The reality show genre has exploded over the past fifteen years or so. Every sub-genre under the term of “reality show” has had it’s day in the sun, for better or for worse.
Blow Out aired on Bravo from 2004-2006. The show followed the lives and careers of the staff of Jonathan Salon and the salon’s owner, Jonathan Antin. As with any reality show, the drama and personality differences between the participants created the narrative.
As I recall at the time, Blow Out was just another reality show. I understand the appeal of this genre, especially after a long day of work or school. Your brain has been pushed to the max all day and you just want to watching television that requires a little less thinking. However, as I recall, there was nothing special about Blow Out and in the end, it was nothing more than free marketing for the salon’s products and services.
Among the television spawn of the reality genre, there is none so compelling or mind numbing (depending on your point of view) than the competition program.
Shear Genius aired on Bravo from 2007 to 2010. Hosted during the first season by Jaclyn Smith and by Camila Alves (the other half of Matthew McConaughey) during the final two seasons, the purpose of the competition was to find the best hairdresser among the contestants. Each week, the contestants were challenged to create a unique hairstyle, but were forced to do so under restricted conditions. At the end of the reason, one contestant was named the winner.
Looking back, Shear Genius was not all that great. It was just another reality competition program where the competition was set in the world of hair styling. The only bright was Tabatha Coffey, who was named as fan favorite and had her own spin-off show, Tabatha Takes Over.
These days, there is a slew of makeover shows on television.
In 2007, Project Runway‘s Tim Gunn became the star of his own reality show, Tim Gunn’s Guide to Style (2007-2008). Co-hosted by Veronica Webb in the first season and Gretta Monahan in the second season, the subject of each episode goes through the standard head to toe reality show makeover. As long as each participant follows Gunn’s rules for fashion, they are allowed to express themselves via the clothes they choose to wear.
There is a reason why this program lasted only two seasons. Though Gunn is well respected in the fashion industry, the show was just a little too cookie cutter to survive in the cutthroat world of reality television.
A generation ago, reality television was something new and different. These days, every network is eagerly adding reality television to their programming schedule. Bravo is no different.
In 2006, the network introduced a new series to audiences: The Real Housewives of Orange County. The series followed the lives of a group of upper class women living in Southern California. Seeing that audiences were responding to the program, the executives began to expand the series to other cities. In the 13 years that Real Housewives have been on the air, the series has expanded to eight other cities and continues to be a staple of the Bravo schedule.
I have to admit that I watched Real Housewives for the few seasons. It was engaging, if not a little mind numbing. But then I got bored and stopped watching because each new spin-off was a replica of the previous season and city.
For many, the allure of running your own business and being your own boss seems like a dream come true. But underneath that allure is hard work. It has been said that more than half of all new small businesses close within a year of opening.
Tabatha Takes Over (originally titled Tabatha’s Salon Takeover) aired on the Bravo network from 2008 to 2013. Tabatha Coffey, a successful hair stylist, originally worked solely with the owners of hair salons in the first three seasons before expanding to other small businesses in the final two seasons. Her goal is figure out what is keeping the business from being successful. Working with the owners and the employees, the hope is that by the time Tabatha is finished, the business will go from floundering to successful.
Some might have said that Tabatha is well, a b*tch. She is direct, in your face and has no problem telling a business owner what they need to do to keep their business from going under. But, the format worked. About half of the businesses are still open today. Unlike other programs of this nature, it didn’t feel like the average reality show. I think that is because Tabatha was playing a character or a version of herself, she was being who she is and made no bones about it.
For some, the ultimate professional dream is to have their own successful clothing line.
In 2004, Project Runway premiered on Bravo before moving to Lifetime and then returning to Bravo. Combining the dreams of up and coming fashion designers with the format of a reality show competition, the end goal of the contestants was to win the show and run their own clothing line. Guided by Tim Gunn, the contestants were judged by supermodel and host Heidi Klum, fashion designer Michael Kors and Elle creative director Nina Garcia. Filmed in New York City, the contestants are often given out of the box challenges and every episode, they are judged by a celebrity guest in addition to the regular judges.
While Project Runway has all of the hallmarks of a standard reality competition program, it stands out because the contestants have an opportunity for real world success.