The Future of Reality TV

Channel 4 have announced that they’re giving up with Big Brother after the next series — although a dedicated web show for 2011 would be my guess — they’ve tried fiddling with the format, bunging more and more people in, making more and more stuff happen. They’ve cut the “my god, who wants to watch them sleep” live stream — either on the assumption that no-one wants to watch a TV programme where not much goes on, or because of the sheer cost of keeping it legal.

But I’ve a theory that it was the “not much happens” “dip in and out” long arching narrative thing that was what got people interested in the first place — much like how Twitter works (unless you’re obsessed), or much like how the Australian soaps were a revelation in low-impact TV. I think that by making it too hard to watch they killed the format.

Reality TV, when you define it as pointing a camera at people having real emotions, is much broader than Big Brother — and most of it is edited to be as action packed as possible. It’s tiring, only the committed can keep it up. Live football is reality TV, although the Olympics – three weeks of lots of coverage, unknowns and new stories evolving is more like what we’ve come to know as staples of the genre.

I’m not of the opinion that “reality TV” is dead, but I think people want two different things; either the slow “nothing much happens” – but it happens for a long time — or the tight visceral shared experience (the way the big X-Factor finals, or even important elections do).

Reality TV commissioners — let’s face it Channel 4 in this instance, they’ve got the money — you’ll want more “event TV” that has that endurance aspect. So here’s my pitch — you want something like live uninterupted coverage of Gimpo’s 25 Hour M25 Spin or this.

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