No, it isn't "Survivor" or "The Apprentice," the Mark Burnett-produced shows that had been kings in the past. Right now the king-of-reality title belongs to none other than ABC's "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition." That show, along with "Desperate Housewives" and "Grey's Anatomy," has dominated Sundays and led a resurgence for the network over the last two years.
Though it's still early in the season, "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" has been regularly getting 9 points in the adults 18-49 rating--numbers that are almost double that of "Survivor"'s 5 ratings and more than double that of "The Apprentice"'s middling 4 ratings so far.
"Home Edition"'s success has led to a mini-trend in reality TV--the rise of aspirational shows. Programs that have similar teary-eyed themes include NBC's "Three Wishes" and its "Biggest Loser" shows.
The result is that the sub-genre of reality shows, "competitive" reality shows-- also known as "back-biting, diva-esque" reality shows--perhaps have seen their day.
"Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" also has scored with the unique ability to run counter to one presumably major TV adage--spinoff shows never do better than the original. But "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" far exceeds "Extreme Makeover." The original was where nose-jobs, boob-jobs, ear-jobs, hair-jobs,and other body transformations change strange-looking humans to sultry models. That's where the teary-eyed scenes come in.
Though flying high now, "Home Edition" may not have the title at the end of the year. That's because the reigning king of aspirational reality TV, "American Idol"--which is also the number-one overall network show--has yet to make its regular January start. To be fair, it's also early in the season. Competitive shows such as "Survivor" and "Apprentice" typically build in drama through the year as challengers are thrown off the island or out of the boardroom. "Home Edition" doesn't have that kind of build-up week to week.
And, who's to say the next generation of reality might not get nastier and dirtier? Everything is retro in TV, after all. Aspirational shows are now the king, but new tougher spinoffs of, say, "Survivor," "Fear Factor" and "Biggest Loser" might look to give way to a new category: perspirational shows.