Thought to be a genre way past its prime, Reality TV is experiencing a boost with a new show: Ozzy Osbournes's daily adventures, as filmed by MTV.
Reality TV turned out to be too much of a good thing
It really got rolling with "Big Brother," the reality TV show produced by the Dutch production company Endemol. Shutting a group of strangers in a sealed off compound and then observing them with cameras and microphones 24 hours a day resonated with viewers, especially younger ones.
Soon "Big Brother" was being exported to other European countries and the US, where it spawned a host of imitators. In Germany, there was Big Brother, then a second version, and finally a third. Other shows were developed in rapid fire succession: Big Diet, Girls Camp, the Island Dual, the Robinson Expedition, Popstars, etc.
It turned out to be a case of too much of a good thing.
At one point, Germany’s private TV channels were running two reality TV shows at a time. Viewers started getting confused, mixing them up, and finally tuning them out. Reality TV started to flop. A fourth Big Brother series was mixed.
Anna Brakenhielm, a Swedish TV producers who sold the idea of "Survivor" to the US, told the Christian Science Monitor that the shows were done too fast, and not skillfully enough. "A lot of people don’t think the idea works anymore."
Ozzy at Home
But MTV’s production "The Osbournes," which follows the domestic adventures of rock and roll’s one-time prince of darkness Ozzy Osbourne, has found a huge following and given reality TV producers new hope for the future. The show is being exported to Germany where it will debut on April 24.
Rocker Osbourne has calmed down a bit with age. Instead of biting the heads off bats or spitting blood on audience members, he is trying to figure out how to work his new digital television, or getting angry when his 17-year-old daughter Kelly comes home with a small tattoo. Osbourne himself is covered with body art.
MTV executives said the show would be shocking in the mundane. They seem to have found a hit.
Still a Viable Genre
Despite some flops, producers are still coming up with new ideas for reality TV. There is an enduring appetite for them, according to David Goldberg of Endemol USA. "The big lure is the economics," he told the New York Times. A reality TV show of one hour costs only about half as much as a thirty-minute sitcom.
Take "TV Hairdresser" which aired in the Netherlands and Germany for example. It records conversations between ordinary men and women and their hairdressers. Productions costs for this one are very low. Still, it had viewers glued to their seats.
There may not be much action, but the gossip is great.