First, a confession. I found myself watching "So you think you can dance" the other night. I usually have a 2 second attention span when it comes to talent/reality shows of any description. My only (lame) excuse is that my wife and sister were watching the show with the sort of passion you expect from fans of this TV genre.
Anyway, the moment I happened to walk past and tune in was when the blonde legged host was telling us about how the show had become a global phenomenon. They showed clips from the show as it was broadcast in nations like Turkey, Israel, the US, UK and so on. Yes, people can dance badly regardless of their background...
Then it hit me -- television has co-opted the social networking trend on a massive scale. Think about how many people a show like this can impact in each country - you've got thousands of people who all try out to get on the show. Each person has lots of friends and family they bring along for the ride, telling them to watch the show on a certain date etc. Then you've got all the people who attend the actual filming, and the wider population who just can't get enough of reality TV where non-TV professionals are the stars.
That sounds a lot like broadcast TV's take on social networking to me. Throw in SMS voting and various web-related feedback mechanisms and it's an interactive, ongoing live event. Sure, American Idol and others have already been down this track. But it's another reminder that traditional media are not afraid to steal good ideas from the web and turning them into lots of cash. It's not everyone's cup of tea, but as much as it pains me to say this, it seems to work.