Critics tire of Reality TV’s “treadmill monotony”

Aussie TV critics are just about ready to snuff out the torch of Reality TV.

2014-12-22_1531Australian TV critics and commentators have hit back and the volume of Reality TV smothering Australian screens this year, branding it “treadmill monotony” and warning fatigue is setting in.

In the TVT Critics Choice Awards asking commentators to nominate Annual Trends of 2014, most of the respondents -completely independently of one another- took aim at Reality Television.

While some noted its dominance as a 2014 trend, most viewed this as a negative, rather than merely an observation.

After a year of hits, misses and even double seasons, there is frustration at the lack of viewing alternatives.

Debbie Schipp, Daily Telegraph:
“Sadly my biggest memory of 2014 television is an endless parade of reality shows punctuated by the occasional brilliant Aussie drama. Reality fatigue was reflected in the ratings of some former high-flyers.”

Erin McWhirter, TV Week:
“Reality, reality, reality. It felt like the year of the never ending reality shows. Two Block seasons, House Rules and MKR (plus many, many more). There also seemed to be a strong interest in telling Aussie stories (INXS, Schapelle, Fat Tony), which will continue in 2015. The love of reality music shows seems to have waned.”

Debi Enker, The Age:
“Overload of reality-TV contests on free-to-air developed a relentless treadmill monotony.”

Michel Lallo, The Age:
“Wall-to-wall reality. Viewers prefer to watch it live, rather than time-shifting it or via catch-up apps. If you’re watch commercial TV at 7.30pm next year, you’re almost guaranteed to be watching a reality show.”

Graeme Blundell, The Australian:
“Local free-to-air reality formats becoming tired if still popular in the absence of anything else; Sky News leading the way in innovative current affairs and news TV; the ABC had a great year under pressure – next year is even stronger; HBO-style long form storytelling still the future of TV drama along with the emergence of Stephen Soderbergh auteur approach to direction and production……”

James Manning, Media Week:
“Real estate reality/makeovers. The audience seems to be indicating they have had enough of erratic scheduling. If it’s not on when it is supposed to be or when they want it they won’t watch. Back-to-back episodes – quickest way to kill audience interest if it means staying up late. Live TV still at 90% over catch-up and binge viewing.”

Andrew Mercado, TV Historian:
“It’s appalling that the FTAs are breaking down their big shows into separate codings so they can swamp the ratings with “The Verdict” and “Winners Announced”. What’s next, splitting 6pm bulletins that start at 5.59pm into two shows – News and Weather? It should be one show, one rating, end of.”

Melinda Houston, Sunday Age:
“What a fantastic year for Aussie comedy. Not only did we make a lot of it – scripted and sketch – it was all good. Ratings could have been better, but the product’s there. To state the bleeding obvious, the importance of news, sport and live (or as-live) TV became even more cemented. The flipside is the continuing growth in timeshifting of things we don’t *need* to watch in real time.”

Criticism of Reality TV scheduling follows on from the Audience Inventory survey in August in which readers also slammed the amount of Reality on the scheduling, with many indicating they were turning to other entertainment alternatives.

Since then an OzTAM survey indicates that Live Television viewing is high, but dropping in numbers.

Ironically, networks are relying on Reality TV to plug the leak from live viewing: Reality is a genre that many of us prefer to watch Live, often as part of a social media conversation. It is also a value-for-money genre for networks when a show performs well.

Indeed 2014 ratings indicate that Reality remains amongst our biggest hits: My Kitchen Rules, The Block, House Rules and MasterChef Australia were all considered success stories this year.

But numbers were down for other shows including The Voice, Big Brother, The Amazing Race Australia and The X Factor while The Biggest Loser, When Love Comes to Town and The Big Adventure were flops.

Next year networks are planning more cooking, more renovation, more dating, plus celebrities supposedly out of their comfort zone.

There will be big hits, undoubtedly, reinforcing the appeal of the genre and its staying power.

But television is cyclical, with Factuals and Lifestyle preceding the dominance of Reality.

The critics warn that both they and the formats are becoming tired and like Survivor, it’s becoming an endurance to Outwit, Outplay and Outlast the genre itself.

41 Responses

  1. “Monotony”, there’s no more applicable word. We used to turn the TV on in the evenings, flick through the channels to see what was on …. then turn it off again seconds later. These days we often don’t even bother to turn the TV on at all. But we try to remember to tune in to ABC1 at 8.30pm on Wednesdays for one of the few things worth watching.

  2. A show like MKR is aired in over 160 countries and remade by about 4, it was the highest rating show of the year in 2014. It’s cheaper to make than drama & delivers more opportunities to generate revenue for the network. I can’t see it going anywhere soon.

