Reality shows hide a difficult reality

Reality shows hide a difficult reality.
Viewers have become enamored with reality programs and have drifted away from the normal staple of the television industry, sitcoms and dramas, according to a The New York Times story this morning on the annual network task of arranging a fall lineup.

In the current television season, 12 of the top 20 shows are reality shows, and many of the others (sitcoms and dramas) are either about to close down for good, like “Friends,” or are part of multipart crime franchises, like NBC’s “Law and Order” and CBS’s “C.S.I.”

“It’s a really hard time to be in the business now,” said Dana Walden, the president of 20th Century Fox Television. Her point was echoed by Peter Roth, the president of the Warner Brothers television production studio. “The business is challenging and it seems more so this year than any in a long time,” Mr. Roth said.

Studio chiefs are not the only ones feeling the pressure: television writers, directors and actors have reason to be worried as well, specifically about how many jobs the old system is going to continue to generate — because fewer prime time slots are going to be available for scripted shows.

Frankly, I think the quality of most of those scripted shows plays a bigger role in their current situation than the popularity of reality shows. Regardless, the article quotes NBC’s Jeff Zucker as saying the next “Friends” is “The Apprentice.” This is an idea that Jupiter’s David Card says demands a little caution.
Come on, Jeff, do you really think The Apprentice can survive without Trump? I give it two more rounds before the ratings tank. Todd (Jupiter Analyst Todd Chanko) and I both think this sounds like Millionaire all over again. Since ABC bet too big on Millionaire, and didn’t develop any franchise scripted shows, it’s been in the tank.
Okay, let’s stop for a minute and look at this from a slightly different perspective, for I think there’s more going on here than simply copycat programmers jumping on a(nother) bandwagon.

MTV began all of this, and I think that’s important to remember. They didn’t do it on a whim. Like everything else MTV, the idea flows from its ability to tune into the younger generation. And as I’ve written about previously, Postmodernism is much more evident in younger people, and it’s ushering in two important changes in our culture that directly relate to so-called “reality” shows. One, Pomos distrust hierarchy, and that includes educated “experts” who used to be relied upon to tell us how to live. “Expert,” in that sense, is synonymous with “élite” in the minds of Pomos, who view the real experts in life to be those who’ve actually experienced whatever is the current topic of interest. Consequently, eavesdropping in on real adventures, whether competition or personal, is a natural part of the Postmodern education process.

Secondly, Postmodernism is the “Age of Participation,” much for the same reasons listed above. Technology has opened doors for Pomos that allow them to interact with life in ways beyond anything their parents knew. Participating in life — not just observing it — is the mantra of all of these programs, and that resonates with Pomos.

That said, I still think the industry will likely kill the genre through greed, because, well, that’s what they do. For every Survivor, there’s a celebrity mole. Sigh.

Comments

  1. I’m in agreement with you that the overall horrid amount of programming has led to the way that shows are rated. Ratings are all relative to the amount of folks watching television — or network television, one might say. If all that’s on is reality, then people start watching it all the time.

    I’d say TiVo watching would be a much better measure of what people are interested in, but we’ll have to wait a little while for that, methinks.

  2. Actually, Tom, TiVo already has that information. They announced a few months ago that they’re partnering with (ugh) Nielsen to provide the data.

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