Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
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Tuesday, August 16, 2021

What does an ex-NFL QB do 15 years after retirement? If you’re career backup Gary Hogeboom, you join the case of “Survivor: Guatemala”, the latest installment of the granddaddy reality show.

But he’s doing it with some trepidation:

“I don’t want to go by my last name on the show,” Hogeboom said on CBS’s Early Show Thursday, “People would vote me off immediately if someone knew I was in the NFL. Everyone thinks we made big money. I was pre-big money.”

Um. I don’t dispute the lack of major money during Hogeboom’s playing days (remember Plan B free agency, anyone?). But I don’t think Hogeboom has to worry about anyone recognizing him; I doubt his on-field performances left many memories in the minds of football fandom.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 08/16/2005 11:46pm
Category: Football, RealiTV Check
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Sunday, July 24, 2021

It was announced almost two months ago, and now it’s coming to pass: OLN and GSN will commence showing reruns of “Survivor” and “The Amazing Race”, in what amounts to a litmus test for the business of reality TV repeats.

“Is it a guaranteed bet? No,” said Bill Carroll, an expert in the syndication market for Katz Television. “Is it a good, reasonable roll of the dice? Yes. I think they have a good chance of people who don’t normally watch their networks checking them out, without alienating their core audience.”

These shows’ value will be determined with time, if they can draw solid ratings after being on the air 40 or 50 times like I Love Lucy or Seinfeld, he said.

But the implications for television stretch beyond two networks and two shows.

As [reality producer Mark] Burnett explained, syndication money was never a part of the Survivor business plan; you can bet it will be for his shows in the future if it does well. An oddity of television is that many comedies and dramas truly can’t make money for the studios that make them unless they make it to syndication. Will the extra competition make it harder to make new scripted shows?

I was indeed skeptical of the viability of syndicating reality fare, because I was assuming the anticipation of the outcome was part of the appeal. But now, I’m not so sure. If the ride to the end was so entertaining, it stands to reason that fans would want to watch it again and again, re-experiencing key moments. And at root, reality shows are just as re-watchable as any other series television or movie, as long as the audience wants it.

Going by the small handful of friends I have who watch reality shows, I’m pretty much convinced that syndicated runs of past seasons will probably find success. Meaning that OLN and GSN will have gambled right, and roped in a huge new audience.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 07/24/2005 06:12pm
Category: RealiTV Check
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Tuesday, June 14, 2021

A while back, I stated that my alma mater, Eckerd College, could boast of only one truly famous graduate: Novelist Dennis Lehane, of “Mystic River” fame.

Zac Turney aims to be EC star Number Two. He landed a spot as one of the Gilligans on this season’s edition of “The Real Gilligan’s Island”.

As an alum, I’m so damned proud. And, not wanting to pass up a marketing opp, so is the school.

I particularly like how Turney wound up being a Little Buddy (tough for him if he doesn’t like that nickname):

“I was thinking, “I don’t want to be Gilligan, I want to be the professor.’ Then I saw where you have to have a Ph.D., so I said, “Well, looks like I’m stuck as Gilligan.’ “

An early lesson: Stay in school.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 06/14/2005 11:34am
Category: Florida Livin', RealiTV Check
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Sunday, June 12, 2021

When open auditions for “Survivor” roll into town, you’ve just got to take your shot.

Well, I don’t. I can’t stand that reality TV shit. Besides, I already had my fun by auditioning for ESPN’s “Dream Job”; one television cattle call in a lifetime is enough.

But others can have their fun. Like Terry Tomalin, who checked out, and participated in, the scene at Tampa’s “Survivor” free-for-all.

Maybe not so surprisingly, the show’s signature scheming starts long before the cameras start rolling:

That is when Jeff Nolen, the infamous “man in the pink hat,” returned and tried to lure me to the dark side.

“I like your shirt,” the 40-year-old from New Port Richey declared. “Let’s talk.”

But Cheryl Clark, the 38-year-old owner of a lawn care business in Bradenton, warned me about joining Nolen’s team.

“He’s trying to form alliances with everybody,” she said. “Watch out. He’ll vote you off the island.”

