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?