Reality TV coming to cable networks that have mostly ignored it

Last night’s awesome episode of The Walking Dead is clear evidence that scripted, fictional entertainment is thriving on cable, even with all of the reality TV shows that populate some networks and cause people to freak out that reality is taking over. Still, several cable networks mostly known for their quality scripted shows will soon air reality TV shows, including AMC and TNT.

In The Los Angeles Times’ story about the new shows, TNT executive Michael Wright said it all: “Unscripted storytelling is and will be a vital part of the television landscape forever — you need look no further than the top 20 programs at any given time for proof of that. At this point, to not have unscripted programming on your schedule is almost a sin of omission.”

TNT has shows that sound like versions of ones we’ve seen elsewhere: Fortune Hunters from Mark Burnett (teams search for hidden treasure); Search and Rescue from Deadliest Catch producer Thom Beers (it follows a Coast Guard crew in Alaska); The Great Escape from Amazing Race producer Betram van Munster (people try to escape from things).

For those who may freak out that networks will move away from what they’re well-known for, it sounds like they’re making smart decisions to keep their reality TV series on par with what they’re already doing.

AMC is planning several reality series, including a real-life Mad Men and one set in Kevin Smith’s comic book shop. AMC’s president of programming Joel Stillerman told the paper, “We are working very closely with producers to steer away from the look of typical reality shows. We want to shoot more in the style of scripted.”

discussion by

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 37, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.