The Reality Kings Turn to Fiction

It’s not that reality television is over, far from it. But I think it’s telling that both Ryan Seacrest (who tops the Hollywood Reporter‘s power rankings for reality TV in a fascinating profile that fingers radio as the key to his pop culture savvy) and Bravo are making big turns to scripted television, while maintaining their core focus in reality shows. I think there’s a sense that while reality is lucrative, scripted shows maintain more prestige, so it makes sense for Seacrest in particular to prove that he can play in that arena. It’s a bit of an odder move for Bravo, given how heavily the network has invested in high-end reality and how well it’s succeeded in that very particular segment of the medium.

But I think longer-term, the more interesting question will be not reality television’s persistence—after all, the genre’s been around since 1973, and while it’s ebbed and flowed to a current high-water mark, it’s likely to continue to be compelling—but how scripted and reality television influence each other. Certain things, like the use of confessional spaces or shots, are certainly firmly embedded in scripted shows from The Office to Modern Family. But does reality television make it more likely that we’ll see fights on scripted shows? Random hookups? Catchphrases?