Want to End this Strike? Boycott Reality TV!

On Monday night, the Writers Guild of America’s worst fear became a reality: over 20 million Americans tuned into ABC’s DANCING WITH THE STARS.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Shouldn’t the writers be a little more concerned with the fact that they’re currently on strike, guaranteeing a Christmas only the Grinch could love?

Well, yes, but the unprecedented success of DANCING should cause the scribes more than a few restless nights. Reality television is the TV writer’s kryptonite, and the continued success of the genre can only mean bad news for the WGA.

After-all, why should networks and studios green-light intelligent and costly scripted endeavors like DAMAGES and MAD MEN — or even less stellar offerings such as CAVEMEN — when they know that audiences will flock in record numbers to watch D-list celebrities compete for a glitterball and a chance to keep fame’s fickle timekeeper poised at 14:59.

It seems television viewers want to have their cake and eat it too by constantly complaining about the quality of programming being offered and yet flocking to reality offerings like DANCING, AMERICAN IDOL and BIG BROTHER.

Apparently, there’s a big difference between what we say we want and what we actually want.
In his book “Billion Dollar Kiss”, veteran television writer Jeffrey Stepakoff put it best when he said, “Reality TV, in many ways is more than just cheap programming. It’s a threat to writers”

Which begs the question.  Come January 2008 — when the HOUSEWIVES are homeless and McDreamy will only court Meredith in reruns — will you be putting your money, ummm… eyeballs where your mouth is?

When CBS fills the gaps in their schedule with hour upon hour of BIG BROTHER, will you tune in… or pick up a (heaven forbid) book? When FOX offers up its latest off-key crooners on AMERICAN IDOL, will you be singing along?

What if you knew that by supporting those shows, you were contributing to the death of scripted dramas and comedies?

The fact of the matter is this: The more successful reality television becomes, the less likely television execs are to invest in scripted fair. Period.

And if you’re thinking this will all go away when the striking writers and their network overlords reach an inevitable agreement, ponder this: If viewers continue showing up for whichever reality shows make it onto the airwaves, where is the incentive for the networks to return to the negotiating table?

Seem far fetched? Take a look at the numbers for DANCING and compare those to the ratings for the far costlier NBC offering, BIONIC WOMAN. Money talks, and what it’s saying in this example is, “Why spend more (cash) for less (viewers)?” And even reality skeins which do not perform to the level of DANCING or IDOL can prove profitable thanks to the fact that they generally cost far, far less to produce than does your typical hour-long drama. Do you think Sally Field, Rob Estes and Patricia Wettig are doing BROTHERS & SISTERS for peanuts? Or that ABC isn’t shelling out a pretty penny to DIRTY SEXY MONEY stars Donald Sutherland, Jill Clayburgh and Peter Krause?

In the end, the best way to bring the writers and executives back to the table is to — as the famous anti-drug campaign of the 1980’s demanded — just say no… to reality TV!

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  • SimplyKimberly

    I plan to do just that. I am not gong to reward the studios for their greed and inability to negotiate a fair deal with the writers by watching reality tv and enabling them to collect advertising dollars as usual.

    The Amazing Race will be the only exception. I am normally a Big Brother fanatic (live feeds and the whole 9 yards), but I will not watch the winter edition.

    I am also not going to download a single episode of any show until this strike is over.

    No reality tv and no downloads means this strike will be over a whole lot faster.

  • elizabeth obaka

    I agree. let’s boycott reality TV!

  • http://tapeworthy.blogspot.com Vance

    I was just thinking that too. Im drafting up my Writers Strike response but reading that Fox news… Im like. yes. I enjoy the hamminess of American Idol and yes, it gets me some readers (of my very few) on my blog but we really can’t be giving Fox the satisfaction of the enormous viewing numbers on American Idol when they scuttle off things like 24 for another time.

    Reality TV is not a valid replacement for written dramas and comedies. We may enjoy it now and not realise that the studios will realise we suckers will watch anything, THAT’s when the problems will really begin.

