Community support is the latest trend in reality TV, according to a French TV research company (Valery Hache / AFP)
CANNES, France, April 3, 2012 (AFP) - Helping people overcome a life challenge, find true love or track down children snatched by an estranged partner: community support is the latest trend in reality TV.
Many of the new show formats to hit TV screens in the coming months will focus on the idea of help between strangers, French TV research company The Wit told AFP at the industry trade show MIPTV.
"Whereas in the past, people went to experts to help solve their problems, those in crisis now ask their neighbours for help," said Virginia Mouseler, managing director at the Paris-based company.
"The strongest trend in TV productions today is peer-to-peer recommendations," she said.
And that reflected a broader trend entrenched by social networks that values advice handed out by one's peers above that of experts.
This was the message the company set out in a presentation at the media market, which runs until Wednesday in the French Riviera city of Cannes.
In "Neighbours", a pilot on the Oprah (Winfrey) channel, a family in crisis asks for help.
After a community meeting at which the family members reveal their problem, the neighbours individually decide whether they want to help them.
The twist is that the family has to hand over control of their life to one or two of their neighbours, who become their mentors, helping them to find solutions to the challenges they face.
"Audience" is a more extreme example of the new format.
This time an audience of 50 strangers cram into the home of a person in crisis, who needs to take a life-changing decision but is struggling to confront the issue that they face.
In the example shown, the participant was struggling to come to terms with the death of their father.
The strangers, who live, eat and sleep in the house for seven days, are constantly on hand over the week to offer advice -- as well as sometimes unwelcome truths about his or her problem.
Another show on the helping-hand theme, "Missing", which aired in Denmark this January, helps parents find a missing child or children, spirited abroad by an estranged partner.
In season one of the show, 50 percent of the abducted children were reunited with their families, Mouseler said.
One perennial favourite, the dating show, will be back on the screens this spring with a slew of new programmes airing around the world, from Scandinavia to Israel and Australia.
All of course have the goal of helping singletons find their match -- and seducing a maximum number of viewers.
"Dating is once again a hot area," Rob Clark, director of global entertainment development at FremantleMedia, told AFP. The London-based company is one of the world's top production houses for the entertainment formats.
"Farmer wants a wife" is still doing very strongly around the world: it is currently ranked as the number one show in the Netherlands, in Belgium and in Germany.
New shows mining the lonely hearts theme will include "Please Marry My Boy", which premiered in Australia early this year. Here, three mums help their sons to meet the girl of their dreams via a series of challenges.
The two hot trends come together most clearly in Israel's "Dear Neighbours, Help Our Daughter Find Love," in which an entire local community works together to find a husband for a local family's daughter.
She is blissfully unaware of what they are up until she arrives on a visit, and is asked to choose a partner from the three male candidates the village have selected for her.
Dating shows can also come with an twist.
In "Fools for Love", which premiered in Denmark this March, the singleton participants will see the studio wall slide away to reveal -- an old flame.