Channel Five's plan to boost flop £5m reality show: screen more of it

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The Independent Online

Five has resorted to desperate measures to revive its showpiece reality television show which has flopped despite the station investing nearly £5m in the programme.

Five has resorted to desperate measures to revive its showpiece reality television show which has flopped despite the station investing nearly £5m in the programme.

Back To Reality is Five's most expensive original commission and was expected attract big ratings.

The show draws together contestants from previous reality shows - such as Jade Goody and James Hewitt from the Channel 4 shows Big Brother and The Games respectively - and puts them in the same house.

But not even the latest gems from Ms Goody - such as thinking a passport was needed to travel to Glasgow and not being able to locate her home county of Essex - have generated much attention.

The programme's failure suggests there is a limit to how much reality television British audiences can take.

An initial audience of 1.8 million dropped to 700,000 and executives at Five have taken a hands-on role in trying to save the show. Extra programmes have been scheduled during the day and coverage has been extended at night.

It is a far cry from ITV's I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! which recently attracted audiences of 14 million and extensive coverage in the press.

Kirsty Mouatt, the editor of the celebrity magazine New!, said she had been sure the project would succeed. "We were quite excited about it," she said. "They had some of the best reality contestants and a great set up.

"But the major, major flaw is the timing. People are completely reality'd out after I'm a Celebrity. It takes a lot of commitment to watch these shows night after night and I think people want a break."

Eva Simpson, one of the 3am girls from the Daily Mirror's showbusiness desk, blamed a lack of big-name contestants. She said: "As far as our column is concerned these are just not the sort of people we would be writing about. Maureen from Driving School and someone who didn't even win Joe Millionaire. It's really, really tragic and that's reflected in the viewing figures."

A spokesperson for Five said the channel hoped the show, which runs until 5 March, would take off. He said Back to Reality "has suffered" because of the success of I'm a Celebrity...Get Me Out of Here! but that the ratings for the ITV show proved there was an appetite for such programmes.

He said: "We were up against EastEnders and Coronation Street and the Brit Awards. Since then it has grown. The contestants are starting to get on each other's nerves and it's getting more interesting."

Five is hoping interest will pick up today when the first contestant is "ejected" from the house in Acton, west London, where the show is being made.

David Elstein, the former chief executive of Five, suggested the station would have a hard job in building a big audience for such a programme. He said: "It's very difficult when you are a minority audience channel to build an audience in the way that I'm a Celebrity does because you don't have the same media attention."

Five is facing claims, however, that Back to Reality has borrowed too many ideas from other reality shows. Endemol, the makers of Big Brother, have warned the channel to "be careful you are not breaching copyright".