On October 20, 2001, The music, Nicoletta’s heady hit, overflows television sets. In an explosion of purple neon lights and spiky buns, TF1 is launching the Star Academy, which mixes singing competition and reality TV. For ten seasons, aspiring singers will invite themselves into the spotlight and into the salons, where we dub Jennifer, Nolwenn Leroy or Grégory Lemarchal. The “Star Ac'”, this spangled colossus, heavyweight of popular culture, celebrated its 20th birthday last year… and today, its comeback: the channel has just announced the return of the show , scheduled for this fall.
We will find Nikos Aliagas and the Château des Vives-Eaux in Dammarie-les-Lys, where the lucky few will brush their teeth and warm their voices under the eyes of the cameras. The teachers are being hired (no, Kamel Ouali won’t be back!) and, for the rest… suspense. The news, however, was enough to tickle the nostalgic thirties and to affirm that, two decades after having invaded our screens and our lives, reality TV is not about to pull the plug.
The exploration of infinite territories
Far from it: according to numbers of the French Audiovisual Council (CSA), the country’s channels broadcast almost five times more in 2019 than in 2001, for a total of 11,000 hours – that’s 4,000 more than the content of information, 7,000 more than films.
And, in France as in the rest of the Francophonie, we want more. Last year, the final of Love is in the meadow held more than 4 million viewers spellbound [sur M6]only slightly more than the ratings of the current season of Koh Lanta [sur TF1].
And beyond the big classic channels, other players have entered the round, starting with the streaming giants. Disney+ recently bought (for 100 million [de dollars] !) the new season of The Kardashians [L’Incroyable Famille Kardashian en VF], but it is the Netflix catalog that takes the prize with more than 200 shows, some of which are self-produced. The next one is scheduled for June 22. Snowflake Mountain, or the immersion of a band of young adults, versatile and not very resourceful, in the middle of nature “without running water, without parents and, even worse, without wifi”. They will cut down tree trunks and cry their hearts out, the trailer bodes…
Because reality TV quickly overtook musical shows and single gentlemen to explore infinite … and improbable territories. Marriages at first sight, blind tattoos, competitions for glassblowers or orchestra conductors, love coaching for young people with autism, candidates going to the pool table, giving birth in the forest, looking for love naked or struggling against sleep for a week (we owe this idea to the British channel Channel 4)…
An insatiable and sprawling genre
In short, if you are thinking of a concept, there is a good chance that it already exists. Entering a new era, that of social networks and streaming, the genre seems insatiable, just like its audience. Why does reality TV still fascinate? How, in twenty years, has it changed so as not to tire? What does reality TV have in store for us in the future?
Tentacular, the phenomenon is first of all by definition. Because if, as its name suggests, reality TV relates to reality, its format remains difficult to circumscribe as it readily flirts with games or documentaries. Traditionally, these programs depict, in a serial mode, the daily life, the emotions of anonymous people whose adventures we follow, even who we judge and eliminate. Above all, it is distinguished by its fantasy: that of a reality taken from life, not scripted.
In 2001, Loana and the “real people”
It is stamped with the seal of authenticity that the