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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. There is no sense blaming the networks for this., they are commercial operations that aim to sell ads to the most number of eyeballs. If the masses suddenly started watching Dateline on SBS or Please Like Me on ABC2 in huge numbers, you can guarantee a glut of high brow current affairs shows and Australian comedies would suddenly start appearing on the commercial networks.

  2. Yep you nailed it @andrewb

    I used to like MKR for example when it was a much shorter season now it seems like a chore and I might get rid of it.

    Also we stopped watching the block as soon as it went to multiple nights a week

  3. I concur with all comments.
    I think the over saturation stripped across 4-5 nights and repeated ad nauseum during that week!
    I also think they are too scripted to be reality, more like: just call the genre “wannabees” (yes the double e was deliberate).
    Also the people that watch them like “light entertainment” don’t want to sit and think as many dramas can require thought.
    I also think the fact that many dramas start late due to the lack of regulation in shows start and finish times is a key issue!

  4. That’s nice, but I don’t think the networks give a hoot while the stupid public continue to watch the rubbish dished up in their millions. When people stop watching, networks will stop showing it. Until then, the ‘critics’ can say what they want.

  5. If a network series I watch puts a “movie length” or “double episode” on I’m out. I wait for the DVD. Mostly though I don’t bother starting a series unless it’s on 10 or ABC as they are most consistent. FTA has pushed me to series on DVD and I like it.

  6. Survivor and Amazing Race – one hour, once a week – perfect. Love them both.

    Shame some of the others can’t be one hour, once a week. Might get more of a look at…

    Instead they all are lengthy episodes, multiple times a week and corrupting the schedule for anything airing after them.

  7. @Jas, I like Survivor, annoying that some tool started the last series at 9.30pm on a week night. Didn’t bother.

    As for the other so called ‘reality’, well there is plenty of scripted drama in it and dire contrived tension, but jeez it is so boring,rammed with adverts and recaps…..its demise is coming….

  8. I think most of us here agree that there are too many reality shows these days, but until people stop watching them you can’t blame the TV networks for producing them, as bad as many of them are.

    Personally the only reality show that has kept my interest over the years is Survivor and I certainly hope it can continue for many more seasons to come… so long as they don’t make the contestants sing, renovate or plate up 🙂

  9. Sorry but I love reality tv. I’ll watch almost any of them (except for dancing). I love Survivor, TAR, Big Brother, The Block, TBL and MKR.
    And yes I do watch other genres too like Drama, Comedy etc.

  10. So-called “reality” shows are the root cause that has turned me away from watching any Aus commercial TV apart from some live sport. I have no interest in the genre but these shows have gotten longer and longer and pushed dramas that I am interested in later and later, usually unpredictably.

    The seemingly random double-ep thing, often mis-advertised as a “movie-length episode”, is another personal bugbear. Then, because these very actions by the respective networks cause audiences for these to shows to drop, they were bumped to later in the night or week, losing even more viewers.

    I’m over it. I watch what I want when I want. No waiting x minutes on mute for my program to start, no chasing it around the schedule, no ads, and no excessive promo of some interminable LCD competition show.

  11. The commercial networks (particularly 7 & 9) lost me when for the weeks towards the end of the ratings period they put nothing but rubbish on night after night. Next year the tv will be spending a lot of time switched off due to not wanting to spend hours waiting to watch the very few dramas on offer and the lack of genuine alternatives on multichannels.

  12. Yes Yes Yes totally agree with the critics and commentators. Scripted series, sadly, are much more expensive to make than reality but they are much more entertaining, especially the plot based type eg. Person of Interest IMHO-OC

  13. I agree. I don’t mind Reality TV provided that the program remains relatively like the name of the genre, real. (I love Survivor, TAR). But I hate the formats which arn’t at least somewhat real and are on several nights a week.

  14. Channel Nine’s line up next year – The Block, The Block, The Block and spin off shows. I don’t see what’s so appealing about watching people renovate? After a hard days work how can you call watching other people doing work as ‘Entertainment’.

  15. Critics have to watch the stuff even if they don’t enjoy it because its their job. Their problem is ours because we can just watch one of the 14 other FTA channels or pay TV or stuff on the internet or our DVRs.

    The only thing that matters is the revenue, while people advertisers want to watch it it will remain on the main channels, and networks will target other viewers on their secondary channels. If people stop watching it it will disappear very quickly but what replaces it is likely to be worse.

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