December 5, 2004
11:54 AM   Subscribe

For anyone who still believes "reality" shows are legit, Time magazine's Joel Stein has the scoop in the LA Times (free reg. required) of "unscripted" programs with "real" people following carefully-written plots. He's even obtained a smoking gun: a Queer Eye script (.pdf) in which "every moment is planned in advance, including a few specific lines for the straight guy to deliver." The Osbournes features canned sound effects and phony reaction shots. Every scene in The Simple Life is so scripted, its producers stopped calling it a reality program, preferring the odd "soft-scripted show" euphemism. In short, the entire genre is a rather transparent fraud.
posted by evening (90 comments total)
 
This is not especially surprising. At any rate, introducing a TV camera-crew and massive exposure into an intimate family scene (or a blind date, or what have you) makes it a fabricated simulation anyways. 'Authenticity' is a very, very thin concept..
posted by ori at 12:04 PM on December 5, 2004


Shocked, I am. Shocked. The redubbing of Trump's voice during the boardroom sections of the Apprentice is rather clumsily done (the volume level of his voice is often higher than the other voices, or even of his own in the un-redubbed parts), and then there's his patently fake phone conversations throughout. Anyone who is surprised by this is...willfully dense.

I'm still going to enjoy The Apprentice, tho'.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:06 PM on December 5, 2004


What! You mean the TV lied to me! My entire world view has been smacked down and number two'd on.
posted by jefbla at 12:08 PM on December 5, 2004


Mr. Personality! Say it ain't so!
posted by PrinceValium at 12:09 PM on December 5, 2004


The redubbing of Trump's voice during the boardroom sections of the Apprentice is rather clumsily done

And there was also the whole apartment rental thing
posted by deshead at 12:13 PM on December 5, 2004


Like I was so depressed when I found out parts of Werner Herzog's Little Dieter Needs to Fly were scripted.
posted by bobo123 at 12:19 PM on December 5, 2004


I heard Donald Trump is really just a bunch of cats taped together.
posted by Fuzzy Monster at 12:20 PM on December 5, 2004 [1 favorite]


Shocked, I am. Shocked.

One of the most useful movie quotes, ever. Somewhere, Claude Rains is smiling.

[/derail]
posted by lodurr at 12:26 PM on December 5, 2004


the queer eye script/treatment is pretty damning. I can't say I'm surprised, really, but validation like this is always welcome. The thing is, I could show this to some of my co-workers, and they'd say "IT"S A LIE!".
posted by exlotuseater at 12:32 PM on December 5, 2004


Technically, none of these is a reality show. The Osbournes and The Simple Life are supposedly fly on the wall documentaries, while Queer Eye's a factual entertainment series. The Simple Life makes no real pretense to be unscripted (I'd say it's a actually a sitcom), Queer Eye is intentionally and overtly producer mediated, with only The Osbournes even suggesting that it's a true record of unplanned events. And that it's largely set up has been an open secret since the first series aired.

/reality TV pedant
posted by flashboy at 12:35 PM on December 5, 2004


Hey, let us face it - reality is often not that funny. And we watch these shows to be entertained. If it is manipulated to make it more entertaining, and more interesting for us, that is not really bad, is it?
posted by markesh at 12:35 PM on December 5, 2004


The thing that always makes reality shows seem unreal to me is the conspicuous absence of the cameras (or mikes or cables or lights or generators, etc). They edit them with multiple shots (over the shoulder, reaction shows, that kind of thing) but somehow the camera never sees the other camera person or equiptment. Surviver does helicopter shots but you never see the ground crew from the air. And unless they are doing a direct interview into the camera, the participants never acknowledge the camera either.
posted by octothorpe at 12:40 PM on December 5, 2004


reality is often not that funny

indeed

I am all in favor of scripted "reality"-TV shows. the "characters" themselves are usually so lame that a little help from professional writers can't hurt much. it's trashy-TV, no need to be surprised
posted by matteo at 12:41 PM on December 5, 2004


It seems they had momentarily forgotten how effectively Hilton can act in night vision.

