Improving Reality TV
Another “season” of reality shows wrapped up this weekend with the Survivor finale and live reveal/reunion show. I feel this has been one of the weaker runs of reality television, as a number of these shows have not only become stale, they’re damn close to being unwatchable in their current form. What follows is my advice for how these shows can drastically improve their watchability.
The Biggest Loser (Tuesdays, NBC, 2 hours)
You read that correctly, The Biggest Loser is 2 hours per episode! That’s approximately 1 hour and 50 minutes too long. The majority of the show is spent recapping last week, recapping what has happened already in the episode, selling diet food, and forcing the listener to hear the incessant beeping of the scale. The show desperately needs to cut down its time to a half an hour. Unfortunately for NBC, their lineup of programming is so bad that they need The Biggest Loser in there at 2 hours, even if it’s doing nothing but filling time.
This season was the first without Jillian Michaels, who apparently left to pursue other opportunities (thank god). These opportunities included watching her spin-off show get cancelled and guest starring on Dr. Phil. Seems like a good career move, Jillian. I hope that works out for you. I always felt that she was downright terrible and her inspirational style (screaming at the contestant) was fake and over the top for the cameras. The “serious” moments this shows lives for, where the trainers get the contestants to cry about how terrible their lives have been, are made cheesy and completely unwatchable when you have Jillian in there overacting and pretending to care.
So, to recap this article, I’ve talked about how The Biggest Loser is too long and how Jillian Michaels left the show. In the next paragraph, you’ll hear about how the addition of Dolvett Quince and Anna Kournikova helped or hurt the show! (See how easy it is to fill a show when all you do is repeat the same five minutes of content over and over again?)
The big news this year was the addition of Anna Kournikova to take Jillian’s place on the show. While Anna was certainly easy on the eyes, the fact is that she wasn’t much of a trainer. You may know Anna as a former tennis player who was much better at being a model and being “famous” then she ever was at playing tennis. She clearly didn’t get along with a number of her contestants, and it was (unsurprisingly) announced that she will not be back for the next season. I’m sure this program was interrupting her busy schedule of tanning on yachts with Enrique Iglesias.
Dolvett, on the other hand, seemed like a much better addition to the show. He has a little too much of Jillian’s screaming gene in him, but he seemed to really inspire some of this team members, and the screaming seems to be an authentic part of his personality.
Despite this, the season overall was pretty boring. I didn’t find myself rooting for any one contestant, and splitting up the teams up by age was pretty dull. The show has a bigger emotional impact when family members compete, and I think it’s time they move from couples to entire families. Can you imagine the drama as the teams have to vote to send members of their own family home? Also, as previously mentioned, they need to shorten each episode drastically. Watching the show without a DVR is plain torture.
Survivor (Wednesday, CBS, 1 hour)
The king of reality television keeps chugging along. This year featured the return of two All-Star cast members, Ozzie and Coach. This format was introduced last year, when Russell and Boston Rob came back. Redemption Island returned as well, a feature stolen from MTV’s The Challenge that is a welcome addition to the show. Survivor is a show that tends to vacillate from great to boring, and unfortunately this year was on the boring end of the arc. Having returning All-Stars is a good idea that should be repeated, but the rest of the cast was weak this year. My advice would be to have an all-female cast and bring back a couple of the female All-Stars. I’ll admit that this is not my idea. Simmons and his buddy Jacoby on their reality podcast first opined this idea, and I couldn’t agree with it more.
One thing I hated this year is that with the addition of Redemption Island, more than half of each episode is dedicated to challenges. Also, the challenges were almost always repeats of what we’ve seen in the past. Survivor needs to create new and original challenges or stop centering the show so much around them. Additionally, where was my Survivor auction and remembrance walk? These are Survivor staples and should appear once in every season. Instead, they seem to have been replaced with the cast mates getting a sneak peak at a terrible movie. This is the worst, and I fast forward through it every year.
Real World (Wednesday, MTV, 1 hour)
What a terrible Real World season. Not only were the characters boring, they were awful human beings. Two of the cast members were adamantly anti-gay. I wasn’t aware that people under the age of 30 were even anti-gay anymore. Maybe this was intended to add interest, but all it accomplished was to make me hate these characters and hate the show. Not to say that the representatives of the GBLT community were represented much better. Frank was a complete lunatic who I rooted against in every episode. Last season’s Real World was great, so I’m not suggesting any wholesale changes to the format; they just need to do a better job of casting. Also, don’t have a roommate who is under 21 on the show. Either lie to me about her age or sneak her into every bar. She finally let loose in Cabo with four days left. She had that potential all season? For shame MTV. For shame.
The Amazing Race (Sunday, CBS, 1 hour)
The Amazing Race is by far my favorite reality show. It does a good job of avoiding the unnecessary drama that’s seen in other reality shows, and you get to see some cool locations. However, this season suffered from some weak casting. I didn’t find myself rooting for any of the contestants, and I can’t remember a more boring final five couples. Also, many of the challenges this season were not interesting or memorable. I always appreciate a season that spends more time in Europe, as I think those are the more interesting countries (probably because I’ve only traveled to countries in Europe), but this season spent only one leg there, and for whatever reason, the task in Belgium was boring. Putting a puzzle together while spinning around on a carnival ride? Really? I’d enjoy some thinking outside the box in terms of the couples they choose as well. Most couples seem to be either borderline celebrities or models. Why not try pairing up complete strangers? Seeing which set of people could learn to work together would probably be pretty interesting. Regardless, I think The Amazing Race is by far the most intriguing reality show and the one I look forward to the most each week. I would like it if CBS would move it off Sundays. Every week the football games push it back, which is understandable but still quite annoying.
Tough Love (Sunday, VH1, 1 hour)
I’m embarrassed to admit that I watched every episode of this crap fest this year. The premise is stupid, the contestants are terrible, the “ring ceremony” is a joke, and really the show is downright atrocious. Still, as long as Leilani was on the show, I was happy to keep watching it. To improve the show, they need to have better challenges, better cast members, a more realistic premise… ah, screw it, they need to cancel this wretched show. Let’s wrap this article up before I regret admitting to having watched.