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.