By SEAN ROWLEY
Some folks can’t get enough of the “reality TV” format, and others just cringe.
Though viewer tastes may wander between singing competitions, real housewives and the Louisiana bayou’s upper crust, reality programming seems firmly entrenched.
During an informal request to Daily Press readers on Facebook to name some of their favorite reality shows, preferences spanned the major networks and basic cable.
Restaurateur Albert Soto had this to say: “Restaurant Impossible and the Duggars 19 Kids and Counting.”
A couple of popular responses named programs with a decidedly rural bent.
A frequent favorite was the A&E show “Duck Dynasty,” which follows the Robertson family of Louisiana. The Robertsons own Duck Commander sporting goods and are fabulously wealthy, but their country customs and idiosyncrasies are undiminished.
“Swamp People,” a History Channel program about Cajuns hunting alligators in the Atchafalaya River wetland of Louisiana, also got some votes.
According to Neilsen, the three highest-rated reality shows during the week of July 8 were all on major networks: America’s Got Talent on NBC, The Bachelorette on ABC and Big Brother on CBS. The three most watched episodes for each franchise were viewed in 6.4 percent, 4.8 percent and 3.6 percent of homes, respectively.
The term “reality show” is often applied to lightly scripted or unscripted shows with unknown actors and small budgets.
But it might be argued that today’s formats are merely the logical evolution of other live productions which could be called “reality TV.” Sports broadcasting, game shows and late night talk are as old as TV itself. The open-ended story lines of many reality series are reminiscent of soap operas.
Does reality TV include coverage of the U.S. Congress? Michael Stopp wrote that he loved “C-Span 2, you never know what they’re gonna do? Though usually nothing….”
Tony O’seland said, “Antiques Roadshow” and “American Pickers” are watched on occasion in his home.
“But I find the ‘reality’ … content on these other so-called shows to be lacking,” he added. “They want reality? Let them come watch us scramble to find the money for our mortgage so we don’t lose our house any given month.”
O’seland highlighted an alternative view held by several of the Facebook respondents: Some people don’t care for the genre.
Margie Teregon Ingram wrote, “I absolutely HATE reality TV. If I can’t change the channel, then I will leave the room.”
Some manifestations of reality entertainment may strike one as odd. Joel McHale, host of E’s “The Soup,” which pokes fun at reality TV, once quipped on the weekly series that we live in “the golden age” of abandoned storage locker bidding reality shows - with three on the air. He spoke too soon: A&E has since added two spinoffs of “Storage Wars.”
“I think the appeal of any reality show is the everyday drama of it,” said Elizabeth Cross of Tahlequah Cable Television, Inc. “On shows like the singing competitions, I think people enjoy the anticipation of who will win or get voted off. They also enjoy actually taking part in the voting.”
Cross said she enjoys a number of series on TLC and MTV, a network many credit as a pioneer of the modern reality show when it started airing “The Real World” in 1992.
MTV will soon air the 29th season. Other long-running reality programs include “Judge Judy” (17 seasons), “Big Brother” (14) and “Survivor” (13).
Longevity of the genre seems to indicate one certainty about reality TV.
“It is here to stay,” Cross said.