The 2004/2005 season may go down as the turning point in the battle between scripted dramas and reality TV. After years of domination reality TV shows came back to earth and audiences were finally given quality dramas they were thirsting for. Sadly the lack of quality sitcoms continues.
I could easily argue either side of the argument as to whether drams or reality shows were better in the past season. I watch both with equal vigour. The Amazing Race gets my adrenaline going when the teams I am rooting for and against are running against the clock to the finish. Lost captures my imagination and baffles me more then any show since Twin Peaks.
When I was looking over the new schedule released by the networks the first thing that came to my mind was the lack of new reality shows. Other then The Apprentice: Martha Stewart no big new reality shows are coming out next season. Does this mean reality TV is dead? Far from it.
Everything comes and goes in cycles. Network execs have proved time and time again that they will jump on whatever is hot. Reality TV is just not hot these days. From the new shows announced paranormal shows are hot. Every network wants to get the next Lost or Medium. Some networks are trying to go after the Sex and The City or Desperate Housewives type shows.
So what should we learn from this past season? Well I say that we should learn the reality TV is here to stay but that for the first time in a while audiences will not have to suffer the explosion of crappy reality shows. Conversely this just means that audiences will have to suffer an explosion of crappy dramas next year. As much as networks want every show to be as good as Lost a lot of the new shows we get next year will just plain suck.
Survivor, The Amazing Race, American Idol and The Apprentice will stick around and audiences will love them. Every so often a great new reality idea will work and audiences will latch onto it. Reality TV has not run out of steam it has just plateaued, for now. Audiences are sick of crappy, hastily put together reality shows. Creators of reality shows will just have to go back to the drawing board and come up with something new, fresh and innovative.
The thing for audiences to look out for is longevity. It has become pretty clear that the best drams have a life span of 5-7 years. This trend seemed to have started with the HBO hits, The Sopranos and Six Feet Under, along with Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I never really watched Buffy after the first two seasons but diehard fans claim creator Joss Whedon had created a five-year (adjusted to seven years) story arc for the series. In my opinion for shows like Lost and Desperate Housewives to keep the quality up their creators better know where these shows are headed. It is key for serial dramas to keep focused and have a plan.
Sure shows like Law & Order and the new hit Grey’s Anatomy do not need this structured focused. For non-serial dramas they need to avoid the L.A. Law/Ally McBeal disease. By this I mean that some dramas get away from what made them good and get stupid focusing solely on the characters outside lives.
Survivor, American Idol and The Amazing Race have proven they can pump out multiple versions of the show and keep audiences interested. They’ve shown they can made little changes to keep audiences from getting bored. The Apprentice will need to figure out how it can stay on top, what changes it needs to make.
In this past year I would say that dramas won a close battle but the war still rages on and reality TV still leads that war. One year of Lost and Desperate Housewives does not mean reality TV is dead. Reality TV will lick its wounds and hopefully come back stronger then ever.