Farewell, 2010: On Nigel Lythgoe and What’s Right With Reality


Well, folks, another year has flown by — and another several hundred reality shows have danced across our television screens. I hope you’re all settled in for the holiday and ready to take on the upcoming new year!

On December 5, the Caucus for Producers, Writers and Directors presented Nigel Lythgoe with a Producer of the Year award honoring his accomplishments as one of Reality Television’s most successful producers.

The other Nominees were Reuben Cannon, James Duff, Howard Gordon, Shawn Ryan and Joel Surnow, all deserving and talented individuals with strong histories in traditionally scripted television content.

While Lythgoe’s highest profile success may be American Idol, which he produced until 2008, I have been positively bananas from day one for his wildly original reality competition show So You Think You Can Dance, which showcases emerging dance stars. Lythgoe started out, after all, as a dancer and choreographer long before becoming a major force in reality television, and created SYTYCD out of his passion for the art form.

I was able to steal a moment with Nigel during a break in the festivities to congratulate him, and in just those few minutes of conversation, I could really sense his gratitude not just for the night’s award, but — in the greater picture — the opportunity he’s been handed to make a life for himself by turning the spotlight on others.

Talk about a win-win.

I told Lythgoe what he already knew… that the redemption of Reality as a genre all starts with shows like SYTYCD proving themselves as wildly engaging, profitable alternatives to more-of-the-same junk reality programming. SYTYCD celebrates art and spirit with supportive characters who compete with plenty of heart and without sabotaging each other. The show proves by example that you can take the ugliness out of reality competition shows and turn them into something that inspires, moves and educates.

Hopefully, more of what the industry brings to the dial in 2011 will follow suit.

As I wrap up this blog for 2010, I’d like to plant this seed with any of you future creators, writers or producers in the genre: be passionate about your storytelling. Try to tell real stories instead of just cutting for noise. Take an average show and make it great by making your cast three-dimensional instead of dumbing them down into distilled caricatures. And most of all… absolutely most of all… always remember that “Reality TV can be better.”

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