Why the revival of reality shows could go through a massive dismissal of candidates

the fifties, that’s the name of the latest reality show launched by W9 in which 50 “emblematic” candidates of French reality television compete in children’s appearance contests to try to win up to €50,000 for one of their followers. As the concept dictates, the production of the program organized the largest gathering ever orchestrated on television of personalities who became famous for their appearances in programs of the genre.

In the casting we find Victoria Mehault together with Maëva Ghennam, her best enemy since she refused to participate in a show where she invited herself to the dressing rooms of other influencers (we save you the long investigation that allowed us to understand the origin of the disagreement between the two candidates). On her part, Maëva found her ex, Greg -also nicknamed “Bebew” but, we didn’t understand why-, who has opinions about Marwa, she revealed in The princes and princesses of love.. Marwa participated in the Rest of the world with Simon Castaldi, where the son Castaldi cheated on Adixia on camera with Virginie when she was coming out of a tumultuous relationship with Nicolo. Nicolo, who has known Amélie Neten since her participation in the reality TV angels but that it would be seen in a couple with Charlotte, seen in the last season of the Marseilles. He will finally finish off Victoria under the gaze of the other 48 leads on the show. You did not understand anything? At first, neither did we.

because unlike loft story either secret story, which marked the heyday of the genre in the early 2000s, reality television is organized today as a series where each program is a new episode and where one can quickly get lost in the relationships that are forged between the characters who make their lives before our eyes. So, is this strategy of infinite series and permanent recycling of candidates killing this format? And should we start from scratch to try to make the success of these programs shake again? Can be. 20 minutes try to answer.

“Sustainable teledevelopment”

After starting with 637,000 viewers (3.1%) on September 3, Les Cinquante is now stagnating below 500,000 daily viewers. Good scores if we compare these figures with the last ones registered by the franchise The people of Marseille on the same channel. This new format seems, therefore, to be well received by the public, while W9 has opted for a new program after having revolved for years around the franchises starring female candidates from Marseille, launched in 2012 and widely tested down the chain.

If the concept is new, all candidates have already been seen on one or more shows in the genre. “That’s what I call sustainable development television, it recycles itself,” says Virginie Spies, a media semiologist. Because since the reality TV angels aired on NRJ 12 since 2011, and the end of secret story In 2017, the productions acquired the habit of calling faces already known by the followers of these programs. It still evokes “an autophagic television”, which devours itself constantly trying to connect the unknown with the known and always building more on the same old foundations that have become rickety.

“He is a kind of lost leader,” justifies Nathalie Nadaud-Albertini, a doctor in sociology from the School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences (EHESS), a specialist in reality shows. “We know that the usual candidates are there, we know broadly what they are going to do and therefore we expect a certain type of behavior from them. »

Candidates who grow with the public

Certainly, but when you are not a fan of this ecosystem, there is enough to drop by, since there are numerous references to other “adventures” -that is, to the previous reality shows in which the candidates have participated-, but also to social networks. “It’s like watching Young and the Restless when you haven’t seen the previous episodes,” says Nathalie Nadaud-Albertini, who for this article had the experience of watching the show with a friend who wasn’t used to this type of show. “We don’t know who is friends with whom, who did what, who wants to confuse whom…”

For this reason, the genre has given itself a new name, changing from “reality TV” to “reality series”. “Ten years ago, when we launched The people of Marseilleit was unique to put together a cast over time, the same each time, and that we grew up with it,” explained Florence Fayard, general manager of Banijay Productions, which produces the fifties Y The people of Marseilleon the microphone France information.

It is perhaps this model, built brick by brick for many years and which has brought out the superstars of reality shows on social networks, that is losing new potential viewers. “Now, when we say “reality TV”, we think of these recurring candidates. We think of the format no longer as a program but as a continuous and transmedia story”, explains Nathalie Nadaud-Albertini. There is continuity between what happens in the programs, from one program to another, but also in social networks and in the specialized press.

Personal Marketing and Problematic Practices

But this combination of different supports where to consult this “reality” transposed to the screen is not new. Since its inception, reality television has moved to different mediums, each offering their own stories. When Loft Story launched in 2000, they were able to follow the plot live 24 hours a day on the Internet or on TPS channel 27. The newspapers led by Benjamín Castaldi but also the weekly bonuses condensed the stories lived by the “lofters” for those who had missed them. “This transmedia dimension later evolved with the technological developments of the different media available”, adds the specialist.

The main change lies, therefore, in the launching of programs in which each of the candidates recovers their piece of the puzzle from their previous experiences on television or social networks to continue with their own story. “We have moved to another dimension where everyone cultivates their personal marketing, manages their own brand image to generate income outside of television. the fifties it is the advent of this since this program only brings together former reality TV candidates”, analyzes Virginie Spies.

But in recent months, the way that influencers who became famous through the small screen use their image raises questions. Scams, fraudulent investments, tax exile have shaken this small community and tarnished the most emblematic figures of the genre. However, “reality shows have always been associated with a fairly negative image,” adds Nathalie Nadaud-Albertini. But she also remembers that she has always relied on her criticisms to integrate them and turn them into tools for her development. “We don’t necessarily just look at stories where the hero is dressed in white where he does good deeds. Sometimes we also like to see stories of bad guys doing bad things to people who didn’t ask them to, that’s also part of what makes us like watching fiction, like reality TV. »

“The End of a Cycle”

Faced with these criticisms, a demand for renewal expressed by the public on social networks and the decline in audiences in traditional programs, the productions could organize a major cleaning in their casting to be reborn as a phoenix. The unique format of Fifty It also shows that this industry, whose end many analysts have been predicting for more than ten years, is still creative.

“The decline of reality TV, I’ve been talking about it for 20 years,” says Nathalie Nadaud-Albertini, who refuses to bet on an extinction of the genre in the next few years. “Reality television has adapted to his criticism of his mistakes. We can quite imagine that it manages to renew itself. »

Sure France informationFlorence Fayard herself wondered about the potential “end of a cycle.” “Of course there are cycles,” she admitted. How could reality TV recover if it’s out of breath? “We can imagine seeing programs dating 100% anonymous people or other types of celebrities,” explained the director of Banijay Productions about the idea of ​​renewing the concept of Fifty for a second season if it is successful.

reconnect with the times

Because if the recurring characters of reality shows have grown with their audience, the images they transmit have not changed much. That is why the speeches and models that this type of program transmits are usually out of date with the changes in society, leaving the candidates “stuck” in a bygone era. Especially for everything related to male/female relationships and representations of women.

Very heteronormative, these programs have mostly maintained as a central theme that the protagonists form couples and then create stories around these romances. For a decade, the candidates who want to “make their way” in the industry have understood it well and do not hesitate to multiply love relationships in front of the camera or to comply with the physical dictates that these shows transmit. Has the time come again for candidates for a femininity exacerbated by cosmetic surgery? Do triptychs of big lips, big breasts, big buttocks for women, and white teeth, chocolate bars, and pecs for men still have any appeal in 2022?

For Nathalie Nadaud-Albertini, changing this model may be the challenge of the coming years. “It may be that viewers no longer recognize themselves in the male/female ratios that are presented on these shows. And we know very well that for a program to work, it has to be in tune with its time. If the delay becomes too great, they will become niche programs. “He believes, therefore, that a renewal of the castings as well as of the programs could give a new impetus to these programs, by reviving the curiosity of the viewers.

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