Okay, that line made the whole article worth reading.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:44 PM on December 5, 2004


On a side note, I think it's kind of ironic that the funniest "reality shows" are the ones on Comedy Central that are openly fake- Wanda Does It, Reno 911, and that Denis Leary show were all completely scripted, and I've laughed harder at all of them than anything those two spoiled retards do.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:47 PM on December 5, 2004


If it is manipulated to make it more entertaining, and more interesting for us, that is not really bad, is it?

Some people seem to have a problem with that sort of thing.
posted by Space Coyote at 12:47 PM on December 5, 2004


As someone who doesn't watch TV, but has caught moments of these shows occaisionally, I have to say that this should be pretty obvious. The few minutes that I have seen of "reality" TV were painful for me to watch.

I heard Donald Trump is really just a bunch of cats taped together.
That's hilarious.
posted by Who_Am_I at 12:49 PM on December 5, 2004


flashboy, but that's what 'reality shows' are. To qualify it with 'technically' suggests that there is some true reality show that sets the standard for the genre, and there isn't.
posted by bingo at 12:49 PM on December 5, 2004


I'm so happy to see that somebody has written about this. Now I can get in the faces of all the people I've been saying this to and gloat about how I'm right.

But seriously, this article will only come as a shock to the people who actively suspend disbelief in order to wring some enjoyment from these silly shows. One doesn't have to have Psych degree to know that people just don't interact with each other like they do on these shows. I get uncomfortable watching this stuff, it's so painful watching non-actors trying to "act natural."
posted by bicyclingfool at 12:51 PM on December 5, 2004


This message has been brought to you by the DUH! Corporation.
posted by jonmc at 12:52 PM on December 5, 2004


This is not news. Reality TV has always been about putting real people in obviously controlled setups.
posted by SoftRain at 12:53 PM on December 5, 2004


Hey, let us face it - reality is often not that funny.
Doesn't anyone remember "American Movie"? That was histerical, although editing can do wonders.
posted by pepcorn at 12:53 PM on December 5, 2004


Turn off the TV and join us in the reality based community. Its great here, we have books and music and conversation. Kinda sucks when you first discover how screwed up the real world is, I must admit, but after that, woohoo.
posted by nofundy at 12:54 PM on December 5, 2004


Remember back in the day, when "reality shows" were called "game shows," and they just filmed them in a studio instead of hauling people out to some island somewhere? I miss that.
posted by Faint of Butt at 1:09 PM on December 5, 2004


Remember back in the day, when "reality shows" were called "game shows," and they just filmed them in a studio instead of hauling people out to some island somewhere? I miss that.

Unless of course, they could make a reality show where they hauled all the other reality show contestants to an island like Bikini Atoll, where they would then perform another A-Bomb test.

Failing that, I have a vision: let's do the next Survivor in Fallujah.
posted by jonmc at 1:12 PM on December 5, 2004


Apparently the boys are scripted now, too.


Oh, woe.
posted by cmyr at 1:18 PM on December 5, 2004


flashboy, but that's what 'reality shows' are. To qualify it with 'technically' suggests that there is some true reality show that sets the standard for the genre, and there isn't.

Certainly the definition is a little loose, but reality TV involves unscripted, undirected individuals in a controlled environment. The environment is always to some extent artificial (either because it is created for the show, or the participants would never have been there of their own accord, or both), and is producer-mediated; the protagonists, however, have a significant degree of independence from the producers.

Hence, it's Survivor and Big Brother, the two shows that kicked off the reality thing worldwide. The Real World counts, being an artificial setting. Joe Millionaire counts. I don't think $NATIONALITY Idol does - it's just a talent show.

Perhaps The Simple Life may count, as the situation there is clearly artificial, producer-mediated and (it claims) the protagonists are just reacting how they normally would. But The Osbournes is just a documentary (faked or not), and Queer Eye is part of the entirely distinct genre of Factual Entertainment, which includes Changing Rooms/Trading Spaces, Faking It, What Not To Wear, etc. Wife Swap could be considered either Reality of Fac Ent, it's a bit of both.

In common usage, perhaps, they're interchangeable; but they do have clear and distinct characteristics, if not precise definitions.

