While reality shows are among the top-rated television shows, many love to bash them calling them mindless entertainment. Maybe they are, but I think a reality show that focused on a theme park could be incredible.

Shows like The Jersey Shore, dominate the highest rated TV shows. You’ve likely found yourself shamefully admitted to tuning in or hurling a few less than desirable terms at them. Many like to bash them, but someone is watching these shows. If it’s not just train wreck TV like the aforementioned Jersey Shore or a show like Hoarders, then I think their interest lies in the subject matter of the shows. My wife loves Teen Mom partly because she’s a mom. I’m sure Ghost Hunters and similar shows are popular with people interested in the paranormal. I’d have to think Bert the Conqueror’s ratings were bolstered by theme park fans watching their home park on national TV or getting to see rides they’ve never ridden. Why wouldn’t a reality show centered around theme parks draw you in the same way? I think it would. Here are few concepts.

A Day in the Life of a Theme Park

For a theme park geek like myself, a show that focused on the daily operations at a theme park would be the most interesting. I got a taste of this when an anonymous ride op was posting true stories from her time working at an Ohio amusement park. On her short-lived blog, Amusement Park Tales, she detailed incidents like ride stoppages, strange guests, and the general behavior of the coaster-riding public. Having never worked at a theme park her stories were a pretty fun read. After about a half-dozen or so posts her blog mysteriously disappeared.

Years ago, I was contacted by a production company that was looking for a family-owned amusement park for a reality show. This might have actually been the same show that Paula Werne was referring to in this post on the HoliBlog. Paula explained that the concept didn’t really center around the park and would have called for the Koch family to be away from the park during the season. So, they declined.

[quoteicon author=”Paula Werne on the HoliBlog”]Following each call, we floated gently from Cloud 9 to Cloud 8 to Cloud 7 and so on. We thudded to the ground when they told us the show would not be filmed at the park. Rats! I’d envisioned Will and his siblings walking the coaster tracks, frying endless funnel cakes, and, of course, scrubbing toilets.[/quoteicon]

Holiday World - Casting Call VideoIf it had focused on the ins and outs of making a theme park operate I would have been glued to the TV. I’m sure many other enthusiasts would have, but who knows if it would have garnered the ratings needed to stay on the air. The geeks would have eaten up a Holiday World -rendition of a show like this, but imagine the popularity of a show that gave us a look behind the scenes of a Disney park. Why hasn’t ABC thought of this already? I guess for now we’ll have to settle for Holiday World’s Holiblogger YouTube channel.

Often, ‘A Day in the Life’ shows are anchored by really interesting or polarizing real-life characters. I know that there are a lot of bikers out there, but some of Orange County Choppers‘ success had to be attributed to non-bikers getting into the conflicts that the Teutuls had.

The Amazing Theme Park Race

If you’ve never seen Amazing Race then you might not be able to appreciate the show’s adrenaline-fueled finishes. It can be about as edge of your seat as any reality show or competition show can get. And often, as in life, a team’s fate can come down to luck. The savviest and most physically fit teams can catch a bad break by having a car break down or getting a clueless taxi driver.

An Amazing Race-like show centered around theme parks could have the show’s same physical challenges (known as detours in the show) along the way, maybe throw in some park trivia, and still challenge the teams of two to try to ride a certain set of rides and roller coasters at at theme park before their competitors. Keeping in line with standard amusement park protocol, running would not be allowed and it’d be up to the teams to strategize which rides to ride when and the fastest way to get from one ride to the other. This concept would basically be a theme park version of the Emmy Award-winning show. If you’ve ever seen it, then I think you can appreciate why it would so good.

Theme Park Jeopardy

Like most types of fandom, there are many theme park fans who fancy themselves know-it-alls of their particular genre. Can you name Bolliger & Mabillard’s first roller coaster? How about the height of the World’s tallest drop tower ride? Do you know the year that Disneyland opened? If you snickered at these questions then you’d probably like to watch a theme park trivia show. Unfortunately, the audience for such a show would probably relatively small. We’ll have to wait for our own theme park cable network for this one, but you never know.

I can’t be the only one who’d love to see one of these shows get made some day. Do you have any ideas for a theme park-focused reality show? Would you watch any of the above show concepts?

About The Author

Founder of CoasterCritic.com. My favorite coasters are B&M hypers and gigas. I'm also a huge fan of terrain roller coasters.

8 Responses

  1. Kurt Dahlin

    I love the idea! I agree that something along the lines of ‘A Day in the Life’ would be the best concept. Each episode would focus on a single park, not only taking a peek behind the scenes at the operations of the park, but also what guests can expect when they visit the park for the very first time. An overview of the top rides, available shows, and the different types of eats available. It’s not like there aren’t enough parks to keep the show going for awhile. Where do I sign up?


  2. Mike

    I’m still waiting for a reply back on my roller coaster program I pitched half a year ago. I think you have pointed out some tremendous ideas and I think networks are “missing the boat” on this type of programming. I know there have been multiple shows over the years that have focused on rollercoasters and theme parks over the years so I guess it is just a matter of coming up with a “hook.” I’ve even thought about the possibility of a reality show involving the different coaster enthusiasts groups as I know there are some that don’t like each other. I also wonder about the logistics of filming at theme parks due to particular restraints/regulations/safety guidelines and how “in the way” it would be to do. I really really would like to see my company do something like this. Problem is my company doesn’t really produce programs but mostly just broadcast them.

  3. Paula Werne, Holiday World

    What is it they say? “There’s a broken heart for every light on Broadway” … I think this extends to Hollywood as well. We’ve talked to half a dozen production companies about hosting a reality show. I still think it’ll happen eventually, but it’s sure hard to be patient. Meanwhile, we keep blogging and adding to our YouTube Channel – there are so many fun stories to share. 🙂

  4. Lance Hart, Screamscape.com

    I’m all for it… I think an Amazing Race style show may be the best place to start. Maybe hook up with a national chain of parks (Six Flags or Cedar Fair) and combine the travel aspects of Amazing Race with various pitstops, tasks and challenges in the parks along the way.

    Of course, I’d still love to see a comedy film or TV series in the same vein as CLERKS based on the antics of theme park workers. Adventureland just wasn’t quite up to par, but a nod in the right direction.

  5. Rose Ann Hirsch

    I love the idea. How about a show following roller coaster enthusiasts from park to park and include the conventions and ERT? I belong to a group and we’ve had some interesting adventures.

  6. Austin

    i think a theme park reality show like A Day in the Life of a Theme Park would be awesome i would love it i am a theme park geek for sure if i had a choice to go to the playboy mansion or six flags magic mountain i would pick six flags without a doubt or if i had a choice to get 100,000,000,000 billion dollars or get a free pass to cedar point for a day i would pick cedar point absolutely LOL anyway i would love a show like that and would totally watch it!

  7. Peep

    After reading this and the comments I feel quite lucky to live in the UK. Not only have we had two fly-on-the-wall documentaries where camera crews followed around peeps that work at theme parks (Alton Towers and Blackpool, both quite a few years ago) but we’ve had several series’ of a quiz show with Z-list celebraties answering questions on rides at Thorpe Park to win money for random constestants.

    However like you’ve all said, there is clearly still a massive opportunity for this type of programming. I reckon it must be a pain to get permission to film due to health and safety regulations but I think there could be a lot of interesting stories they could capture. Would probably be a lot more entertaining than most reality programmes that are made anyway.


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