Commentary

Networks Still Looking For Renewal, Reality, Reasonably Priced Programs

Stop the financial presses: ABC just renewed money-making show "America's Funniest Home Videos" for what will be its 18th season.

It's a show that started just a few weeks after "The Simpsons" -- all back at the time when there was no UPN, WB, CW, iTunes, reality TV, and mobisodes.

ABC said it was also renewing its other utility infield players, "Wife Swap" and "Supernanny." ABC's higher-rated reality fare, "Dancing with the Stars" and "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition," will no doubt make return engagements as well.

This group is part of the aspirational block of reality shows -- that is, if you can leave out disgruntled swapping wives on "Wife Swap," or disgruntled dance partners on "Stars," or disgruntled and spoiled kids on "Supernanny," or disgruntled contractors on "Makeover," or disgruntled teenagers being filmed running their skateboards through someone's window on "Home Videos."

OK, you need some drama for the aspiration to work. Everyone can't be happy all the time. Without getting yourself a little dirty with reality shows, there cannot be a rebirth. Not only that, but you get no payoff. And payoff is what we are looking for -- in more ways than one.

How much indeed is ABC paying out for "Home Videos," "Wife Swap" or "Supernanny"? It can't be too much. It all seems ABC has its own plans in managing its future production costs - as with NBC's plans last fall.

Call it ABC 3.0 for those three reality shows. Look at the decent ratings those shows give the network -- some eye-catching ROI for sure.

The reality continues to be that every network needs some reality when looking at production expenses these days. You need your big shows and your smaller fare.

Hey, even George Steinbrenner can't field an entire New York Yankees squad of players from the entire starting American League All-Star team of 2006. (Of course, we don't want to give him any ideas).

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