/used to think up new reality & factual entertainment shows for a living, dear lord
posted by flashboy at 1:33 PM on December 5, 2004


Hey, little buddy!
posted by ericb at 1:41 PM on December 5, 2004


I don't watch TV, and if I did it certainly wouldn't be these shows. But my understanding is that the MTV shows like Real World and Road Rules set the stage for this genre. I watched a few of these. I don't know about everyone else's reality, but I've never been paid to live in a nice house with 10 other gorgeous, slightly neurotic 20-somethings. Anyone who thinks this stuff is actually real seriously needs to turn off the TV.
posted by cj_ at 1:52 PM on December 5, 2004


It shouldn't surprise you that Trailer Park Boys is scripted, though. I've always heard they encourage adlib but they've never claimed to be a "real" documentary.
posted by jeffmik at 1:52 PM on December 5, 2004


but that's what 'reality shows' are. To qualify it with 'technically' suggests that there is some true reality show that sets the standard for the genre, and there isn't.

Is there not also a point with who the writers are and how they are paid? Aren't 'reality' shows are just a way to avoid union rules and have supposedly non-professionals write the scripts? There's something about shading the concept of scripting by stopping somewhere between the storyboard or conceptual stage and just short of the finished script stage?
posted by scheptech at 1:53 PM on December 5, 2004


Wait a minute. Someone thought Trailer Park Boys was reality television? WTF? Of course it's scripted.
posted by dobbs at 2:19 PM on December 5, 2004


If you want 'reality' watch a documentary. Who cares if it's scripted, they're just game shows. Nothing more, nothing less.
posted by zeoslap at 2:23 PM on December 5, 2004


Thank heavens the WWF is still real, unscripted goodness.
posted by Krrrlson at 2:29 PM on December 5, 2004


Ah, predestination rears its inevitable head once again...
posted by MisterMo at 2:39 PM on December 5, 2004


I heard Donald Trump is really just a bunch of cats taped together.

This made my day.
posted by Vidiot at 2:42 PM on December 5, 2004


That's a neat explanation, flashboy. where would Iron Chef (fictional "chairman," real world-class chefs improvising on the fly) fit in?
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:46 PM on December 5, 2004


Reality TV is the new professional wrestling.

or

This reality TV, is it something I need to understand reality to know about? Because I don't understand reality.

or

Metafilter: Really just a bunch of cats taped together.

or

We've got cameras.

or......
posted by elwoodwiles at 2:58 PM on December 5, 2004


"Turn off the TV and join us in the reality based community. Its great here, we have books and music and conversation. Kinda sucks when you first discover how screwed up the real world is, I must admit, but after that, woohoo."
posted by nofundy at 3:54 PM EST on December 5


***spoiler***
aha! that's what they want you to think. you're actually on "The Nofundy Show"™!!!

they just add all that "other" stuff to keep you on-your-toes and interesting.

sorry to blow it, guys.

nofundy- if you need to talk, let me know. I know how hard it can be, finding out stuff like this. I should've given you a choice between the red pill and the blue pill. ;)
posted by exlotuseater at 2:59 PM on December 5, 2004


After waiting years (years, I tell you!) to get an account on MeFi, let me inaugurate myself with a discussion about reality TV and documentaries in particular.

I'm spekaing as someone who is wrapping up a 3 year production of a documentary about Bulletin Board Systems. I had previously gone to film school and had studied documentaries, actually correcting a teacher over the fact that Nanook of the North, the "original documentary", was itself quite faked.

The reason it was faked is the reason pretty much any always-on-schedule show has to be in some way constructed or scripted; things just do not happen on a dependable schedule in a location. You simply cannot get enough footage if you come in and record things, even hours at a time, to produce a full show each week, unless you help push things along.

One just has to look at the American series of reality-shows on Discovery: American Chopper, American Hot Rod, American Casino. In all these cases, there are what I call "playtime" sequences. This is where the cast of characters are all sent out to do something together, something flashy, weird, and stupid, that will make good film. The American Chopper guys go out golfing. The American Casino guys go to the Playboy Mansion. The American Hot Rod guys agree to build a car in a time that would possibly affect the safety of the car, and so on. They wouldn't do that without producer intervention.

