have rebranded themselves to focus on reality TV; a good example is MTV, which began in the 1980s as a music video pioneer before switching to a nearly all-reality format at the turn of the century.
In Nigeria, several reality tv shows have burst out onto the big screen over the years, and while many of them have faded into extinction over the years, with some like Gulder Ultimate Search even coming back from the grave, many more are rearing their heads in a powerful way.
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Top Reality TV Shows in Nigeria
The Voice Nigeria
Oh, you were probably thinking I’d start with Big Brother Naija, right? Well, psyche! This list is in no way in order of magnitude, so I can start wherever and however I like. Sue me!
The Voice Nigeria is one of Nigeria’s most popular reality tv shows. An offshoot of the global music show of the same name, it was created by Jon de Mol and debuted in Nigeria in 2016. It screens dozens of contestants with several of them eliminated until they’re down to the last six or eight for the final weekend, which is where the eventual winner is decided by the viewers.
The show was hosted in its first and second seasons by IK Osakioduwa, who also hosted the latest season. Nancy Isime was the main host of season 3, with Toke Makinwa as co-host. Several top-tier Nigerian artistes have also acted as judges, including recurring stars Yemi Alade and Waje, as well as Waje. 2baba has also acted as a judge (season one), along with Patoranking and Timi Dakolo (the first two seasons). Falz and Darey joined the recurring judges for the third season.
The Voice Nigeria has acted as a launch pad for several artistes in the country’s music space, and although the show took a break after its second season in 2017, it returned for season 3 in 2021.
Nope, not yet BBN’s turn. The Nigerian Idol is another local franchise of a popular international music reality tv show. The first edition, which was hosted in October 2010, granted eligibility to all Nigerians between the ages of 18-28 and quickly gained fame and acceptance after it was aired on over 15 channels across Africa.
The first winner of the Nigerian Idol show walked away with the sum of ₦7.5 million, a recording contract with Sony, a car, and an all-expense-paid trip to South Africa. Tiwa Savage served as the main host during the initial period, while season six had Seyi Shay, Obi Asika, and DJ Sose as judges. Praiz and Cobhams Asuquo are also featured sometimes as guest judges.
Gulder Ultimate Search
See, at this point, just go with the flow, okay? It will come when it will come.
Gulder Ultimate Search, also known as GUS, is a Nigerian reality television series that was created and sponsored by Nigerian Breweries Plc to promote its flagship Gulder brand. With its first season premiering in 2004, it was Nigeria’s very first 100% local content reality tv show.
GUS is a survival-themed show that centers around the struggle of contestants against themselves and the forces of nature as they search for hidden treasures, with candidates eliminated on a periodic basis and the last man standing gaining fame and fortune. The winner of the last season in 2012 took home a cash prize of N10 million, as well as an SUV.
Popular producers of the series include Olakunle Oyeneye and Executive Producer Oluseyi Siwoku of Jungle Filmworks, with the legendary baritone voice of Femi Sowoolu hovering like that of the GUS Big Brother. Chidi Mokeme was the host.
After a 7-year hiatus, Gulder Ultimate Search returned to the television screen in the year 2021.
Big Brother Naija
Okay, y’all can stop throwing stuff at me now. The masquerade of the lot, the rightly named Big Brother Naija is the most popular, as well as the most controversial, of all reality tv shows in Nigeria. It also has by far the most mouth-watering cash prize of over N35 million (excluding allowances and other accouterments).
BBN, as it is often abbreviated, is considered the best platform for gaining fame and recognition in the entertainment industry, as housemates are required to possess a creative streak. The show revolves around the themes of love, drama, intrigue, fun, betrayal, and conflict. Housemates are expected to live together for a total of 3 months while undergoing tasks that put their mental and physical acumen to the test, along with their talents.
The show is so popular that in the third season, Nigerians cast a whopping 200 million votes to keep their favorite housemates in the house. And the record has it that subsequent shows broke this record.
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I Am LAYCON
Olamilekan Agbeleshebioba, popularly known as Laycon, broke multiple records with the Big Brother Naija Season 5; he was the first housemate to be verified on Instagram while still inside the house, and also the first to reach 1 million followers on the social platform, still in the house. During the show’s finale, he was declared the winner and scored a record 60% of the total votes cast.
I Am LAYCON follows his life as he chases his music career after the BBNaija House and settles into a life of stardom. The series showcases his life and his relationship with family and friends, with cameos from fellow Big Brother Naija Lockdown housemates, Victoria “Vee” Adeyele and Lilo Aderogba.
The series is Nigeria’s first ever Showmax Original reality tv show and broke the Nigerian record for the most viewed show on its first day on Showmax, even beating the likes of Big Brother Naija and Mercy & Ike.