Shocked and disillusioned, I went off in search of my own posse, hoping to form an alliance that could withstand even the Axis of Evil.

“What’s with the karate uniform?” I asked James Kendrick as he awaited his turn before the camera.

“I am a martial arts instructor,” the 42-year-old from Lakeland replied.

I told Kendrick I was looking for a good man to cover my back if and when we made it to the island.

“Do you have any survival skills?” I asked.

“I can chop wood with my bare hands,” he replied.

“Good enough.”

So we headed back through the crowd to find Nolen and the rest of his Pink Hat Mafia.

“He went to the bar,” said Reniger, the hairstylist. “I take it that you have formed your own alliance?”

I smiled. Kendrick and I had agreed to split the cool million, 50-50.

“If they find out, you’ll be disqualified,” Reniger said.

“What if we cut you in for a third?” I said.

He smiled. I was finally learning what it takes to be a survivor.

Is there any chance that Tomalin will make it onto the show? He’s got certain qualifications:

When my turn came, they ushered me into a little room and gave me the signal to begin.

“I’ve sipped champagne with movie stars and killed a wild pig with a spear,” I began.

I spent the next 110 seconds talking about the sum of my more memorable adventures… swimming from Alcatraz, paddling a canoe to Bimini, backpacking through New Zealand, hanging with witch doctors in the Amazon…

Aside from his outdoorsman profile, there’s enough more behind that champagne-with-movie-stars thing that would make Tomalin an intriguing “Survivor” participant. I’m not at liberty to disclose the skinny — I defer to Terry on that — but it would bring a different spin to the show.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 06/12/2021 01:15pm
Category: Florida Livin', RealiTV Check
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Friday, June 03, 2021

Not too long ago, veteran television producer Bernie Brillstein noted that the worst thing about reality shows was their dismal prospects for recyclability. He summed it up thusly: “You can’t syndicate this dreck.”

He doesn’t think so, but OLN (formerly Outdoor Life Network) does. In a move apparently devoid of irony — considering that OLN’s usual outdoor sports programming suggests a dedication to real “reality programming” — the cable channel will start airing reruns of “Survivor” this month.

And lest you think that no one would ever want to watch warmed over repeats of a competition where the outcome is already known — observe the squeals of glee.

It’s all in the packaging, I suppose. Running marathons, splicing up episodes to highlight fan favorites like Richard Hatch, and other repurposing gimmicks will certainly squeeze more life out a limited-shelf-life product. But it has to start from a base of fans who can’t get enough of the shows, and would eagerly relive “classic” editions. It strikes me as absurd, but then again, reality TV in general struck me as absurd to begin with. I have little doubt that reruns will bring in viewers, for a while at least.

This runs along the same track as the rollout of “Survivor” DVDs. I haven’t heard if they’ve been selling particularly well; I imagine someone must have bought a few, or else this OLN deal wouldn’t have materialized.

To me, this makes as little sense as rerunning gameshow episodes — which is, essentially, what “Survivor”-type reality fare is, when you strip away the dramatic touches. If it didn’t work for “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?”, why should it work now? Of course, those dramatic touches are what make reality shows so compelling…

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 06/03/2021 07:17pm
Category: RealiTV Check
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Monday, May 16, 2021

outwit, outlast, outcap
So I watched the season finale of “Survivor” last night. Not at all by choice — it was the sociable thing to do (as was playing a Strawberry Shortcake card game).

As is usually the case whenever I deign to watch one of these reality crapfests, I was severely underwhelmed. Aside from the completely manufactured suspense — I could see the outcome from a mile away — the premise for “Survivor” is just so fake. They’re not “surviving” anything. The contestants’ well-being is never in any real peril, and therefore it’s hard for me to give a damn. The high-school level scheming and conniving don’t do it for me either.

I have a running joke with my friends who watch the show — that they should do editions in some real danger zones. And here are my two favorites:

- “Survivor: South Central”. Forming alliances? Try aligning yourself with the right street gang on Crenshaw — or else get a cap busted in your ass!