The germ of all this, the thing that keeps even cynics like me coming back, is that at the end of the day, it is very much non-actors who are in these situations, so even though their lines might be fed to them and their actions scripted, that great amount of humanity in them just comes out. And that's why I watch.

For the record, I shot 247 hours of footage for my documentary and that will yield what looks like about 7 hours of footage. That's documentary, and with the amount of editing I'm doing, I wouldn't begin to pretend it's "reality" either.
posted by jscott at 3:12 PM on December 5, 2004


And next time, I will use the spell check button! "spekaing", indeed.
posted by jscott at 3:13 PM on December 5, 2004


Next they're going to be saying that The Amazing Race isn't really a race, but a series of predefined tasks and situations designed to elicit emotions from the cast. And that the participants aren't chosen randomly, but rather in order to contrast differences and provide enough categories to cover the likes of most everyone who's watching.

No way.
posted by Edge100x at 3:22 PM on December 5, 2004


Totally off topic, but dude, I love textfiles :) Welcome to Metafilter, from another newbie. Good luck on the documentary, I can't wait to watch it.
posted by JZig at 3:22 PM on December 5, 2004


I work in television, and have worked on most of New Zealand's highest rating reality television shows.

Reality television is fake in many ways, but not as much as you might think.

While I have no experience with any of the shows mentioned in the FPP, I can tell you what I do know from the shows I have worked on (as an editor and also on the crew).

First of all, EVERYTHING is manipulated in the editing, so even on the shows with minimal direction during the shoot, there is a huge level of manipulation in the post production, and this is where the most important stuff takes place anyway.

It's in the editing where storylines are really developed. Time is manipulated to create tension, and interviews are often taken out of context. The Amazing Race (which I've not worked on) is a fantastic example of this. Tension is often developed between teams that are no where near each other by simply cheating time on screen. By presenting two cutting back and forth between two teams, it really seems as if they are both doing their things at the same time.

Also, again in the Amazing Race, something my girlfriend doesn't notice but I do is the audio editing. In the intreviews, they edit what they are saying hugely, there are often 4 or 5 cuts in one grab. Basically if you hear them talking but can't actually see the footage of the interview, then they are editing the words.

As for actual manipulation and scripting. That depends a lot on the style of show and the talent involved. With your average guy off the street, they tend no to actually 'direct' them as they are often unconvincing. However the producers are incredibly adept at manipulating people by dropping hints and placing ideas in people heads during interviews. While you never hear the producers words, all the interviews in those shows are done with a director asking questions. By saying things like "Jill said you were a dirty cheat, do you think that's fair" they can easily manipulate people's actions.

And then there's actual direction and scripting. This is especially common in makeover style shows where there are certain sponsors product and informational parts they need to include. During these sorts of times, they will ask the talent to say certain things, or talk about different issues. But also, in these shows, where a presenter (or presenters in the case of Queer Eye) is involved, scripting is a lot more organised, the presenters are employed to deliver lines and guide the talent through certain aspects of the show.

Reality shows are far from being documentaries, but mostly they are still surprisingly real in many ways.

The more interesting side of things is what you don't see. Who sleeps with who on the tropical island, and exactly what happens after the crew goes to bed. And do they really get more food than you see. And so on.

Another intersting point is on shows like Survivor, where they record do-overs with extras. For big shots from helicoptors and so on, they often sometimes recreate challenges with extras after they have been completed and then shoot wide shots of the action without the risk of getting crew and equipment in shot.
posted by sycophant at 3:42 PM on December 5, 2004


Ahh! Cats taped together! That is the coolest Hanukah/Chanuka/Hannukkahh gift idea, ever! Where can I get one? Meow!
posted by miss kitten at 3:46 PM on December 5, 2004


