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Is reality TV on its way out?

X Factor ratings are down on last year. Have we had enough of reality TV?

Published on August 25th 2009.

Is reality TV on its way out?

The Results so far..

No: - 38%

The new series of X Factor kicked off on Saturday which, despite being the most viewed programme of the evening, saw a decrease in audience ratings by 400,000. It makes this year's X Factor launch the second most successful since the show began in 2006.

They've also decided to use a new format for this year's show whereby the contestants sing on stage in front of an audience as well as the judges. An X Factor spokeswoman put the ratings drop down to the “lovely weather” on the night of the broadcast. But is this year's slight slump the start of things to come?

It can be argued that the reality TV world has gone well past its sell-by date. Take Big Brother for example. After opening its tenth series with nearly five million viewers, the second episode lost two million by the following Friday. And it's no wonder.

There are few shows that can hold a prime-time TV slot for nine years straight. After ten series of Big Brother, six series of Celebrity Big Brother, one series of Teen Big Brother, Big Brother: Celebrity Hijack and Panto Big Brother, we've seen and heard it all. And the spin-offs follow closely behind in the decline. How many more series of shows such as I'm a Celebrity....Get Me Out of Here, The Farm, Back to Reality, Wife Swap and The Apprentice can we stomach?

In an attempt to pull in the viewers, it's also been noted how reality TV participants are becoming more vulnerable. Singer Susan Boyle was admitted to the Priory after her stint on Britain's Got Talent proved to be too much to handle. Sree Dasari was taken to hospital after self-harming following his eviction from this year's Big Brother, whilst Ofcom complaints over Britain's Got Talent finalist Hollie Steel have resulted in a government review of child contestants in entertainment shows. The 10-year-old broke down midway through her performance of 'Edelweiss' on the show.

And if they're not cracking up, most end up in the dreaded bin of talent anyway. Shayne Ward, Chico, Andy Abraham, Same Difference, Leon Jackson, Futureproof, Michelle McManus anyone? Only a precious few have found fame and fortune this way.

More alarmingly, this week the apparent suicide of US reality show contestant Ryan Jenkins, who was wanted in connection with the murder of his former model wife Jasmine Fiore, has raised awareness of the difficulties faced by reality TV stars after their fame fades. Ryan starred in the shows Megan Wants a Millionaire and I Love Money 3 on VH1. His story suggests that it's the 'stars' who will suffer, long before reality TV dies.

We've been mocking and cheering at the expense of others since the stocks of Medieval times, but in the modern age, reality TV has reached a whole new level of absurdity, humiliation and outrage. One of the most controversial shows of all time was There's Something About Miriam. The show featured six men wooing 21-year-old Mexican model Miriam, who didn't reveal that she was a trans woman until the final episode.

Critics called it 'the cruelest reality show idea yet.' The men won a lawsuit after alleging conspiracy to commit sexual assault, defamation, breach of contract, and personal injury in the form of psychological and emotional damage.

MTV now shows as much reality TV as it does music. Past and present shows have included Pimp My Ride, Newlyweds, The Osbournes, Kerry Katona: Crazy in Love, Kerry Katona: What's the Problem, Run's House, Snoop Dogg's Father Hood, I Love New York, The Real World, Rock of Love and many more.

The endless fly-on-the-wall documentary reality TV shows are also testament to the overabundance of the genre. Katie Price and Peter Andre may have separated, but not content with just scrapping their joint show, they've decided to split it in half instead. Katie Price's show What Katie Did Next airs on ITV2 this autumn and Peter Andre's Going it Alone, also on ITV2, had its first episode last week. Does anyone still care? Some must do – Peter Andre's show was the highest rated of this year on ITV2, and so the show must go on...

It seems there are mixed feelings as well as mixed ratings when it comes to the future of reality TV. Should it be evicted from TV once and for all? You decide. Vote on the homepage.

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12 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

DescartesAugust 25th 2009.

I hope it's on its way out, it's getting like some kind of screwed up Escher painting, with people doing nothing sat around on their arses watching people do nothing sat around on their arses, ad finitum. Wii tennis annoys me as well, I own a tennis racquet, what's wrong with going outside to play sport? We're going to end up like the humans in WAL-E

JAugust 25th 2009.

I don't like the new format...The scripting is becoming too obvious and patronising, like Simon Cowell didn't know that Emma and her sister weren't coming back to audition???? The expression that he did manage to muster regardless of his botox suggested otherwise...It's was pretty bad in it's previous form but...hold on what am I saying? It is just plain bad, end of.

OAugust 25th 2009.

All 'reality' TV is garbage... except the first few weeks of X Factor. Aside from the obvious retards / slow kids who are surely being expolited, most of the fools on there make great TV. It kills me to admit it but I love it. It's great when you get someone who believes he/she is good and you watch it and think WTF was he thinking????!!!

Emma ChawnerAugust 25th 2009.

...will be turning on the Christmas lights this year at Manchester Arndale

DidsburyGirlAugust 25th 2009.

I hate to say it, but I have a secret love for Reality TV. I know its disgraceful blah blah blah, but sometimes, I just want to sit down and watch something that I don't have to use any brain cells to watch. Plus on Digital Spy they have piss taking Drinking Games for all your favourites. An excellent way to entertain an hour or so on a girls night in.How do people feel about the reality shows that raise money for charity, Like Strictly Come Dancing?

DescartesAugust 25th 2009.

I'm curious about them, my main wondering being how much money do they make for charity compared with the money they make for the production company/'stars' that appear. You know Celeb Big Bro people get upwards of £1,ooo per week they're on?

Dannii's old faceAugust 25th 2009.

to be fair to these people they only think they are 'good' at singing cos they have been given a 'yes' by the 5 panels of productions assistants they have sung to before they get to sing in front of simon etc. and people wonder why they are so dismayed at then being told in front of millions that they are crap....bit of a 'bring out the freaks so we can laugh at them' kind of thing. Having said that I love it!

AnonymousAugust 25th 2009.

I cant actually believe that you put Shayne Ward in the same category as the others, especially as he is one of your own ! someone has not done their homework ! He has sold over 1 million albums worldwide for heavens sake !

AnonymousAugust 25th 2009.

BB is being axed!!! It's in today's news.

LouAugust 25th 2009.

That news has made my day! Now if only the same would happen to the x factor.

BenAugust 25th 2009.

The option remains for another channel to "host" Big Brother after 2010. So there may be a stripped down version on C5 or, more likely, one of the new digital channels. As someone who doesn't really watch any of these shows - maybe 10 mins of The Apprentice here and there - I'm looking forward to some more varied programming on C4 once they've done with BB next year.

AnonymousAugust 25th 2009.

a slipped down version of BB.... I thought that was what you got... pants off in the jacussi

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