Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Reality TV burnout? More like a Reality TV binge.

There's been some talk in the entertainment circles about the quick turnaround for reality shows, and it's not hard to see why when you look at the extremely short turnaround for many of the current programs.

The big hyped-up shows like "Survivor" and "The Apprentice" used to have a significant gap between challenges. That would give the audience time to get used to the winner, take a break, and then get excited about the next great challenge. "American Idol" would allow the winner to have his or her shining moment in the sun, release their contracted album, do a few music videos, and even go on tour before bringing Simon back from hiding.

But now you have turnarounds in a matter of WEEKS, not months. Survivor finished their ninth challenge in December, and then number ten kicked off in February. The Apprentice finished their second challenge, and no sooner did that one finish than Donald Trump was busy hyping the THIRD Apprentice challenge.

Not only that, but Fox is pulling the same lame programming stunt that ABC did with "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire" and NBC does with "Law and Order" in that they're RAMMING American Idol down our collective gullets on multiple days of the week. We don't need to have three weeknights dedicated to "American Idol" any more than we needed to have two weeknights dedicated to "Last Comic Standing".

Well the reason behind it is easy to figure out... network programmers are taking the lazy way out by overusing the formulas that worked in the past. Rather than treat these Reality TV shows as specials, the program execs are treating them like boiler room sitcoms, and then expecting the same kind of returns.

The end result is overkill and viewer apathy. And you can hear it in how people talk about the shows! USA Today used to offer a whole segment of their LIFE section for a recap of Reality TV shows... now they don't even bother with it. Local radio stations used to spend anywhere up to a whole half hour talking about nothing but whatever popular Reality TV show was on the previous night. Now they don't talk about it at all, except to say that whatever show was on sucked!

And then you have the whole Bachelor/Bachelorette crap, where the latest finale of "The Bachelorette" ended with a three-hour finale and aftermath show that basically let folks down and then spent the third hour talking about it. Apparently nobody in ABC saw what happened to NBC's three-part sick and cruel joke called "Average Joe". I still remember it, though. You can't help but remember the cruel jokes played on people, especially when they hit close to home. Disney-owned ABC needs to listen to the outrage from the viewers and shelve that whole "Bachelor/Bachelorette" concept for at least six months, if not permanently. That milk has clearly gone sour.

I seriously recommend that the networks give every reality show at least a three-to-six-month break between challenges. Let the winners celebrate. Let the celebrities bask in their fifteen minutes. Let people talk about the previous challenge and get them excited about the next one.

Also, how about limiting the whole finale concept to two hours or less? You don't need to waste a whole night hyping a show, especially if you're hearing more complaints than compliments, or you know that the finale would be a big letdown.

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