Trumping slump in reality TV

Trumping slump in reality TV, by Michael Idato - 12th April 2004
(Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald)

There is no doubt 2004 will be remembered as the year reality TV faltered. But the failure of The Resort, and the poor performances of HotHouse, My Restaurant Rules and Popstars [Live] are not likely to bury the genre anytime soon.

Later this month Nine's The Block returns for its second season, and will be soon followed by a new American series The Apprentice, in which 16 aspiring suits compete under the supervision of tycoon Donald Trump. Both are widely anticipated to be among the strongest performing shows of the ratings year. And the strong market buzz for the fourth Big Brother and the second Australian Idol, coming soon on Ten, mean most level heads in the industry have refrained from writing an epitaph for reality TV too quickly.

In fact, with the benefit of hindsight, the poor dividends for this genre in early 2004 may only be a hiccup caused by the launch of too many shows, invariably perceived as clones or hybrids, something Australian audiences have shown a low tolerance for.

The Block, Australian Idol and Big Brother are widely regarded as "safe" brands with viewers. The Apprentice , while a new show, has the imprimatur of Trump and the production expertise of Survivor creator Mark Burnett.

The Apprentice has been the runaway hit of the year in the US and last week its ratings overtook CSI: Crime Scene Investigation in the coveted 18-49 demographic. It holds universal appeal, Burnett told the Herald, because anyone can relate to applying for a job, and being fired from one.

The series received 200,000 online applications, which were culled down to 1000 face-to-face auditions from which 16 finalists were drawn. One contestant is fired by Trump each week. The winner will run a Trump company for a year.

If The Block, The Apprentice, Big Brother and Australian Idol are successful it will help repair the perception that the genre is hemorrhaging and restore audience and industry confidence, not just in reality TV, but in the programmers who have been backed into a corner, often second guessing themselves.


Official websites

NBC - The Apprentice

Fox Home Entertainment


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