Monday, May 27, 2013

Lessons from Reality TV: Really Real?

From The Real Housewives of Atlanta to Honey Boo-Boo, reality TV is here to stay. What can we learn from some of television's most guilty pleasures.

If you are a fan of Reality TV, I want to leave you with one final fact. Reality TV isn't real. It's called reality TV because it features real people, not paid actors and because it is (allegedly) not scripted. These facts do not hide the fact that it isn't real.

Let's start with the casting agents. They cast types: the slut, the player/jock, the diva, the angry black woman, ... I considered going on a reality show several times but I'm not the quintessential angry or manipulative black woman that they frequently cast on The Apprentice, Celebrity Apprentice or Hell's Kitchen. In fact, I had an acquaintance who participated in a reality show with an Apprentice-like format. They went out of their way to make her look bad. However, casting the right types is critical to the success of a show. Real Housewives has been known to recast after a season if a certain wife isn't 'interesting enough.

Story Editors are the 'writers' for reality television shows. They pour over hours of footage to put together a story. In the case of my acquaintance, they took a comment she made days earlier and had it voiced over over another scene to make her appear snobby and a bit rude.

Producers are there to help make the reality a little more real. They egg their hand-picked participants on and get them to 'perform' and move the story in a specific direction. They send cast members to certain places to film coached reactions.Look Honey Boo-Boo is going to a wig shop to find hair. Let's see what happens!

Even competition shows aren't really real. American Idol is notorious for casting types. On the Biggest Loser, they train for hours every day and several winners resorted to starving themselves, not eating solid food, and getting in and out of hot saunas prior to the final weigh-ins. This is not how real people in real life lose weight.

Are you a Reality TV Junkie? Good for you. Enjoy it! Just be aware that reality on TV is a far cry from real life/

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