Reality TV was able to completely take over the media as it did, not just because it was relatively cheap and easy to produce, but because of the relative ease with which it could be duplicated. As it is (at least presented as being) completely unscripted, the only thing that can be copyrighted is the title. As such, there is nothing to prevent another network from completely ripping off the format of another reality TV show and presenting this as their own.
Nowhere is this more evident than with real estate and renovation TV shows. When TLC first achieved a moderate amount of success with their show Trading Spaces, there was nothing to keep ABC from significantly borrowing upon the formula with their much more successful Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.
Over a decade later, the idea has been copied over and over with only minor tweaks here and there so many times, and there are now enough real estate and renovation reality TV shows to have their own network. Turn on HGTV at any given time and you will absolutely be guaranteed to see a show about someone buying a new home, renovating an old home, or both: House Hunters, House Hunters International, Beachfront Bargain Hunt, Hawaii Life, Selling New York, Living Alaska, Love It or List It, Property Brothers, and Design on a Dime, just to name a few.
Yet in spite of there now being an entire channel consisting of nothing but reality TV shows that follow this formula, they keep making more. As long as they make one little tweak to the formula, usually by restricting it to a specific type of property or location, they have no problem presenting it as new and original.
Yet, even with this small criteria for what qualifies as original in mind, it still often appears that they are running out of ideas. The latest case in point: TLC's Buying Naked, a program exclusively about selling real estate in nudist colonies.
To its credit, Jackie Youngblood and her team, Alex Dumrauf, Devin Mueller, Camdon Mueller and Chandler Whidden, do their best to offer a great deal of insight, not just into the art of the deal itself, but into the mindset of their nudist clientele; can articulate precisely what features are most important to them and why. For example: Natural scenic views, electric fireplaces, leather furniture, and of course, a bidet.
One of them even went the extra mile for a nudist client and measured his inseam to reassure him that the kitchen was nudist-friendly.
What very soon becomes apparent, however, is that this is a formula which even TLC itself is becoming incredibly bored with, hence their own inability to take the business seriously and to constantly amuse themselves with low-brow humor.
Yet the humor may become redundant even by the first episode, as the great majority of it comes in the form of strategically-placed censorship where the nudist's intimate parts are perfectly concealed behind objects in the foreground, most often in such ways that they couldn't possibly be there just by chance, and in some cases, even concealed behind objects sufficing as a pun, such as a woman's breasts being hidden behind a pair of melons on the table or a pair of balloons, or a man's private parts being concealed by a pair of golf balls or three sausages (yes, sausages) on his grill at a "Best Butt" (pork butt) barbeque cook-off.
In case it was not obvious enough that they were being cheeky (pun not intended) as opposed to respectful, one episode even took the time out to include a shot of a man sunbathing in front of a large fountain, with the optical illusion being obvious enough.
Along with this, the realtors and residents alike drop far too many puns for it to be an accident. In less than a minute of footage on the golf range, they somehow managed to work in all of the following:
- "Your swing is completely unencumbered."
- "Can I give some pointers?"
- "See this thing over here?"
- "You're stiff as stiff can be."
- "You can tell he got all stiff."
It does keep the show entertaining for a while, but again, it happens so often that it's difficult to believe it is unscripted. Which, as was noted during a recent Celebrity Apprentice article, is one of the greatest complaints among reality TV detractors: That it is not unscripted at all.
The great bounty of low-brow humor also highlights another great complaint among detractors: Over-saturation. Nudism is a greatly misunderstood way of life which could benefit greatly from the exposure (pun still not intended) of reality TV just as the LGBT community benefited from Queer Eye For The Straight Guy. But the real estate formula has become so stale and over-saturated that even the production crew is unable to take it seriously anymore.
This may be a sign that TLC and other reality TV networks may want to cool it on the real estate shows for a while, and that, if America's nudist communities feel any need to open themselves up to America through reality TV, the better approach would be to search for their own versions of Bill and Jen.