Survivors will compete in many challenges including a dash from Rosecrans all the way to Atlantic Boulevard which crosses seven different gang territories within the 2 mile journey. Every three blocks, contestants will change into shirts that bear the color and tag of that neighborhood’s most hated rival gang.

- “Survivor: Jihad”. Sleeping in a straw hut on some tropical island, or hunkering down in some cave in Afghanistan — which would you rather watch some namby-pamby contestants endure?

It’s the reality show everyone is talking about. Sixteen contestants. Sixteen beards. Fifteen martyrs. One survivor. Don’t miss “Survivor: Jihad” — only on Al Jazeera.

(If anyone can locate the fake promo video for this, from the Letterman show, I’d love to get a copy.)

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 05/16/2005 09:48pm
Category: Comedy, RealiTV Check
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Thursday, January 06, 2021

Fresh off his first starring role, in Hong Kong production Where is Mama’s Boy?, pop cultural oddity William Hung declares he won’t play anything but clean-cut characters during his acting career.

Does anyone want to clue in this “American Idol” refugee that the only reason he’s in a movie to begin with is purely for the kitsch value he brings, and not because anyone imagines he has any sort of talent?

Let’s hope he sticks to his guns on this, regardless. Otherwise, he could end up as a porn flick sideshow, like fellow 15-minutes-of-famer Scotty Schwartz.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 01/06/2021 07:43pm
Category: Celebrity, RealiTV Check
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Wednesday, November 17, 2021

When I first saw a nondescript headline about TLC launching a search for a replacement for deceased bandmate Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, the first thought that came to me was, “I’m surprised they aren’t exploiting the situation by turning the search into a reality TV show.”

Then, I read the details, and discovered that, indeed, the venture would be in the form of a reality show.

Cynicism comes through again, like an old friend.

I always thought Chilli was pretty damn hot.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 11/17/2004 02:11pm
Category: Pop Culture, RealiTV Check
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Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Dig through the archives of this site, and its predecessor, and you’ll see pretty quickly that I’m no fan of reality television. It’s cut-rate lazy programming in all its empty glory, is based on nothing more than the illusion of “reailty”, and winds up being as formulaic as any other brand of TV series. The rise of reality shows dovetailed pretty neatly with my own marked decrease in television watching, and while it doesn’t take all the blame/credit for that, it had its part.

Just like any business or creative cycle, reality was due to run its course, despite wild speculations that it represented a big part of the future of television. The industry naturally feeds on itself through imitation, creating glut and overexposure. As a result, audiences are getting their fill of reality shows, signalling a potential end to their preponderance.

“It’s a band-aid,” [veteran TV producer Bernie] Brillstein said. He and other industry executives said the mainstreaming of reality shows has led them to suffer the same high casualty rates as conventional sitcoms and dramas.

“With quantity comes failure,” Fox TV reality chief Mike Darnell was quoted as saying in Daily Variety. “It becomes a combination of mediocre shows or shows that are so similar to other shows, they don’t stick out.”

Nowhere has this become more apparent lately than at Fox, which currently devotes about 60 percent of its prime-time schedule to unscripted shows — more than any other network.

After taking a dive with its much-ballyhooed boxing show, “The Next Great Champ,” Fox TV stumbled with two more high-profile reality launches this month — “My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss” and Sir Richard Branson’s “The Rebel Billionaire.”

Not only that, but the long-term economics for reality shows don’t look particularly good either:

In the end, however, the biggest limit to the commercial success of reality TV may be its limited shelf life in an industry whose business model hinges on the ability of producers to eventually sell their shows as reruns.

“Part of our business is to get (a show) to last so you can syndicate it,” Brillstein said. “You can’t syndicate this dreck.”

That factor especially makes it easy to compare the reality craze with the previous big wave to sweep network TV: The “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire” phenomenon. The trajectory was similar, but of shorter duration: ABC hit it big with the Regis Philbin vehicle, drove it into the ground, inspired a few uninspiring knockoffs, and now the gameshow genre is deader than ever. And you can’t successfully syndicate reruns of gameshows, as the stuggling Game Show Network/GSN is finding (plans for reality programming networks are afoot, although they may never come to fruition).

