Can we be nearing the end of the Reality TV show era? Some recent newcomers have come and (thankfully) gone quickly, and even Mark Burnett’s golden touch can’t seem to give The Contender big numbers. In an attempt to lure back viewers who are burnt out on mean-spirited, backstabbing behavior, CBS has a bunch of “kinder, gentler” reality shows slated for next season no doubt spurred on by the success of ABC’s Extreme Home Makeover.

Using myself as a barometer of the average viewer (hey, it’s my website, I can do whatever I want), I would say the public has reached saturation as far as reality TV is concerned. I’m not a voracious viewer of reality TV… I don’t watch Fear Factor, America’s Next Top Model, or Big Brother. I have tuned in to one season of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, but that was enough for me. Being a fitness buff and really annoyed at the state of obesity in the U.S., I did tune into The Biggest Loser. It was unnecessarily cheesy and the supposed drama too drawn out, but I loved seeing the changes these folks made to their lives. I even watched Wife Swap this season because it did my heart good to see the children in some of these families benefit from the exchange.

However, I’ve hit Reality TV Burnout™. I’ve been a loyal fan of Survivor since Season 2, but I think this current season is the last one for me. The first couple of seasons were fairly real, about surviving, and of course, the million dollars. But since then it’s become about the notoriety (at least for a hefty percentage of the contestants) plus it’s gotten WAY repetitive. It seems that early on the staff psychologists (or Burnett, whoever) hit on a formula for a specific combination of ages, genders, and personalities that would generate the right amount of conflict and side-taking.

It’s gotten old. You can take any season and interchange the contestants. It’s like the cast of a TV show or stage play where you plug different actors into specific roles. There’s only so much “drama” you can drum up to keep things different. This season’s “shocking opener” involved having two extra contestants… that lasted all of one episode. Oooohhh, that was exciting.

I really enjoyed the concept of The Apprentice as well, but even that’s getting old.

I don’t think I’m alone, and I have a feeling that next season will be the last hurrah for this genre. Sure, there will be a couple of survivors (cough), but I think the trend is going to be back to scripted television.