The Reality Is

10:47 AM Posted In , , , , , Edit This 0 Comments »
Awhile ago a friend of mine (actually several) were horrified when I suggested one of the defining trends of the first decade of the 2000’s – much as mod represents the 60s and bad hair the 80s – would be reality television. But really, in a decade that was all about technological advancement and the wide-reaching fingers of the internet, the emergence of reality TV – despite a return to more basic television production – was a natural evolution of entertainment. We are the generation of ‘instant’, with word of mouth and online news rapidly, virally spreading messages in a matter of mere minutes. We don’t expect, we demand to know the ins and outs of our celebrities’ lives.

But yet…as we begin a new decade, it seems the honeymoon is over with reality TV. The market has become increasingly saturated, and a huge number of reality shows are starting to become stale, and in some cases, are leaving the air (sianora ‘The Hills’).

Consider the increasing absurdness of America’s Next Top Model, a show that once promised lucrative rewards in high end magazines and advertising campaigns, which now continually ‘breaks the rules’ of the modelling industry, and ultimately produces models that are hardly at the top of their game (save for Cycle 6’s Danielle and Cycle 1’s Elyse).

Or the lack of pulse-pounding intensity that once dominated The Amazing Race. Although the show still gets props for pushing the envelope in where they send their contestants, what challenges they have to do, and is still an incredible feat to pull off season after season, it’s ultimately become a little lacklustre over the last few years. Part of it is casting – some generally unlikable and improbable teams have continually made it to the end over the last few years, while fan favourites (if there are any) have continually been eliminated a few legs shy of the finish.

In fact TAR suffers from same-ism that ANTM tries extremely hard to fight – if you look at the history of the series, five of the fourteen winning teams are young, fit males (six if you count the mostly male Linz family on the family edition), two of the teams were brother/sister couplings that generally breezed through the race, and the rest were couples that generally won quite handily. In fact, the last time I remember being really excited during a TAR finale was the adorable hippies TK & Rachel in Season 12. There have been no successful parent/child, or of course, all female teams, and it’s frustrating!

Project Runway has also suffered from two relatively ho hum seasons. Last year’s ill-advised trip to Los Angeles resulted in the worst season to date, with three blasé designers in the finale. Don’t get me wrong, I actually liked all three designers, but I felt like they were better suited to be picked up to design new lines for Club Monaco than Barney’s. This past season wasn’t quite as boring, but it felt like you could pick the final line-up from the earliest weeks, and none of the final three collections were quite as awe-inspiring as past years. It almost felt predestined - as per, how could Emilio ever get past the hardware challenge with the atrocious pink string (literally) bikini he sent down the runway is beyond me...other than the judges wanted to see him in the finals (to be fair, he did do really well before and after this challenge but still).

I liked Seth Aaron Henderson’s stuff, and I quite liked him, but I still wasn’t mesmerized by it. A credit to the Canadian edition of the show – despite the fact it was pretty obvious Sunny would win the last season, I literally had no clue who would go home, or even who would be in jeopardy each episode. That’s good editing.

There are exceptions to the rule. After a couple of lacklustre seasons following the incredible Fans vs. Favourites, Survivor bounced back in Samoa thanks to the devilish casting of Russell Hantz, and followed it up with another great all stars instalment, Heroes vs. Villains. I feel like H vs V has let me down only slightly in that it’s almost sped by too fast, and maybe came on the heels of another all star edition a little too soon (as per the endless complaints about how many third-timers were on the show this time), but in general it’s been a great, surprising season, although many of my favourites are gone.

Also Dancing with the Stars continues to dominate, thanks in large part to the boomers that keep it going. I tuned in as a regular viewer for the first time this season thanks to the actually quite recognizable cast compared to other seasons, and I’ve enjoyed it. I fast forward through about 25% of each episode’s fluff, and about 80% of the results shows, but I’ve liked watching the stories unfold, the relationships, and the progression of the dancing. Great, great casting this year that gives this show a new breath of life. I don’t imagine it will last forever – as this post proves, these shows are running their course, but as a late follower, I’m thinking it’s a big pile of cheesy fun. Plus Nicole Scherzinger has finally made herself a relatable, interesting character rather than a vapid pop tart!

Anyway one can only guess what the next decade will bring us beyond these granddaddies of the industry. I’m a big fan of reality television – not so much on the afterboom of minor celebrity – and I hope it doesn’t disappear altogether. It will be a sad day when Jeff Probst isn’t gracing my screen on a weekly basis.

Till next time,

- Britt’s On


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