@psylah: I loved to watch the NOVA-esque shows Discovery and History used to air all the time. Now, I dare you to find me one show on those channels that isn't shit like "The Legend of Shelby The Swamp Man".
What happened is stupid people used to have minimum wage out of the way jobs but now there's more stupid people then we know what to do with so we put some on tv for public mockery which is why we have garbage like Jersey Shore and Honey Boo Boo.
It's not that these shows are popular. It's that they're cheap as a McD hamburger to make. Return on investment is what most investors care about, and it's way easier to pump that up by lowering costs than by increasing fanbase or revenue.