  • Mark

    You can be assured that I was not one of those who watched Dancing with the Stars last night. I’m all for the boycott.

  • Nonny Mouse

    I agree with this article completely, and will never watch another reality show again, even after the strike is over.

  • http://blog.jeevesatplay.com Rajeev Iyer

    Umm, I am extremely suspicious of those numbers. I wonder who arbitrarily reports these numbers, and if they are just making random estimates. Isn’t it a little suspicious that reality television does very well, and it is so cheap? Wonder who at Nielsen is receiving the kickbacks :-)

  • John

    I have NEVER watched a reality show and don’t plan to start now.

  • ewanspotter

    Honestly, I think a lot of people don’t know what’s going on. Millions of people have no clue what the WGA is, why anyone is striking, or what the impact of this will be. Those of us reading your website? Pretty industry savvy. But mom and pop on the farm or the suit in the law firm too busy to care? Not so much. (Hell, there are people who haven’t heard of the CW yet, and its been a year.)

    Only when shows DON’T return in February will people begin to wake up (unless, of course, their favorite show is American Idol).

  • Aileen

    I’m already part of the boycott, because I don’t watch reality TV. The only reality TV show I watched all of was Joe Millionare all those many years ago. I’m in college and have very little time for TV at all, so what I do watch has to be quality.

  • shanna

    I definitely do not watch DWTS or AI but I will admit to liking and anticipating the return of shows like Project Runway and The Amazing Race. I support the writers completely but I will admit that it will be hard to stay away.

  • Hil

    I won’t be much help because I already don’t watch reality tv.

    I will say that the average person doesn’t know anything is going on yet. I told my coworkers and they had no idea where was a guild to begin with!

  • Eligio J. Rosa

    There are few good high quality Reality Shows. So I’m down with the boycott.

  • Shane

    While in theory this is a great idea, however only people with Nielsen boxes can really change these results… I think people should stop online downloading via iTunes and ABC.com and NBC.com. The weird thing is only U.S residence can download legally anyway…

    Like someone above said average people don’t really grasp what’s going on and I’m sure they are way to busy with their own lives to be as devoted to boycott Reality TV.

  • BHcolin

    Umm- I like DWTS, I like dancing . I like The Amazing Race, Survivor, Big Brother too. That doesn’t mean I don’t like quality dramas and comedies.I watch Brothers and Sisters, Men in Trees, The Office, 30 Rock, House, Bones, Grey’s, ugly Betty and so much more. But I’m not boycotting reality TV — dude I like TV and watch way too much,to boycott anthing. I’m an addict Plus as Shane said above me only if people have a nielsenn box would that make a difference.

    We’ll have TV to watch — and I have lots taped (on DVR and VCR) to hold me over thru the strike. Plus we got Nip/Tuck and other shows that start soon.

    Oh and Project Runway is starting- no way in he-l am I boycotting that

    and your point could mean more if there wasn’t a recap of Shot of Love a couple entries down

    This strike sucks — but at least it’s at a time when we get reruns already (during the Holiday season). I hope it doesn’t last long though- that would be bad.
    What we need are the people who sent in the nuts for Jericho (good show- and all 7 episodes are completed btw). If viewers banded together to send sh-t to the execs that we want our TV back then who knows
    just my thoughts

  • Joanna

    Have been boycotting reality TV since they came up with the concept and will continue to do so until the end of time ;-)

  • Sheikh Jabouti

    I NEVER watch bozo-reality TV anyhow. Who has time for that trash? It’s no wonder many Americans are so narrow-minded and dumb.

    Give me Damages and MadMen any day of the week!!

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  • Erik

    YES! This is a beautiful thing, ladies and gentlemen! Reality TV not only perpetuates a “fast food” kind of mindset for television, some of these cheap excuses for entertainment like “the OC” promote a morally handicapped, shallow lifestyle for our younger viewers. Kid’s television channels like Nickelodeon are starting to incorporate reality tv elements into their shows as well. Do third graders need to be subjected to things like that? Also, since when does anyone care about the ex-singer of Poison’s love life? Is it the same thing that makes people slow down for car accidents, just so they can look? I’ve been waiting for such action to be taken against reality tv for a long time.

