Everybody has to eat, put on a pair of pants and get married.
So says the TV reality world, where three of the hottest reality genres right now are food, fashion and weddings, and there’s no sign the trend is about to slow.
“The genres universally encompass something everybody can relate to,” says Jenny Daly, chief creative officer of Target Entertainment and exec producer of Food Network’s “Private Chefs of Beverly Hills,” and TLC’s new show “Battle of the Wedding Designers.”
“These lifestyle shows are popular because they’re easy to produce and cast, and hit universal themes that tap into people’s insecurities,” says Andy Dehnart, editor of website Reality Blurred and lecturer at Stetson U. “Weddings, for example, make people insane as they try to live up to an impossible expectation set for them by companies that want to sell them things. Reality shows solve these problems for their participants, or makes them seem solvable for viewers.”
“Food is sexy,” says John Miller, senior VP of original production and development at WE. “It’s one of the few things that truly sets us apart from being animals. We prepare and fuss over and make art out of our sustenance.”
A similar argument can be made for fashion. But weddings?
“When you look at the wedding genre, there’s no better event for potential conflict, drama and satisfying tear-jerking moments than a wedding,” says Miller. “Things can go terribly wrong. There’s stress in planning a wedding, there’s romance in a wedding, people are spending a lot of money. People are excited and/or disappointed about the choices the bride and groom have made — possibly in each other. And it’s the start of a new life together.”
“Wedding shows have been around since the dawn of cable. A lot have worked, some haven’t. What we’ve found is that at the core of every single one of these shows is it’s really about the bride and her experience,” says Nancy Daniels, TLC’s senior VP of production and development.
Whatever the genre, shows with true staying power share certain traits, according to Miller.
“In its day, ‘Project Runway’ was a perfect mixture: Credibility, something real at stake, and people who are really good at something,” says Miller. “It’s the same thing with ‘Top Chef’ or any of the competition shows that really work.”
“The other thing they have in common is they’re all fun,” says Andy Cohen, senior VP of original programming and development for Bravo, whose new series “Bethenny’s Getting Married” blurs the lines by following the impending nuptials of celebrity chef (and “Real Housewives of New York City” star) Bethenny Frankel.
That’s not the only place the genres are blending. Wedding wars are a favorite challenge among “Top Chef” fans.
“We’ve done it several times on ‘Top Chef’ and just did it again on ‘Top Chef: Masters,’?” Cohen says. “Chefs have a very limited amount of time, perhaps a day or two, to execute the food for an entire wedding. That’s always one of our really successful challenges.”
In TLC’s “Four Weddings,” four brides attend and judge one another’s nuptials. The ceremony earning the most points wins that couple a honeymoon.
“In a way, ‘Four Weddings’ combines the genres because they’re commenting on food, they’re commenting on fashion, and of course, it’s all about a wedding,” Daniels says.
Despite an abundance of food, fashion and wedding shows, insiders believe there’s room for more. “If you find a unique twist to these genres, it’s a universal interest that can’t get old,” Daly says.
To wit: WE’s sister network Wedding Central and Scripps new Cooking Channel, while TLC is investing in more food shows than ever before.
“We don’t think a stand-and-stir type cooking show would work on TLC, but we do think there’s room in that space for us,” Daniels says.
So what’s next? Nobody’s willing to predict what the next big reality genre will be.
“Reality is an ever-changing world,” Cohen says, stopping short of saying there are no new genres to explore. “If I said that, some brand new idea that’s so simple, but great, would come up, like ‘Undercover Boss’ on CBS. What a huge hit, and it’s a very simple idea. There are infinite directions in which reality television can go.”