On the other side of the coin, two of the Academy Awards finalists for documentary filmmaking this year feature actors in scripted recreations of events, "imposing a wisp of a story on the material for structure."
posted by zsazsa at 3:56 PM on December 5, 2004


jscott: Uh, Nanook actually predates the use of the word "documentary" (which was first used to describe Robert Flaherty's next film, the equally fake "Moana") it's just been retroactively applied to it, so it wasn't exactly the director's fault if he didn't fit into a set of criteria that hadn't been invented yet. Not that isn't fake. The sense of greater authenticity arose from the use of "real" people as performers in an authentic setting.
Also, until the 60s and the whole cinema verite movement, documentaries regularly included staged sequences and reenactments, the justification being that even if the scenes were put on for the benefit of the camera, they somehow bespoke a "greater truth". Newsreels were even routinely staged.
The concept of "documentary" as somehow faithful to reality or only including totally "real" unstaged scenes is relatively new. (Not that I think it is a bad thing. I'd rather watch someone doing something attempting to be true than fake seal hunts.)
I feel like reality shows are just kind of picking up where Robert Flaherty's pseudo-ethnographic films left off. (They hide the mechanisms of production, have a story, place real people in contrived situations, etc.)
posted by SoftRain at 3:58 PM on December 5, 2004


First of all, EVERYTHING is manipulated in the editing, so even on the shows with minimal direction during the shoot, there is a huge level of manipulation in the post production, and this is where the most important stuff takes place anyway.

Survivor is Exhibit A for this. Every week, it looks like some crucial voter is being swayed by the faction that you don't want to win. Sometimes it works well enough to be suspenseful, other times it's insulting. Did anyone who saw this week's episode ever really doubt how the crucial vote would go, even though it was clearly edited to be doubtful?

(I own a TV. And I watch it when I'm inclined. And I'm about as bright and well-informed and cynical as everyone who slyly mentioned that they're too enlightened for TV watching.)
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:00 PM on December 5, 2004


Survivor is Exhibit A for this. Every week, it looks like some crucial voter is being swayed by the faction that you don't want to win. Sometimes it works well enough to be suspenseful, other times it's insulting. Did anyone who saw this week's episode ever really doubt how the crucial vote would go, even though it was clearly edited to be doubtful?

Yeah, that's one of the most important parts...

It's the same in The Amazing Race, there's almost always two teams who are 'close' to being last, you see them both madly racing for the finish, then you see non-identifying running shots (legs and stuff) and then you see Phil, and then the reveal. Whereas in reality that team could have be 45 minutes ahead of the last one.

Also the 'pre-determined' non-elimination rounds. I'm not entirely convinced they are 'pre-determined' but even if they are, in the last few series, there has always been a tell in the show when it's not an elimination rounds, Phil's dialogue is different.
posted by sycophant at 4:16 PM on December 5, 2004


Sycophant: Did you work on Celebrity Treasure Island? Who did sleep with who?
posted by malpractice at 4:18 PM on December 5, 2004


I knew I shouldn't have drank that milk.
posted by asbates2 at 4:23 PM on December 5, 2004


Softrain, I'm less referring to how Nanook described itself, than how it is often held up as the way documentaries "should be", you know, with its realism and honesty in portraying the subject. I am mostly saying that the genre has been pocked with fudgings, manipulations and creative editing since the beginning, and so there's no 'golden age' regarding it.

I agree, Verite' got a lot of attention and gave a name to what had been the case before, that you didn't need a completely faked up full-set-design, makeup-laden and stage-play-acted production to tell a good, compelling story. And while I get a little dim trying to determine which exact film might gotten us on the way, in my heart I want it to be An American Family that really got this whole documentary thing kicking.

JZig, I appreciate the compliment.
posted by jscott at 4:31 PM on December 5, 2004


Sycophant nailed it. I defer to him.
posted by jscott at 4:38 PM on December 5, 2004


It's the same in The Amazing Race, there's almost always two teams who are 'close' to being last, you see them both madly racing for the finish, then you see non-identifying running shots (legs and stuff) and then you see Phil, and then the reveal.

It only seems convincing that it's close when the previous team is still gathering the stuff they just threw down when Phil tells the last team that they're eliminated. But now it occurs to me that the producers could very well have told the second-to-last team to get into the shot and collect their stuff whenever the losers get there. So thanks for wrecking my new favorite show for me!

