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Reality TV shifting focus to everyday life

Train to dance like Michael Jackson, cook like a chef, or just learn to be happy! Reality TV is here to stay, according to the experts, but is shifting from glamour to tackle everyday life.

world Updated: Oct 07, 2009 11:04 IST

Train to dance like Michael Jackson, cook like a chef, or just learn to be happy! Reality TV is here to stay, according to the experts, but is shifting from glamour to tackle everyday life.

Reality TV has steadily grown over the last decade, according to production companies and market watchers attending the MIPCOM entertainment industry fair taking place on the French Riviera this week.

"We're really astounded by the extraordinary rises in audiences for our shows this year," Tony Cohen, CEO of leading reality and format production group, Freemantle Media, told a press conference.

Top Freemantle shows such as "Idol", "Got Talent" and "X Factor" have seen 10 to 30 percent and even more than 40 percent rises in audience, Cohen said.

But while reality contestants a few years back saw the shows as a springboard to fame and riches, current reality fare targets social problems and educational issues key to families worldwide.

"Reality TV no longer promises the moon and the stars. Instead, it addresses issues people are really concerned about and tries to come up with solutions," Bernard Villegas, director of prominent industry watcher WIT, told AFP.

A WIT survey in around 30 countries of shows that recently launched or will be aired in 2010 indicated that talent competitions, whether in the kitchen or on the dance floor, remained the most popular reality formats, Villegas said.

These included the BBC's "Move Like Michael Jackson", which has launched a nationwide search for a person resembling the pop star.

Britain is also at the forefront of a surge in popular cookery contests. The latest batch include "Restaurant In Our Living Room", in which couples compete to cook a meal in their own home to a horde of strangers, who pay what they think it was worth.

Education and parenting problems also seem to offer endless scope for reality programme makers, and in 2010 the trend will be on sorting out problems oneself instead of relying on "Super Nanny".

Losing weight is another strong trend, and in Denmark the children work to motivate parents to slim in "My Big Fat Parents".

In Ireland on the other hand children in "The Shrinks" try to solve adults' psychological and sometimes existential problems.

Finland's "The Happiness Project", however, turns to expert coaches to put a smile back on the faces of people dissatisfied with their lives.

The WIT survey said that game shows too remain strong though the trend is on dumbing down the content.

"The emphasis is on very little knowledge and a lot of luck!" said Villegas.

Contestants vying for big cash prizes on NBC's "Perfect 10" or Spain's "Toma cero", for example, need speed rather than brain power to roll themselves in a toilet roll in under a minute.

"Reality TV is today's staple audiovisual fare and children have grown up used to that," said Villegas. "And now that everyone is even more focused on budgets, the decision to go for expensive fiction or a much less expensive reality show is
a foregone conclusion."

On the fiction front, networks are hoping to seduce young audiences with the supernatural. Canada's "Vampire Diaries" for instance looks set to send shivers worldwide. The show aired in Australia in September, is due to hit Italian screens this month and in Britain in 2010.

This year's most successful series was drama "FlashForward", based on Robert J. Sawyer's eponymous sci-fi novel, Villegas said.

It is tipped as the next "Lost", with the plot centering on a chaotic vision of the future after people on Earth mysteriously and briefly lose consciousness.