This story first appeared in the Nov. 28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.
As networks struggle to find the next breakout reality format, they’re turning to familiar oldies.
Fox is reviving Jeff Foxworthy‘s Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader? while NBC will film a rebooted Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous pilot with Nick Cannon stepping in for Robin Leach. Further, The Osbournes is moving from MTV to VH1.
“When the big, new, purported ‘sure things’ don’t work, I’m not surprised that producers and programmers look for what’s safe, what’s worked and what’s known and trusted,” says veteran reality producer and Relativity TV CEO Tom Forman, who’s behind Lifestyles. “Big swings that lead to big misses like [Fox’s] Utopia and [ABC’s] Rising Star make already nervous networks hungry for simple, predictable comfort programming.”
A top reality agent agrees that the reboots are fear-based. “In order to save their jobs, they’re grasping at straws,” says the agent, with others noting that the unscripted revivals parallel the influx of scripted TV and movie remakes, all hoping that familiar IP will cut through a cluttered landscape.
But NBC president of alternative Paul Telegdy doesn’t believe the reality revivals have anything to do with an apparent lack of new ideas. “This mythology that somehow the search for the next big format is eluding anyone — they come along once in a while,” says Telegdy, who revived I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here at NBC six years after its run on ABC. “There’s no sudden panic. The reason we’re doing Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous is we think it’s a very entertaining vehicle for Nick Cannon.”