Five reality TV fixes for 2012

The race needs to regain its identity.

Remember when reality TV still had that new-car smell to it? Unfortunately, it’s been taken for so many test-drives that now it feels as though it’s running on fumes.

Since we try to be a solutions-oriented site (after all, it’s better than just complaining), we’ve come up with some ways to try and save some of our favorite shows in genres.

1) All singing competitions — Less is more

If you ever watch the British “X Factor,” you will notice something remarkable — if the show doesn’t need to be two hours, it won’t be. They have the show run as long as necessary, and then fill up the schedule with other programming.

The truth here is that one of the reasons why the singing genre has becomes tiresome is because it’s predictable. We’re forced to know the contestants in forced sound bytes, and the shows are crammed with filler to even get it to a two-hour run-time.

So here’s the solution to shows like “American Idol” and especially the American “X Factor” — institute a brief talk program (like the British show does) after the singing portion is complete. It gives the contestants a chance to communicate in a natural way, and most importantly it helps to establish real connections beyond just cliff notes (such as a sad story or an inspirational moment) between the performer and the audience.

2) All all-stars or no all-stars

We’re sick of seeing “returning players” come back and embarrass newbies. Even if Sophie did end up beating Coach on “Survivor: South Pacific,” we sat through two seasons of the show that focuses so much on people we’d seen multiple times before that we didn’t get to know the new players.

Of course, the problem is not just limited to “Survivor” — “Big Brother” instituted some returning players, but was then damaged by one of the all-stars in Mr. Donato leaving for an emergency. (Season 12 alum Rachel Reilly also ended up winning.)

We know new contestants can be a gamble, but at this point we need to know some new faces — the unknown is so much more exciting than the predictable, and haven’t we seen enough of the Hantz family along with Jeff and Jordan at this point? If you’re going to do an all-star season, go all-out. Otherwise, there’s really no point and it’s really not fair.

3) No more casting-by-numbers

We really don’t need to see any more beauty queens on “The Amazing Race,” bartenders on “Survivor,” or aspiring model / actress types on “The Bachelor.”

In particular, the “Race” has become terrible at this over the years. On this past season, we had two professional snowboarders, a young guy who traveled around the world by himself, a pro football player, two former “Survivor” contestants, and (outside of the winners in Ernie & Cindy and fan favorites Bill & Cathi) tons of teams we have seen before in other forms.

Please, competition shows — bring us something new!

4) Make things more transparent!

In the age of social media, things tend to spiral out of control fast. So instead of making people wonder why Angelea was kicked off “America’s Next Top Model,” why not just say it publicly? Why pretend that Stacy Francis on “The X Factor” had few opportunities in life?

This is the information age — and when people don’t tell us much in the way of information, it leads to madness across the web. It also can at times insult our intelligence — such as as with “Top Model,” where they seemed to think that we would except their explanation and be happy with it.

5) Remember what worked in the first place

Back when “Survivor” first started, it was a show about adventure — meanwhile, “The Amazing Race” was about seeing the world. Both shows have lost their way at times, and even some shows like “Top Chef” have at times stumbled thanks to twists like double-eliminations and team challenges.

Reality TV first worked because the focus was on storytelling, and not on trying to surprise anyone with a twist that may or mat not work. (See the “Big Brother” saboteur, or the team changes on “Hell’s Kitchen” designed at times to keep the more memorable contestants around longer.)

Photo: CBS

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