Back to the doghouse for reality TV?

Published 10 years ago by , Updated May 26th, 2014 at 12:07 pm,

If TV ratings are any indication, the reality TV genre seems to be losing some steam. Just about two years ago right now, Joe Millionaire was one of the top shows on TV, but these days it seems like any reality show that doesn’t have Mark Burnett’s name on it is headed straight for the history books. Latest case in point: The Will, which has already been canceled by CBS after just one show.

The concept of The Will sounded sleazy on paper. Friends and family of an elderly rancher had to compete with each other for the deed to his ranch. That meant two things. First, the show technically should have been called The Deed, and second, we had yet another opportunity to watch a family destroy itself in the name of reality TV. The overwhelming majority of Americans wisely decided to pass. (The fact that The Will was competing against an NFL playoff game and Battlestar Galactica couldn’t have helped.)

The Will is hardly alone in its abject failure. Another CBS show, Wickedly Perfect, debuted to less-than-stellar numbers. That show’s goal is to choose the next Martha Stewart. (And who exactly thought this was a good idea?) Also consider Apprentice ripoffs such as Rebel Billionaire and The Benefactor. Both have suffered in the ratings, and The Benefactor actually wrapped things up in six episodes instead of the planned eight because of low ratings.

Even the established ratings winners such as Survivor and The Apprentice are not doing quite as well as they once did, but Mark Burnett is still the undisputed king of reality TV, and he knows it. The only question is, how long will that gravy train last, and what will take its place?



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2 Comments - Comments are closed.

  1. I think the biggest indicator “RTV” is losing its luster is when some of the shows are only one time specials, like the recent tanker: “Who’s your daddy?”. Wickedly Perfect was trying to cash in on the remodeling craze that must be 150% of TLC’s programming. …or so I felt.

    What else can TV do? All the scripted shows are spinoffs of each other? Would we really want five incarnations of CSI every week?

    Funny you mentioned Battlestar Galactica. I was wondering why on (or off) Earth NBC was airing a made for cable mini-series. Then I realized what I was flipping channels from, that thrilling Jets/Chargers game. The NFL post-season is becoming a ratings machine, it’s not just the Super Bowl anymore. Which makes me happy. :D

    Slightly OT: but here’s my NFL rant: enjoy the AFC race, I think the Colts will slip by a depleted New England team but lose in the AFC title game to Pittsburgh. The Steelers will beat the (surprise!) Rams in the Super Bowl.

  2. It’s a cycle and it happens with everything in entertainment and pop culture. I think we’re going to be hitting the saturation level for comic book-based movies in the next 18 months or so, and then something else while become the bandwagon everyone jumps on.

    I can see the appeal of Reality TV: incredibly low production costs and the same amount of money coming in for advertising if the show is popular. No having to pay the star(s) a million an episode. :P

    Of course I have to admit that I still watch Survivor and The Apprentice. Two shows that I started watching out of curiousity but have hooked me are The Biggest Loser and (God, I hate to admit this) Wife Swap.

    Since I’m into fitness and nutrition and think obesity is an epidemic in the U.S. I was very curious to see what TBL would be like, and I have to say the results where VERY impressive… with the combined weight loss of the contestants being over 750lbs, and the winner losing 125 of those pounds himself!

    Wife Swap, which I originally watched with the intent of ranting about it here, has turned to be not what I expected, and that’s in a good way.

    The thing that attracts me to both of these shows is that in the end, they’re about changing people’s lives for the better. Sure there’s other stuff in there, but the final result is to the good. If there must be more reality TV, I’d prefer to see that sort survive as opposed to some of the dreck that has been floated and quickly sunk.