Will reality TV ever be the same?

Photo by Brit Kovacs

Save for a few riveting episodes of Jeopardy, we, the general public, have been denied our regular dose of reality television. Thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic, the vast majority of film and television productions have been shut down or postponed.

And with no vaccine in sight, it raises the question, will reality television ever be the same? Will anyone ever sashay away again? It’s a haunting thought.

Of course, some programs will be much easier to film and produce than others. A minimal film crew following the Kardashians around their many mansions is much more feasible than one focused on daily interactions with the general public—Impractical Jokers for example.

I would like to take a look through six of the major categories and genres of reality television programs and attempt to decipher whether or not we will ever hear from them again.


Fortunately for all the Breaking Amish fans out there, this format seems like the most likely to stick around. Shows like Big Brother and Jersey Shore—provided none of the cast are dead—are the perfect models for a reality show during a pandemic.

It’s a simplistic style full of entertaining discourse and endless scenarios. ‘Actors’ are confined to their limited space and can do the majority of their filming away from the public.


Here is where our problem arises. Shows like Beyond Scared Straight and Inside American Jail are immensely popular, but also very risky—especially during a pandemic. I can’t imagine any film crew willing entering a prison simply due to the sheer speed a virus can spread in and around such confines.


Now this one is possible provided production companies go about screening and testing contestants properly. If a participant is willing to self-isolate for two weeks before production begins, shows in this format will flow with relative ease. 

Of course, there will and should be no audience but shows like The Masked Singer have found ways around that—as creepy as it may be. 


Again, provided precautions are taken, there should be little issue. A show like Home Makeover is a reasonable example of a program that necessitates little to no contact with anyone not employed on the contracted crew. 


Not going to happen. Where the hell are you going to go? 


Shows like this capitalize off of fooling the general public. Unfortunately, this seems to be the least likely format to return anytime soon. The hit TruTV program Impractical Jokers just seems impossible at this point. There simply is no show without the reactions of their unsuspecting victims.

As miserable as it may be, the likely risk factors seem far too high—at least until we see an effective vaccine. 

Talk Show

This format never really broke off during the COVID-19 pandemic. Late-night hosts tended to film from home or simply pandered to the camera, filming in an empty studio. 

Ellen DeGeneres hosts a live audience through massive screens displayed throughout her studio, Conan has cutouts. There are plenty of ways around it.

The professional sports scene has constructed an effective model for how to get fans in on the fun. Basketball was undoubtedly the best, displaying large screens with live fans overtop of the court. Baseball filled their stadiums with enthusiastic cardboard cutouts while Football said ‘screw it’ and just let less fans in the stands.

So there remains hope for some of our favourite television programs. Although we may never see Sal, Murr, Joe and Q screwing with each other on Staten Island again, our beloved Dave Navaro will be hosting Ink Master for years to come.

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