Reality TV's Obesity Problem: How to Stop Two-Hour Episodes From Taking Over
Friday, March 4, 2011
Much like Americans, reality TV has a serious obesity problem. While
reality programs used to take up just one hour each week, the recent
trend has been to super-size any reality series in order to fill time.
The Bachelor (as well as The Bachelorette and Bachelor Pad), The Biggest Loser, The Celebrity Apprentice, Dancing with the Stars and American Idol all regularly feature two-hour episodes. This might seem excessive to most, but it's impossible to argue that fattening up these shows is a bad thing for the networks.
In any given week, the two hours of The Biggest Loser are typically two of the highest-rated hours on NBC. And Dancing with the Stars and American Idol are still powerful enough to dominate the ratings no matter how long they are.
Just look at last night's two-hour American Idol results show. Sure, it was up against reruns on all the other networks, but it still average 25 million for the two hours. It had 23.6 million viewers at 8pm and 26.3 million at 9pm. When a new episode of Bones returns next week at 9pm, it will be lucky to do half as well as Idol did.
With numbers like that, it's hard to argue against the two-hour reality strategy. Obviously there's no need for it (shows like The Biggest Loser and The Bachelor managed just fine back when they only had to fill one hour), but unnecessary excess is what this country is built on.
Much like with childhood obesity, the reason for this excess is a lack of unhealthy options. McDonalds might put one or two salads on the menu, but who would eat them when a 10-piece McNugget meal is singing its Siren song?
The only way to curb is the reality obesity problem is to do what CBS has done and replace it with actual food. As much as I may not like all the CSI, NCIS and Criminal Minds spin-offs, they are the salads that keep CBS from growing fat with reality TV. Thanks to the fact that the network has such successful scripted shows, it doesn't have to resort to two-hour Amazing Race or Survivor episodes. But trust me, if those shows were on any other network, they'd certainly be stretched to two hours.
Sadly, the final decision is a hard one. We can either accept the fat reality shows and indulge in the excess, or we can turn to healthier but tasteless options like crime procedurals. Until the TV chefs can come up with more delicious and nutritious meals like Lost or Modern Family, we're stuck between the fat and a dull place.
(Image courtesy of NBC)