Reality TV: Will It Be a Survivor?

Reality TV: Will it be a Survivor?

American Idol hasn’t produced a genuine star in seasons. John Pablo Galivis caused the last three women on the The Bachelor to exit crying, while falling ratings have left studio executives in tears. The question looms large: will reality TV be a survivor in the next few years?

The reality show of that name began the craze back in 2001 when viewers planned their evenings around Survivor. But ratings began to wain a few years later as competition for the reality viewer heated up. Survivor’s season finale this past season drew 8.3 million viewers, compared with a hefty 44 million in its first year.

American Idol drew 12 million viewers for its last show this year, a disappointing drop from its high of 38 million people who watched the finale Idol 11 years ago. And The Bachelor drew just 10.8 viewers this year, compared with almost 26 million just three years ago.

Why the growing lack of interest in reality television?

Experts point to a number of factors, which vary depending on the type of reality show. Reality competitions like Survivor suffered, ironically, from competition. The appearance of an increased number of programs like The Amazing Race resulted in more competition between networks for the same pool of viewers than between the contestants on the shows.

Programs like American Idol, The Voice and The X-Factor found themselves competing for the same limited group of exceptionally gifted singers, and the level of talent began to decline.

So, with even the most popular of these shows in decline, the question remains: will reality TV be a survivor in coming seasons?

Don’t look for the Kardashians to ride to the rescue, even their ratings have suffered. The formerly hot show’s ratings melted when viewers learned that staging replaced reality in nearly 90 percent of Keeping Up With the Karashians. Genuine reality was exposed when Kim Kardashian filed for divorce from Kris Humphries after just 72 days of wedded bliss. Depositions revealed that program scenes were rigged to make Humphries look bad and Kim look good to justify her quick exit.

Lately, the medical profession has been examining some of reality shows’ real effects on the people who watch the programs. Medical Procedure News says the shows are boosting the incidences of cosmetic surgery. The publication claims that some 9.2 million procedures sprang from the viewing of reality TV. WebMD Medical News accuses reality television of contributing to a rise in eating disorders among teen-aged girls. The News cites programs such as Extreme Makeover, Are You Hot? and The Search for America’s Sexiest People as being particularly guilty in that regard.

Indeed. A recent survey by the Girl Scouts Research Institute revealed that 72 percent of young women who watched reality TV said that they spend a great deal of time on appearance, while just 42 percent of non-viewers made that claim.

Perhaps the most blatant sign of reality TV desperation came recently during a show starring Lady Gag. During a dance number where she sang the song Swine over a roasting pig, she had a fellow performer drink from a bottle of paint, and then spit all over her.

With performances like that, it’s little wonder that viewers ask “reality TV: will it be a survivor?”

B. David Warner

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