S. Aishwarya

CHENNAI: Not too long ago, satellite TV channels vied with one another to air serials produced by leading companies during prime time. But of late, reality shows seem to have usurped the prime slots from the soaps.

The reality shows, which started out as low-profile programmes with one episode a week on off-peak schedules, now hog many hours of air-time during weekdays with special episodes packed into the weekends.

With a growing response from the public and competition, many channels encourage producers to scale up levels of creativity and innovativeness for each episode.

During the initial stages, the producers changed sets to match the theme of the week. But now, shooting in studios is considered to be old-fashioned and producers are making a beeline for scenic outdoor locations.

‘Manada Mayilada,’ a reality dance show, was among the first popular programmes to shoot special episodes in villages and beaches.

“It has received good response from people as they get to interact with the contestants,” says dance master Kala, who directs the programme.

Shoots for the programmes have featured locations such as Pollachi, Puducherry and Kovalam. The crew has plans to explore the picturesque spots of Ooty for the next shooting schedule.

Leading channels are also reserving the best for the final phase. “We arranged a grand function to announce the winners of ‘Manada Mayilada Part II.’ We selected 11,000 people who voted through SMS out of one lakh voters to watch the live performance. After its success, we are conducting similar events,” Ms. Kala said.

In line with many other reality shows, Star Vijay’s Super Singer, a musical talent hunt show, conducted its finals at the YMCA grounds recently. “It was the first ever live programme of a reality show aired on this channel. All the passes were picked up soon after the announcement,” said K. Sriram, head of Vijay TV.

For the participants too, the event was the first big public appearance, Mr. Sriram said. “The participants went through rigorous training and assessment. Now they were more in line with what the industry is expecting. The event was an opportunity for them to launch their talents,” he said. The channel will organise similar events for its reality dance show as well. Abitha Sivakumar, working in a private firm, was excited when she was called on to cheer her cousin who was one of the contestants in a talent hunt programme. Having compered for a couple of TV shows, Ms. Sivakumar knew precisely what the audience could do to liven up the show. “I made placards and cheered the contestants all through the programme. I also became a famous face with the cameras panning my way now and then,” she chuckles.