(and does anyone else find it funny that Phil's always walking while he offers explanations at the start of the show? It's always a tracking shot while he walks and explains the rules. He's always walking while talking if he isn't creating tension at the finish line.)
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:42 PM on December 5, 2004


I did eight weeks on a factual entertainment show. I found the whole thing fascinating. It's definitely true that the story is told in the editing. Largely, I think, because the real stories would revolve around the horrors and pressures of producing a TV show, and the cra-hazy hijinx that happen when you drop unprepared people into that. But somehow you're not allowed to talk about those events.

What I continue to find fascinating is the complicity of the "ordinary members of the public" in this subterfuge. How willing they are to play along, even as you can see their expectations crumble: that they're not actually going to have as much fun as the people they've watched previously on Changing Trousers or Upwardly Mobile or Stress Test or Punched In The Face! or whatever it is; they're just going to look like they're having that much fun.
posted by ntk at 4:48 PM on December 5, 2004


"... factual entertainment show ..."

Back in my day, that was the news.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:14 PM on December 5, 2004


There are two major types of reality show: unscripted television and competitive reality.

I think competitive reality is probably a bit easier to direct because you can fill up big portions of your show with the competitive events and the elimination of a team or contestant. I doubt that anyone tells Survivor or Amazing Race people exactly what to say, but I bet that they receive encouragement to add dramatic tension and provide more material for editing. And, of course, stuff happens that we don't see. I read somewhere that contestants get rides to the challenges on Survivor, for instance.

I am sure that shows like Queer Eye and Simple Life need a lot more direction because they are basically an hour of television supported by a gimmick. Dumb rich chicks work at McDonald's. Stupid He-Men get homosexual fashion advice and are transformed into metrosexuals. Mentally ill people have their homes cleaned by scary British women. Definitely the new professional wrestling.
posted by xyzzy at 5:17 PM on December 5, 2004


There is a reality TV show being filmed out on the University of Nebraska campus with has-been Tommy Lee. Everything is scripted, but if you didn't know that already...
posted by j-urb at 6:01 PM on December 5, 2004


Television is full of conventions which arose more or less arbitrarily and which are perpetuated without any clear justification.

The father of all reality shows is "The Real World." Accidents and scant-considered aesthetic moves have become set in stone.

Some of these things are just remarkable. The great stock character of reality shows are the unreconstructed southerners and country boys -- when characters of that "red state" sort are almost impossible to find on sitcoms and dramas, at least since the Dukes of Hazzard and Sheriff Lobo were cancelled.

The attempt to scrub visible production elements, done so conspicuously in Survivor, is another one, maybe not so necessary.

I actually think Survivor would be stronger with some flexibility -- the hunger of the contestants when they couldn't catch the fish would be all the more picquant if you could see them lingering longingly at the groaning-with-goodies craft service table which you know is always just outside the shot. That goes twice for the glowing-with-warmth trailer for the cameraman which is probably 20 feet away from the leaking lean-to in which they're huddling on the inevitable rainy nights.
posted by MattD at 6:19 PM on December 5, 2004


Semi-insider point: Hollywood has a HUGE business incentive to maintain that reality shows are deemed unscripted -- they're trying to keep the shows outside of the jurisdiction of the writers unions.

The staff producers and editors who create, in one way or another, the "stories" of all the reality shows are not generating dues for the WGA and (in the vast majority of cases) are being paid significantly less than the WGA weekly minimum, and getting no residuals, whatever.
posted by MattD at 6:23 PM on December 5, 2004


I would prefer to watch reality tv shows which can promote themselves on the basis that they're "no bs" reality shows, unlike most of the first wave or two of reality tv programming from various parts of the world.
posted by Onanist at 6:58 PM on December 5, 2004


they're not actually going to have as much fun as the people they've watched previously on Changing Trousers or Upwardly Mobile or Stress Test or Punched In The Face! or whatever it is

I'm out of the loop. Are these real shows? If not, I detect some serious entrepreneurial opportunities here.

I can vouch for the fact that Kicked In The Nuts is unscripted. It actually happened to some guy who knows a friend of my roommate's sister.
posted by philip at 7:07 PM on December 5, 2004


Does anyone else refuse to watch reality tv for the glaring antithesis that it suggests?
posted by adampsyche at 7:08 PM on December 5, 2004


I'll believe reality shows when I see a real version of Survivor. A bunch of people, stuck somewhere, with nothing but knives.

