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Just a few months ago, networks were gunning to cram their programming hours with salt-of-the-earth Southern fare, also affectionately known as redneck reality television. Moonshiners, duck call makers, backyard oil drillers – you name it: If the shows featured good-‘ol southern characters, the shows got the green light.
But now an industry source tells us time have changed, and studio doors are locked tight when new Southern shows come a-knockin’.
“The market just got saturated and development execs are all looking for next big thing,” the well-placed insider told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “Shows set in the South have seen phenomenal success over the past few years, and TV viewers have showed up by the millions to get a glimpse of the South. That being said, more recently we’ve seen that a lot of networks are trying to veer away from the South in the new shows they’re developing.”
Which means the current reality TV landscape – which includes A&E megahit “Duck Dynasty,” History Channel’s “Swamp People,” CMT’s “Redneck Island,” and Discovery’s “Backyard Oil” and “Moonshiners” – may soon be but a memory.
Aside from hitting a saturation point, experts also note that the genre has been fraught with headaches as critics routinely express concern that such shows play on offensive stereotypes and glorify reckless behavior. MTV was forced to cancel “Buckwild” earlier this year following the tragic death of its star Shain Gandee, and it’s a genre that apparently poses serious problems for its creators.
“You walk a fine line of capturing humorous content and characters, but trying not to point your finger directly at them and laugh,” explained Brad Austin, Director of Development at production company10x10 Entertainment. “It is tough not to cross that line and be perceived as making fun of the people in the shows.”
And according to Hollywood agent Alec Shankman, once the shine wears off a reality genre, it’s only natural Hollywood will seek something new to get tongues wagging.
“The perception of creating ‘derivative’ programming can influence TV buying decisions and cause a change of course,” he said. “Hollywood is cyclical by nature. Sitcoms are in, then they’re out, then they’re back in. Game shows are in, and then out, then back again. The same applies to genres of reality TV.”
For example, a decade ago it was all about competition shows like MTV’s “Real World” and “Survivor,” then attention shifted to Paris Hilton and her “Simple Life” as Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey’s tribulations in “Newlyweds,” before moving to “finding love” shows like “The Bachelor” to the shop-happy rich people in “Real Housewives” and “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.”
So if Southern style shows are no longer on Hollywood’s future hit-list, then what is likely to be the next big thing in the reality arena?
“Nobody wants to be the most redneck of the Southern-themed shows, but they still want Southern characters and Southern lifestyle to be featured to some degree,” Austin noted. “But reality is going more international. Some networks are already deep into seeking projects that take place out of the U.S. English speaking characters are still a must, but the international landscape is the new playground for the setting of shows. It opens up a world of opportunity.”