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Web TV meets reality TV in YouTube stars’ series

Reality TV has been the latest and probably longest consistently running television genre trend. However, it may be competing with similar programming in internet video. Many YouTube stars are coming out with their own online series. Celebrities Grace Helbig and Mamrie Hart of YouTube’s “Camp Takota” are two of those stars. Their upcoming series is entitled “HeyUSA”. But this won’t be your average passive YouTube series that you simply Like or leave comments in the box for. This travel show will ask viewers to contribute to the two hostesses’ continental trip by responding through different social media platforms such as Twitter and Instagram. The two stars will be actually traveling to different cities across the nation recording their travels as they go. The series will basically be a reality show for the Internet. However, while “HeyUSA” will be a great experiment in online video innovation, the series itself may not be much more informing than traditional (or, for simplification of this article, broadcast) television’s reality shows.

A show such as “HeyUSA” has a quality and advantage over traditional television’s reality shows. Compared to reality TV (as with most broadcast television programming) which is more passive and impersonal, online video is much more interactive and personal in that it allows for more immediate response from the viewers. It provides the comments box and Like/Dis-like buttons on or right next to the website’s video player. And with the encouragement of “HeyUSA”’s audience responses through various social media platforms, audience participation is even more inviting and allows the viewer to take a more active role in the series. Therefore the stars in this show are more connected to their viewers.

Because “HeyUSA” covers the stars’ travels, and therefore their actual experiences, and because of its interactive features, it’s reality TV that the audience becomes more directly a part of. Helbig and Hart will start their show on their trip to Alaska and will visit a different city in the U.S. each week. They will ask the audience suggestions of where to go in a given city and what to do there on their YouTube channel, Instagram, Vine, Twitter, SnapChat “and all the top social medias” says Grace on their trailer posted on Astronauts Wanted’s YouTube channel who they will be partnering with in producing this series. In a way, the viewers will be helping to produce the series.

While Helbig and Hart’s show will be more constructive for viewers because of the series’ emphasis on audience interaction, the two stars come across in their trailer as very superficial as is the case with many reality TV stars. Their demeanor is one of crudeness, straight out sarcasm and even narcissism probably for purposes of gaining audience attention. In one of the trailer’s scenes, Hart flips the bird at the audience (and the cameraman at that). In a Mashable interview, Helbig lays blame exclusively on the viewers if the show were to fail.

Perhaps Helbig has some truth to her point, however. Anyone watching could suggest the duo to go anywhere and do anything. For all we know, one of those suggestions can be to explore a bad part of town where a crisis could end the series early and, perhaps because of, even Helbig and Harts’ lives (God, forbid)! But as shallow as the two come across, they will likely draw the line at such suggestions. However, because of their extremely loose nature, as far as communication with audience goes, and because of their seemingly impressionistic motives, the travels and their settings could be trivialized. Therefore where they go, what they do and how they express themselves could drown out the context of the real-life settings, making the settings mere backdrops for a standup comic act.

The show can do a lot better than your Examiner anticipates. But that all depends on the audience. After all, Helbig and Hart are depending on viewers’ decisions and so you as a viewer can suggest they do things that will be more thought provoking and intriguing, such as checking out major historical sites or getting a guide who is an expert on the setting they’re exploring. If you want to see the local night clubs in a given city through their travels, then you can suggest they speak to the manager and employees about insight into the business, its history and surrounding culture as well as each one’s personal experience with it. In other words, suggest they get actual insightful interviews with the people and experts of the areas they explore like what good journalism, even more casual journalism such as “HeyUSA”, should do. The show doesn’t have to be limited to sarcastic or demeaning jokes.

“HeyUSA” is scheduled to premiere July 1 and run new episodes for a course of eight weeks, according to Mashable. It will be available to watch on both Astronauts Wanted’s website and YouTube channel. Throughout the summer, the episodes will run an average of two-to-four minutes each. “Longer-form narratives from their trip will follow in September,” says Mashable’s Josh Dickey. To support this series, use the hashtag #HeyUSA on any social media platform that uses hashtags (such as Twitter, Facebook, etc.) and help make this series reach a much more enriching level of quality than most of traditional television’s reality shows.

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