TV critics will recognize best unscripted entertainment show, but won’t call it reality TV

Television critics, including me, voted overwhelmingly to add a category for reality television to their awards next summer at the Television Critics Association meeting yesterday in Los Angeles. The first award will be given next summer for a show broadcast this year.

The category, however, will be called “unscripted entertainment,” not “reality TV,” because of an apparent uncomfortableness with the stigma associated with the term, which suggests the trashier shows rather than the excellent ones. However, as many critics eloquently pointed out, we won’t award something like Jersey Shore—and if we do, well, then we deserve ridicule.

Considering the number of outstanding nonfiction series that are currently on the air and that were largely ignored during this year’s TCA awards, from Hoarders to Survivor to Dirty Jobs to Brick City to Whale Wars to Top Chef Masters, that’s a welcome change. As critic Aaron Barnhart wrote, “we are finally acknowledging the abundance of quality factual programs airing every year and allowing one to walk away with what my colleague Dan Fienberg aptly calls a ‘priceless piece of Lucite.’”

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