You wanted to see family viewing come back, right?
You know, mom, dad, sis and junior all gathered in the living room watching — oh, say — "Little House on the Prairie." (search) Thought those days were dead as black-and-white TV?
Think again. They're back — and they're called "reality TV."
A new study says shows like "Fear Factor," "American Idol" (search) and "Survivor" are the first in more than a decade that whole families can watch together.
"One reason for the success of such so-called reality series as 'Survivor,' 'American Idol,' 'The Apprentice' (search) or even 'Fear Factor' is because families can and do watch them together," Steve Sternberg, the report's author, told the trade magazine Media Life.
"The one thing people probably are searching for, at least everyone I know, is more programming the family can watch together.
"After all, more than 25 percent of all TV households have at least one child under 12."
The problem has been — in a nutshell — that most homes now have more than one TV set. Adults didn't want or need to watch TV with their kids. And vice versa.
Sternberg traces the advent of reality programming back 10 years to 1994 — when shows such as "ER" (search) and "Friends" (search) premiered to huge success, persuading network programmers that audiences wanted "edgier" shows.
Dramas and comedies were targeted at specific audiences — and it worked. Shows aimed at young adults ("Buffy," for instance) were watched mostly by young adults. No one over 35 need apply.
But when "edgier" shows failed, reality series began to catch on — with more parents and kids starting to watch together.
Sternberg's report found that eight reality shows rate among the top 30 shows for kids 2-11, teens 12-17 and adults 18-34 — far outdistancing shows from any other genre.
Sternberg also says that while most households have more than one TV set, there's about an 80 percent probability that each home has only one set on at a time.
And, when that TV is on, it's more than likely to be tuned into a reality show.