Most Americans Think There's Too Much Reality TV — But They're Still Watching

Poll story Nov 2018 - Publicity-H 2018
Courtesy of Subject

Several unscripted shows are among the highest-rated on TV: America's Got Talent, The Voice, The Bachelor and Survivor all ranked in the top 20 shows on the broadcast networks in 2017-18.

Yet when asked about "reality TV" as a genre, respondents to a new poll offer up mostly negative opinions. That disconnect suggests unscripted shows, which have been prevalent on TV for a quarter century, still remain a guilty pleasure for many viewers.

A new Hollywood Reporter/Morning Consult poll finds that viewers tend to view most TV genres positively: Comedy is viewed favorably by 88 percent of respondents vs. just 7 percent unfavorable. Action/adventure (+79 net favorable rating), thrillers/mystery (+69), dramas (+68) and documentary (+64) are all widely enjoyed.

Reality TV, on the other hand, is the only TV genre in the poll viewed negatively, with 48 percent of respondents holding an unfavorable view vs. 45 percent who enjoy it. Viewers under age 30 are more likely to view unscripted shows favorably, but not by much. The genre's net favorable rating (favorable minus unfavorable) among those viewers is only +5.

It's also the only genre that respondents say there's "too much" of — and by a wide margin: 61 percent wish there were fewer unscripted shows. No other type of show comes close, with horror (29 percent say too much) garnering less than half the negative response.

America's Got Talent (+46 net favorable rating), The Voice (+36) and Shark Tank (+28) are the most-loved unscripted shows and, not surprisingly, all three have good-sized audiences. Yet The Bachelor and The Bachelorette, with audiences of more than 7 million viewers apiece, are among the least-loved, with net ratings of -43.

Keeping Up With the Kardashians (-51) and the Real Housewives franchise (-44) are also among the least-liked shows — and also among the highest-rated series on their respective networks, E! and Bravo.

Large numbers of respondents describe reality TV as "dramatic" (58 percent), "entertaining" (45 percent) and "controversial" (55 percent), but also as "trashy" (69 percent), "predictable" (66 percent) and "meaningless" (68 percent).

Asked which shows they would appear on given the chance, respondents mentioned History's long-running Pawn Stars most often, as 37 percent said they'd be very or somewhat likely to take the opportunity. Impractical Jokers (35 percent), Storage Wars (33 percent), Shark Tank (31 percent) and Ink Master (29 percent) round out the top five.

The Hollywood Reporter/Morning Consult poll was conducted Nov. 15-18 from a national sample of 2,200 adults. The margin of error is 2 percent.