Finally, a burnout over reality!
"We heard a lot from viewers about how they felt that some programs were too manufactured -- that they could see the producers' thumbprint on the shows," Tom Calderone, president of VH1, recently told The Wall Street Journal.
Seems the problem -- at least according to VH1 -- is that reality TV isn't "authentic" enough. This is part of the issue why VH1's women viewers have been declining over the last several years. We can only guess that other purveyors of reality show drivel -- or of more "scripted" reality shows -- are coming to the same conclusion.
Viewers can see what producers are doing, according to the cable channel's research, but I'm guessing this isn't entirely a bad thing. You might say the same thing about sitcoms or 10 p.m. network dramas.
Viewers kind of know what to expect -- more or less. The good part is all this reality TV has become "comfort food." "The Real Housewives of... wherever," "Jersey Shore," "Top Chef," and "Deadliest Catch" won't be losing their value anytime soon. But wannabe reality shows will need to work harder.
Years ago there was much talk about how viewers could play a big part in story lines, that they could decide the story direction in movies and television thanks to all the new digital devices, software and tech tools. Why not the same in reality TV?
But in reality -- that word again -- what we'd probably get is really, really boring stuff. And thus the need for producers, editors, and -- in Hollywood, of course -- notes.
This is what TV producers get paid for -- to keep things moving. That means coming up with a how-to-marry-a-millionaire concept, a beauty-and-the-beast format, a punk-ed TV show, or even the more mundane -- like the drama behind opening up a new kind of mall kiosk.
It means adding celebrities to "The Apprentice" and more musical talent to singing/talent reality shows. Is that enough? Sometimes.
Remember TV producers and viewers are smarter than you think -- all of which seems to ask one question: Does it matter that they can see your tricks if they are still watching? Maybe you need better tricks -- or at least one or two knowing winks towards the audience.
The thumbprint of the producer is very obvious in some reality shows, more subtle in others. I noticed one whole season of Gene Simmons' show that was completely staged, amidst seasons before and after that seemed more ad-libed. It would be better if producers thought of their reality show segments as improvisations on a theme, and maybe they do. Of course the players have to be quick on their feet to deliver.