September is one of my favorite times of the year; as the end of summer fast approaches, the new TV season is set to begin and not just the scripted variety. Reality TV is in full bloom with shows like Project Runway, Real Housewives..., Survivor, America's Next Top Model, Dancing with the Stars and others set to debut new episodes in the coming weeks. And while I am excited to see what kind of televised chicanery producers can come up with, there are a certain few 'twists' that I hope don't make an appearance:
1) Bringing back eliminated contestants: I have seen this device used on most of my favorites in some form or another. Although this rarely happens on shows where the audience is involved in the voting (less the show be accused of tampering with the results). Initially, seeing excommunicated competitors back in the game made for an exciting arc; would there be revenge? Could the ex-eliminatee turn it around and win the whole thing? That was then. Now, it seems like a tactic used to add a couple more episodes to the season.
Instead: Why not give the contestants an opportunity to vote someone off (a la Survivor)…without them knowing? The setup would have to be on a show where the judging is strictly internal. For example, a show like Project Runway, could have the designers score work from their rivals' collection. Each designer would not be allowed to score themselves and they must use placements (e.g, 1st, 2nd, 3rd) to avoid ties. The person with the highest score would be offered immunity and the lowest scorer, the door. The lesson: it's not only important to impress the glitterati, but your fellow man as well.
2) Not eliminating anyone: probably the worst one in the book because in not kicking anyone off, show runners have basically tricked viewers into watching a whole show without the satisfaction of seeing a conclusion. American Idol famously did this on their first installment of their charity edition, Idol Gives Back: A bloated results show with numerous performances, product placements, advertising and, an 'act of charity' toward the contestants: no one was sent home.
Instead: and this would be Idol specific, have what I call an Instant Replay. Judges: Steven, Jennifer and Randy currently use 'the save' to reverse a decision by the audience, if they see fit. Why not go one step further and give them the ability to call out a saved (but poor performing) contestant and exchange their place with someone in the bottom. If the person's total vote count is greater than the combined vote total for the other two low scorers, s/he would get to stay. This wouldn't make the judges fan favorites, but it would give them the opportunity to discipline poor performers riding too much on fan support.
3) Oh, and one more thing…: Competition series like Top Chef and RuPaul's Drag Race tend to do this, exhausting participants by forcing them to add on another mini project to their already time sensitive challenges.
Instead: Give them a choice of which project they would like to take on. A take off of the Amazing Race's Detour options, contestants would be given the option of performing, for example, three smaller tasks or one large one. The end result would be less stress on the participants and a varied final showcase, exciting for viewers and judges alike.
4) Spinoffs: the concept of one and done has NEVER existed in the reality genre. The goal has always been to ride the horse until the legs break off. The producers of the Fox hit Joe Millionaire wasn't satisfied with the record success of what should have been the first and only season of the show and went on to score a massive FAIL with the follow-up, The Next Joe Millionaire. This time trying to dupe European women into believing an American cowboy was a Donald Trump in stirrups.
Instead: Stop doing that!