abc’s reality show problem

woman-mad-watching-tv Leave a Comment / Blog, Featured, Music, TV Show / By Chase Hutchison



If you remember the 2000s, you probably remember the reality TV phenomenon. While reality TV was a thing in the 90’s, it started with MTV’s hit, The Real World, the 2000s perfected it. For the longest time, reality TV was about strategy, heroes and villains, and competition. Survivor, Big Brother, and The Amazing Race were prime examples.

But in 2002, FOX came up with a little known reality TV gem. I’m not sure if you’ve heard of it, but it’s called American Idol.

American Idol followed the previous show’s formats, with taking unknown people from all around the country, and putting them on TV. But instead of having them kill each other, they decided to promote their talents. American Idol held singing auditions all around the country in the hopes of finding the next big talent. While the show’s auditions were pre-recorded and all the decisions were made by the judges, the second half of the show was live shows where the viewers would decide who stayed and who went. The show was a hit and turned season 1 winner Kelly Clarkson into a superstar.

the idol effect

The idea of having the viewers decide results worked so well, other reality shows decided to create shows with similar premises. The creators of Idol pitched So You Think You Can Dance, also on FOX, which is Idol for dancers.

But FOX reality TV shows weren’t the only ones who had people voting. NBC introduced America’s Got Talent and The Voice. ABC even decided to surpass the audition process for their show, Dancing With The Stars, and gave its judges 50% of a say in the outcomes.


With all these new reality shows, and as the years went on, people lost interest in American Idol. The lack of superstars being produced also contributed. Naturally, the ratings fell, and  in 2016, FOX pulled the plug.

American Idol was done. Or was it?

Sure no one was watching, but could society really go on without American Idol? It would be like if The Today Show, or Survivor, or America’s Funniest Home Videos just went off the air. Ending shows is for scripted TV and kitschy reality shows that are sort of ripoffs of more successful reality shows and only last one season.


Apparently that’s what the executives at ABC thought, because in 2017, it was announced that ABC would be reviving American Idol, set to premiere in 2018. Ryan Seacrest would return to host, and Luke Bryan, Katy Perry, and Lionel Richie would be the new judges panel.

The response was confusion, specifically since the previous season made it very clear that it was the final season.

When the show premiered in 2018, people were optimistic. There was interesting, diverse, and amazing talent. It felt like Idol might be back.

But ABC has a serious reality show problem.


The live shows were a different story. Idol decided to air “Coast-to-Coast” on Sunday nights only. They also decided to have voting open right at the beginning of the show and do the elimination at the end of the show, oh and have every elimination be a double elimination, and only have a few weeks of live shows. Even the finale was one night. This did not go over well with the audience.

side effects

American Idol’s revival ended up causing some major damage to ABC’s other shows. Okay, show. Its other live reality show, Dancing With The Stars.

Dancing With The Stars used to be the only continuous live show on ABC for a long time. And it used to have two seasons a year.

However, acquiring Idol meant budget cuts. And even though both shows were on different nights, and filmed in different places, the network couldn’t afford both. In spring 2018, ABC decided to air a four week season of DWTS, calling it an “All-Athletes Edition.” Similarly to Idol, the season had each week be a double or triple elimination, and having a one-night finale. Even when it came back in the fall, DWTS was still hit with cuts, having two double eliminations, and another one-night finale.

ABC decided to only give DWTS a fall season, and have American Idol exclusively air in the spring.


The second season of Idol just wrapped. Unfortunately, there still wasn’t a ton of hype from the audience, even with the season all to itself. People still complained about the season, the lack of live shows, the eliminations, and the complicated voting.

It’s clear at this point. Idol is the problem. If you can’t commit to the formula that made the original show work well, stop trying. Or cancel one of your generic shows that are recycling the same plot over and over again. Don’t let one of your original shows, DWTS, suffer because of something you’re trying desperately to revive. How did The Gong Show revival work out again?