  3. I guess part of the reason Big Brother struggles now is that first time round it was the only reality format stripped across the week and people could commit for 3 months or so, but now there are formats across the channels airing multiple nights from the beginning to the end of the ratings season and Big Brother is just yet another one of those.

    House Rules is about the only Aussie show I watch now but I did find it more of a chore than a pleasure towards the end. It’s never good when even fans of the season just want it to end – these shows have a natural series length and virtually all the networks push it a few weeks too far.

  4. The biggest problem with reality tv is it has had a huge impact on the amount of Australian dramas produced. Quality dramas have been lost amongst reality overload ie Puberty Blues.

    I have to hand it to Ten. It has been the only network that has attempted new reality formats. Among many failures, The Bachelor has been a success and I believe I’m A Celebrity will be popular. 7 and 9 just keep pumping out the same old same old series after series. One series a year of The Block and The Voice is enough.

  5. Reality television on all FTA, and Foxtel …. keep it up, and when Netflix and Hulu become available in Australia, there will be a mass exodus of people watching your ongoing rubbish ……..

  6. I’m already dreading 7’s upcoming shows if the incessant advertising is anything to go by. Starting the MKR ads months in advance has made me want to avoid it like the plague, the same thing happened for the big adventure. Every ad break has had an mkr or Home and Away ad so we now just change the channel because we’re sooo sick of the stupid ads.

    Make competitive reality shows more about the competition rather than back stories and back stabbing. Everyone has a sob story or is a mean spirited piece of work and I’m just over it. A bit of positivity would not go astray.

  7. Your average moron who watches FTA TV every night wants something very basic to watch that they dont have to think much about. Most people with intelligence deserted FTA years ago. So many channels on FTA with Freeview but so little on!

  8. You tell ’em love!

    These excessive same-same seasons of artificial “reality” are sucking the life and creativity out of TV production. We need new and interesting and groundbreaking dramas and comedies, not more of this tired old garbage!

  9. Viewers started DVRing late night dramas and watching less US shows some time ago. Most popular dramas and comedies are M rated.

    So showing a PG contest show to get a large audience and staggering it into one hour of drama is the the only thing that viewers will watch. Ten’s biggest problem was not being able to do that and their ratings collapsed as a result. They are doing better now MC and The Bachelor are doing OK.

    The staggering is annoying but it won’t stop unless the ACMA makes the 8:30pm junction a licence condition. But once audiences are in the habit of DVRing and catching up things it’s probably too late for that to have much effect on live viewing now.

  10. Reality shows are fine in small doses, but when they are on 5 to 6 nights a week like The Block and on for several months, one is bound to loose interest and if channel 9 have three of these “The block type” series on next year, that accounts for basically a whole year of renovations and that is only on one channel. How pathetic they don’t have anything else to offer, talk about overkill.,

  11. I must admit that I love Survivor and hope it goes forever! I also like BB. I can see how ppl are becoming annoyed with it all but I can’t see it lasting. Things change.
    Thanks for the great photo of Jeff!

  12. Survivor has been and always will be the champagne of Reality TV.

    Still going strong after 29 seasons and next season looks fantastic as well.

    Just shows what great casting can achieve and also having a host who genuinely looks thrilled to be there each and every week!

    Here’s to the next 30 seasons!

  13. Exactly Secret Squirrel – I think I have seen one of the better years of TV this year by PVRing everything, DVD box sets and other legal online sources. Pretty much none of it has been seen live on commercial FTA TV but some of it has been timeshifted from SBS1&2, ABC1&2 and other multichannels. There is tonnes of good stuff coming out of the US/Canada/UK – none of it I have seen has had any commecials in it so the advertisers have totally missed me, and many others I expect. The advertisers just haven’t realised yet that the commercial FTA guys are in a manufactured reality death spiral of their own making. Pretty soon Australian FTA will just be commercial FM radio with pictures.

  14. @craigj77 (and others) – your observation is of course correct but I don’t think that it has to be an either / or situation. The networks could have chosen to strip “wannabe” shows (thanks Nik C) early evenings M-F and then start their dramas at the previously advertised time of 8:30pm (or 8:45 if they must). I would have tuned in at that time, watched my show, and probably sat thru some ads.

    The networks may maximise eyeballs early in the evening but they lose out later on and have to lower their advertising rates or offer make-goods. It’s not a zero-sum game. These tactics damage their brand and the networks will lose out in the long run. People like me are leaving, discovering better alternatives, and we’re not coming back.

  15. I could handle all the reality if they stuck to a limit of 1 hour episodes. These bloated episodes of the block and MKR that run for almost 2 hours a night 5 times a week is ridiculous. This then pushes back a lot of the dramas to not begin until at least 9. And then they throw in a double episode and wonder why the ratings drop.

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