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  • http://www.myspace.com/couchpotatopro CouchpotatoPro

    P.A.R.T(People Against Reality Television)

    I am starting this movment to get TV stations to stop making any more reality TV ptograms. The need to get Thet’re thinking caps and there pocket books out and stop making generic programs and start making quality television

    Makes me almost want to pick a different hobby besides a Couchpotatopro. I refuse to watch any reality shows anymore, I even stopped watching the very few reality shows that I did like, I don’t want to encourage or promote any more reality shows to being made. I am sick and tired of being bombarded with reality shows, so the TV stations can save a buck and still keep there ratings in check.

    They need to stop making generic programs and start making quality television. There are so many reality shows now that FOX has started a reality Station somewhere in the 100+ channels that you need a cablebox or satillite box to watch it. Reality shows are just way to common now and the only reality show idea left is to tape grass growing and air it.

    List of what not to watch:
    American Idol America’s Next Top Model Kid Nation
    Project Runway Deal or No Deal Kitchen Nightmares
    The Bachelor Dancing With the Stars The Hills Miami Ink Beauty and the Geek The Amazing Race
    L.A. ink I’m a Celebrity: Get Me- The Girls Next Door
    London ink Out of Here A Shot at Love With-
    The Biggest Loser MythBusters Tila Tequila
    Survivor So You Think You Can Dance Pimp My Ride
    American Idol MTV Cribs The Bachelorette
    The Apprentice The Real World The Agency
    Animal Cops The Bad Girls Club America’s Greatest-
    Big Brother America’s Got Talent pets
    Bridezillas Cash Cab America’s Most -
    Cash in the attic American Hot Rod Wanted
    Celebrity Expose The Contender Real Housewives -
    COPS Click of Orange County
    Corwin’s Quest Criss Angel Mindfreak Crash Test Mommy
    Curb Appeal Curl Girls Deadliest Catch
    Destination Truth Dirty Jobs Divorce Court
    Dog Whisperer Don’t Forget the Lyrics Dr. 90210
    Driven Dress My Nest elimiDATE
    Emeril Live Daisy Does America Engaged & Underage
    Family Plots Extreme Engineering Farmer Wants a Wife
    Fashion Police Find & Design Flip This House
    Ghost Trackers Any Judge Shows Greek to Chic
    Ghost Hunters A Haunting Hell’s Kitchen
    Hey Paula Hogan Knows Best Honey, We’re Killing -
    Hooking Up Super Nanny the Kids!
    Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team
    Extreme Makeover: Home Edition America’s Funniest Home Videos

    And there is plenty more to the list, but I am tired of typing ATM. So to for more show not to watch copy and past in browser

  • http://www.myspace.com/couchpotatopro CouchpotatoPro

    Bahh i made the list to three columns but they got messed up in the posting so just go to the link for better list

  • DWchick

    I’m all for the boycott for “reality” shows, but how much does that mean in the short term if you don’t have a Neilson’s box or diary? How do the sponsors know we are not watching?
    I can’t believe that this is taking so long to resolve. There is no reason besides greed that the writers can’t get percentage instead of flat rate. If not for the writers, the shows wouldn’t have been watched in the first place. I don’t care how good the actors are, without good writing the show will suck. Plain and simple.

  • wickedmad

    You are so right! They keep producing this schlock because young people will watch it and even more because it’s cheap! What kills me is that everyone still shoots for 18-34 when the people who really have money are 40+. We might buy your crap if you sell it during a show we’d watch. Sorry, but the people who have money to spend don’t want to watch a bunch of spoiled brats moaning everywhere from Bruce Jenner’s house to the Jersey Shore. The fact that 18-34 is still the target demographic makes me laugh (when it’s not making me sick). Hey, pay attention, 18-34 might like the crap you’re selling, but it’s gonna be a 40+ who actually might have the money to buy it.