One of the lessons I’ve learned during my time as a Film major that reality television surged in popularity because of how relatively inexpensive it was to make compared to scripted shows. I remembered discussing the target demographics and the history of these shows.
And now it looks like it may be dying out.
According to Bloomberg, viewership for reality TV is dropping while streaming websites such as Netflix and Amazon Prime are opting for more original scripted shows and dumping reality shows. You could make the argument that it’s because reality shows inherently have a short shelf life but the fact they are opting to spending more money on scripted shows is what made me raise an eyebrow.
Now I honestly don’t believe reality TV will completely die out. Contrary to some conventional thoughts reality TV has been around since the 1970s with one of the shows being An American Family that revolved around a real family. The fascination with other people’s lives, be it the upper class of The Kardashians or the lower to middle class of Honey Boo Boo, will never leave completely leave our society. I do however believe that it won’t dominate the pop culture scene and people are losing interest as scripted shows are easily accessible in terms of money and time. If anything, it won’t be considered the guaranteed money maker that it once was in the 2000s.
So the next question is can reality TV be saved? (Some would ask if it should even be saved)
What can change is going back to the core idea of An American Family and even the first season of The Real World and return to a more documentary type lifestyle. Reality TV was novel because it (seemed) to be real and the people were not the polished and primped celebrities but real people with real issues. For some, the genre has slowly turned towards becoming a jumping board into fame and creating situations for drama that it almost seems like a farce to call it reality. It has become a brand rather than a true look into people’s lives.
This could also save reality TV from a shorter shelf life. If presented as a moment of recorded history for future generations or be unflinching in its honest presentation of people and events like other documentaries perhaps the value would rise.
Or maybe we should treat them like vlogs. Just have a camera and a person recording themselves and go on with out lives.