MEDIA: THE SALON - AN EXPERT'S VIEW. Adam Pace believes The Salon, while no Big Brother, shows that reality TV is not totally dead yet

By ADAM PACE, the group manager at Optimedia, is quite happy with his own crimper at the moment, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 24 January 2003 12:00AM

Gay beauty therapists coming out live on air, women fainting while having lip implants, clairvoyants getting psychic messages while getting a trim - just some of the highlights from the first week of Channel 4's new reality show, The Salon.

Scheduled for an eight-week run at 6pm weekdays on Channel 4 with a T4 omnibus and live footage on E4, it is the latest offering from Endemol, which previously brought us Changing Rooms and Big Brother. The basic idea behind the show is that Channel 4 viewers can phone up and book a haircut or a beauty treatment. All the staff applied for the jobs and are fully qualified. Viewers can also air their views on the website and, unlike Big Brother, the participants are free to tape the programme and look at the website. The idea is that it's a reality show in a real environment.

But isn't this format finished? Not quite, it seems. However, it's no longer a guarantee of ratings success as both Channel 4 and the BBC have found out recently. To be truly successful, TV shows must engage the audience in some way. In the last series of Big Brother nothing interesting happened.

Likewise Fame Academy. Reality TV can be massive but it needs people to talk about it the next day, or to read about it in the papers. It needs to create a buzz.

So does The Salon have this sort of potential? My initial reaction is that it probably does. It certainly has some characters. The manager is a cross between David Brent and Nicky Clarke (what does "behaviour breeds behaviour" mean?). One of the stylists is a Brazilian called Ricardo who has to be one of the most bizarre characters ever to appear on TV, while another stylist scares clients with his "thug" look.

Channel 4 has always been great at picking up programmes with the potential to become people's favourites. Frasier, The Sopranos, Sex And The City, Friends, Big Brother and Holly-oaks spring to mind but the list is much longer. Young brands love to be associated with edgy, innovative and clever programming. If people are talking about the programme the next day, then there's a good chance that they'll be talking about the ads as well.

Reality is also cheap to make and does very well on E4. Last year, E4 showed massive impact growth, bolstered by Big Brother, and needs to sustain this to keep up with its multi-channel rivals. I don't think The Salon will have that sort of success. It is aimed squarely at the 16- to 24-year-old audience, with no peak shows planned. However, it is reality TV with a difference. It's got interesting characters and plenty of potential, but I don't think it will grab the viewer's imagination the way Big Brother did. It's good. but it's not that good.

Broadcaster: Channel 4 and E4

Frequency: 6pm to 6.30pm weekdays on Channel 4, 10am to 5pm and 6.30pm

to 7pm weekdays on E4. Plus frequent weekend repeats on E4 and coverage

on T4

Audience: 1.6 million (8 per cent share) for main Channel 4 programme

Advertisers include: KFC, Toyota, RAF Careers, Vicks Sinex, Dove Shampoo

This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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