NEW YORK — In the eyes of viewers, reality television is not only a misnamed genre. It’s a format wearing out its welcome.
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Four out of five Americans say they think too many reality shows are on the air, according to an AP-TV Guide poll. Only 4 percent of respondents said there were not enough.
Few people believe there’s much reality in reality TV: a total of 82 percent said the shows are either “totally made up” or “mostly distorted.”
“They pick the personality types to fit a role. I don’t think it’s really real,” said Brenda Sobol, a 42-year-old homemaker from Susanville, Calif. “It’s kind of bogus. I think they pretty much know what the outcomes are going to be or they wouldn’t do the programs.”
The poll also found:
—Half of Americans believe there are too many crime shows on television. The longtime staple of TV dramas has proliferated with the success of franchises such as “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation” and “Law & Order.”
—Of all the new shows introduced last year, “CSI: New York” has the most people looking forward to its return. “Desperate Housewives,” twice as popular with women as it is with men, came in second.
—People watch more TV as they get older. The median number of hours that people over 65 say they watch is 14.7 per week. For those 18 to 34 — young people that TV advertisers are desperate to reach — it’s nine hours.
Time for new TV
Television’s new season officially begins next week, a relief to viewers after a lackluster summer. Broadcast networks threw many new reality shows on the air. Between angry chefs, Tommy Lee’s college escapades and a rock band searching for a new singer, the only one to catch on was ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars.”
Slideshow: Celebrity Sightings Starting primarily with the CBS game “Survivor” and encompassing pop culture favorites like “The Osbournes,” “reality” is a TV genre that has grown to rival sitcoms and dramas. It doesn’t hurt that most are cheap to produce.
The poll results could be daunting news for Martha Stewart, who joins Donald Trump with her own edition of “The Apprentice” on NBC next week.
“You can get a reality show about anything,” said Michael Russell, a 27-year-old construction worker from Cleveland who admits to getting a charge out of Bravo’s “Being Bobby Brown.” “Anyone can do it.”
Joseph Passmore, 66, a retired computer systems analyst from Oklahoma City, said he enjoys “Survivor.” But there’s little real about it, he said.
“I think most of them are fake,” he said. “Even ‘Survivor,’ they just show you the parts they want you to see and it’s been messed with too much. They have too much — what do you call it? — editorial control.”
The saving grace for TV producers is that even a belief these shows are fake or distorted doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t watch. Sixty-eight percent of viewers said it didn’t matter, or only mattered a little, whether the shows were truthful or not.
Too many talk, crime shows, too
Viewers may also be having their fill of talk shows. The AP-TV Guide poll found 56 percent of Americans saying there were too many.
And the fact that half of the viewers said there were too many crime shows could be an early warning for TV programmers: The genre’s success has only encouraged them to make more and, based on previews, they’re getting more gruesome than ever this season.
“It’s like they’re harping on it,” Russell said. “There’s so much crime going on around the neighborhood and around the world, it’s like they’re glorifying it.”
He’d like to see more uplifting programs, like ABC’s “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.”
The elderly are more likely to say there are too many crime shows, according to the poll. Given the way advertisers seek youth, that’s not an audience programmers are likely to listen to that much.
The poll of 1,002 adults was taken Sept. 6-8 and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points. It was conducted by Ipsos, an international polling firm.
© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.