NEW YORK – Imagine if the Bachelor only had five women to choose from, or if the next Survivor (search) were a battle of the fittest between just two people.
Though it’s unlikely that reality TV will be that short of contestants, some agents and producers have noticed shrinking casting pools for the genre.
Insiders blame deceptive reality concepts like that of Joe Millionaire (search) and the new For Love or Money (search) -- premiering Monday -- that make contestants look ridiculous, as well as the crash-and-burn track record of reality "stars."
Bonnie Shumofsky, a talent agent with Abrams Artists in New York, said she’s been finding it more difficult to get her clients to go on reality show auditions lately.
"I think people don't want to get stuck in the '15 minutes of fame,'" she said. "Anyone that’s an actor feels that if they do a reality show, they’re going to get stuck in that realm. It could go somewhere, but possibly not in the direction they want."
That's why actress Jenn McGeorge, 31, wouldn’t dream of trying to be on a reality show.
"I think in the very beginning, it would have been interesting," she said. "But it’s gotten more and more sensationalistic. I wouldn’t want to be embarrassed."
In addition to aspiring actors avoiding the genre for fear of being typecast, Shumofsky also said fear of embarrassment on national television is a factor in people’s reluctance to audition.
"Some people have seen what has happened with reality shows and they don’t want to take that step," she said.
Michael Ausiello, senior editor at TV Guide Online (search), said that after Joe Millionaire aired, reality show producers were concerned that prospective participants would be afraid to audition for other programs.
"The rules of the game have changed now," Ausiello said. "Producers can lie to contestants and get away with it."
The new NBC reality show For Love or Money fools the male "bachelor" figure into believing he’s choosing a mate, when in fact the female contestants are vying for money -- the woman who wins his affection gets $1 million.
"People are really skeptical now, going into a show," said Ausiello. "Beforehand, people knew what they were getting themselves into. Now you don’t know if things are on the up and up."
But a significant drop in the contestant pool is unlikely for now.
"We’re going to end up seeing more people coming into these shows with a hidden agenda," Ausiello said. "We might see a gradual shift in the quality of the contestants appearing. I don’t think we’re going to see anything dramatic."
David Garfinkle, an executive producer for Blind Date, The Fifth Wheel and Surreal Life said that he’s noticed smaller casting pools for reality TV -- but only in Los Angeles. So they’ve taken half the production of Blind Date and The Fifth Wheel out of Tinseltown.
"In L.A., it’s a little saturated," he said. "There were just so many shows. But in other places, there are plenty of people willing to do this sort of thing."
And he doesn’t think the southern California shortage has anything to do with fear of humiliation.
"People know these shows are all in fun," Garfinkle said. "They kind of know what they’re getting into."
No matter how humiliating reality shows can be, Ausiello said some people will always want to get a moment in the spotlight.
"There will always be people eager to appear because they want their 15 minutes of fame at any cost."