Smoother, smoother wave of reality TV is here to spark joy: NPR


Jonathan Van Ness kisses a participant from season 4 of strange eye. Following the reboot’s success, Netflix has made cuteness a key part of its unscripted and competitive programming.


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Jonathan Van Ness kisses a participant from season 4 of strange eye. Following the reboot’s success, Netflix has made cuteness a key part of its unscripted and competitive programming.


It’s a genre known for the screaming matches, hookups in the spa, and the contestants out there. to win, not to make friends. But lately reality TV has taken on a smoother, softer turn.

Launch Netflix and you will see sweet shows such as strange eye, which kicked off its fourth season with an enthusiastic public school teacher getting a makeover and a slew of food programs where people are adorable to each other. Think The Great British Pastry Fair, Sugar rush, Street food and I have arrived!, where contestants laugh with hosts about their bad luck decorating cakes.

Netflix’s dating show, Meetings around, is virtually humiliation free. And in the hit series Cleaning with Marie Kondo, the Japanese guru of the organization gently guides Americans to get rid of things that do not “bring joy.”

“We now say ‘spark of joy’ for everything,” said Brandon Riegg, Netflix vice president of unscripted series.

Riegg says Netflix has made heartwarming reality shows the heart of its brand, although that wasn’t always the plan. The success of strange eye and I have arrived! convinced Netflix to dub reality shows featuring people who are kind to each other, he says. (Of course, since Netflix doesn’t release audience numbers, we don’t know exactly how successful these shows are.)

“At first it was not an intentional strategy,” says Riegg. “When we decided to go for some original unscripted programming, it was really a blank slate.”

It should be noted that not all of Netflix’s reality shows can be called sweet. His game show To move back isn’t hiding its bad streak, and Netflix recently took the heat off its next Joke Met, where people working in short-term jobs are subjected to hidden camera pranks. (Netflix says the show, hosted by a teenage star of the hit sci-fi series Strange things, is “creepy, supernatural, and over the top, and everyone had a blast.”)

Yet the burgeoning trend of positive reality programming has spread across the industry, according to Riegg.

“Everyone notices that viewers are more drawn to this, that there is an appetite for it,” he said, pointing to Fox. The masked singer and NBC Land of songs. NBC is also the home of the notoriously enjoyable craft show do it, and the network may have helped start this trend years ago, with a weight loss program The biggest loser, with ABC Extreme makeover: house edition (which Riegg helped develop).

“As a critic and fan of reality TV, I love it”, says Andy Dehnart, creator of the site Fuzzy reality. “It makes it a lot easier to watch, write and enjoy.”

Dehnart points out that these shows appeal to advertisers and families looking for shows to watch together. Sun-drenched reality shows can act as a counterweight to the deeply dark scripted shows that have dominated television in recent times: The walking dead, Game Of Thrones, Chernobyl, The Handmaid’s Tale, Kill Eve, Ozark, You better call Saul, Succession etc.

As of late, reality TV shows provide a much needed break between people who are rotten towards each other, says Tara Long, president of unscripted television for Entertainment One, which produces reality shows such. than Growing up in hip-hop, LadyGang and Nap key.

“We actually have production meetings where we say we don’t want to fight,” she says. It’s a profound change from when the genre relied on people flipping tables for drama. “Ten years ago, you needed it in every episode to prepare your final act.”

I asked Long if reality TV folks might try to change the cultural conversation after 20 years of toxic reality TV shows that helped – in part – elect a former reality TV star. for the US presidency.

“One hundred percent,” she said without hesitation. “I think we want to create that content and tell these stories to kind of correct some types of shows that have been done in the past.”

At a time when the tone of public discourse seems so low, Long says, the time may have come for reality TV – yes, reality TV. – lobby for civility and respect.


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