The Associated Press reports that, during the preview of fall schedules by television networks last week, few reality shows made an appearance. In fact, only one of the 38 new shows could even vaguely be called a reality show: Steve Harvey's talent show. The other 37 new shows are all scripted.
Returning reality shows are also few. CBS has only Survivor on its fall schedule. ABC has only The Bachelor and Extreme Makeover. Fox has Joe Millionaire and the combination of American Juniors and American Idol, which will be sharing the same time slot. NBC has just Fear Factor. Some other shows will be aired as replacements or as limited runs, of course, but the "upfront" pitches treated reality programs like dirt, best exemplified by Jimmy Kimmel (for ABC) : "We no longer call them reality shows. That word is taboo around here. From now on, they'll simply be known as shit."
Of course, ABC, which aired such fiascos as Are You Hot?, may have reason to be ashamed of its programming. Nevertheless, even NBC's Jeff Zucker, who is developing two new reality programs with Survivor producer Mark Burnett, was dismissive of the genre: "We believe in reality — you cannot ignore it — but our strategy is to use it principally in the summer to keep the lights on."
We'll see how much of this is serious anti-reality backlash and how much of this is "whistling past the graveyard" as the fall 2003-04 season develops