I doubt reality television will completely disappear; they’ve certainly got appeal, depending on the format and casting. But I think the high tide as rolled back.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 11/16/2004 06:17pm
Category: RealiTV Check
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Thursday, September 23, 2021

No, I’m not ever going to watch “The Surreal Life”. I don’t watch any reality shows (unless you count sports), and I’m sure as hell not going to start at the bottom rung.

However, I’ve gotta say that an episode with Flavor Flav and Brigitte Nielsen pitching woo at each other makes it weirdly intriguing.

(I searched in vain for an ideal photo of the Cold Lamper, fully decked out with shades and the clock on his chest that prove he don’t fess. But came up empty. Deal with it.)

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 09/23/2004 09:22pm
Category: RealiTV Check
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In light of the Miss America Pageant’s declining fortunes, and the toe-in-the-water approach they’ve already taken in incorporating reality-programming elements, I thought about suggesting some jokey improvements.

But Sharon Fink beat me to it. So I’m not re-inventing the wheel. I particularly like the “Survivor: Atlantic City” concept.

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 09/23/2004 08:40pm
Category: Comedy, RealiTV Check
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Monday, September 13, 2021

Inspired by The Paper (a mediocre flick, in my opinion), Connecticut-based Blue Chip Films is trying to sell some network on “Deadline @ The Philadelphia Inquirer”, a reality show set in the Philly newspaper’s newsroom.

At first blush, I can see why this would be such a hard sell: Who wants to watch a bunch of desk jockeys? But thinking more about it, a newsroom is a great potential setting for action, drama, conflict, and foibles on display. Plenty of yelling and tension, which is essential for reality TV. Not to mention the possibility of filming reporters as they work their beats.

Plus, with as little regard that the general public holds journalists these days, the maxim of loving what you hate plays out best on TV. Only a behind-the-scenes look inside a law office would be more popular; I seem to recall something like that being proposed, but I don’t know if confidentiality considerations allowed that to get off the ground.

Of course, “potential” is the key word. There are slow news days, and even those are filled with their own brand of excitement when you’re on the desk. I’m not sure how well that excitement would translate to the average viewer. But that’s what video-editing is for, and over the course of a couple of months, there’ll be plenty of deadline-busting nights. A prime candidate: Election night, with this November’s Presidential contest a perfect plotline. Especially if it’s another too-tight-to-call race.

From my own experience, you can’t beat the sports desk for nightly excitement, particularly in the fall. On a typical night, you’ve got college games, pro games, high school scores being called in, late results to wait on, photos to coordinate… It’s a splendid adrenaline rush to have to get everything in shape within a couple of hours.

Anyway, I’m expecting to see something about this from Steve Outing at Poynter, since the story also ran in his main gig, Editor & Publisher.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/13/2004 09:16pm
Category: Publishing, RealiTV Check
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Wednesday, September 08, 2021

If anyone would like to explain to me how “Dog The Bounty Hunter” is supposed to be a good fit with A&E, I’m all ears.

If junk like this is what this also-ran network is relying on for ballast, it might as well commence with the inevitable re-branding efforts right now. Consign “A&E” to the dustbin of cable history and start over.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 09/08/2021 10:34pm
Category: RealiTV Check
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Saturday, August 21, 2021

A distinct sub-genre has emerged within the reality TV universe: Cosmetic surgery makeovers. “The Swan” started it, amid plenty of criticism. The concept has evolved from a contest-style show to a “purer” behind-the-scenes format — resulting in some curious brands.

To wit:

“Dr. 90210″ on E! started airing this summer. To counter, Bravo will soon debut “Miami Slice”.

From these titles, I’m inferring that we can look forward to episodes featuring Luke Perry and Don Johnson getting Botox tuneups and ass-lifts.

I don’t watch reality shows, but… Hell, I still wouldn’t watch this. Not even if they had an episode with Jennie Garth getting a boob job.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 08/21/2004 07:20pm
Category: Pop Culture, RealiTV Check
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