Rules: No killing the others, and cross over this line if you think you are going to die. Last person to cross wins.

No games, no competitions, no teams, no food, no nothing. Just you and your knife.

I'd sign up for that show, actually.
posted by bh at 7:21 PM on December 5, 2004


My pet idea has always been a show wherein at the beginning of the hour twelve contestants each swallow a little pink pill. At the end of the hour one of the contestants is a billion dollars richer and the other eleven are dead.
posted by dismitree at 8:15 PM on December 5, 2004


And next, someone's going to tell me that Drawn Together is fake. When will the cynicism end?
posted by clockworkjoe at 8:21 PM on December 5, 2004


Did you work on Celebrity Treasure Island? Who did sleep with who?

Yes, I was there on the island.

I won't say precisely who was involved with who, or how. However there were at least two 'connections' that we (the crew) were aware of).

I also can't even begin to count the number of times Charlotte flashed her tits at the camera. Or how often Matthew wandered around with no pants on.
posted by sycophant at 8:28 PM on December 5, 2004


(and does anyone else find it funny that Phil's always walking while he offers explanations at the start of the show? It's always a tracking shot while he walks and explains the rules. He's always walking while talking if he isn't creating tension at the finish line.)

The Amazing Race is about the only reality show I genuinely enjoy at the moment. Despite the fact I see through a lot of the techinques in it now, I still really enjoy it.

I love Phil's walk-and-talk pieces to camera, they are always entertaing... And everyone I know who watches the show can now repeat them right along with him... "A Roadblock is a challenge that..."

(Actually I also watch "Reel Race" on Discovery sometimes, and sometimes catch the end of The Apprentice)
posted by sycophant at 8:33 PM on December 5, 2004


Long Way Round and the ocasional Fear Factor are about the only reality shows I've been able to watch.
posted by Tenuki at 9:00 PM on December 5, 2004


If any of you freaks try to tape my cats together, why, I will verily put the beat-down on you. A greater world of hurt than you've ever seen.

Assuming they don't shred you with their nasty razor sharp claws first. They're rather good at it. I have permanent scars.

Uh, not from trying to tape them together. They don't like medicine much.
posted by zoogleplex at 9:12 PM on December 5, 2004


What about the reality shows where the participants are supposed to be the butt of the joke? For instance, Filmfakers and My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss? Are the participants acting like they're clueless or are they actually clueless?
posted by Jim Jones at 12:21 AM on December 6, 2004


This message has been brought to you by the DUH! Corporation.

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posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:05 AM on December 6, 2004


The father of all reality shows is "The Real World."

What about "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom"? Which, by the way, was also largely staged. Sometimes those pesky antelopes didn't get attacked by cheetahs during Union hours and needed outside assistance...
posted by Oriole Adams at 2:38 AM on December 6, 2004


nofundy- if you need to talk, let me know. I know how hard it can be, finding out stuff like this. I should've given you a choice between the red pill and the blue pill. ;)
posted by exlotuseater at 2:59 PM PST on December 5


Very good exlotuseater! :-)
And perceptive of you to catch the allusion too!
I'd love to talk with you.
Shall I email?
posted by nofundy at 4:52 AM on December 6, 2004


What about the reality shows where the participants are supposed to be the butt of the joke? For instance, Filmfakers and My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss? Are the participants acting like they're clueless or are they actually clueless?

The Joe Schmoe Show (and JS2) revolved around a clueless "contestant". It was interesting to watch for the multiple layers - the faked reality show, the "behind the scenes" shots, and what the audience was allowed to see. Makes you wonder what we didn't see.
posted by grateful at 6:29 AM on December 6, 2004


All the world's a stage. Read and remember your Shakespeare. Probably wouldn't hurt to read "The Misanthrope" by Moliere, too.
posted by Possum at 7:18 AM on December 6, 2004


I'll believe reality shows when I see a real version of Survivor. A bunch of people, stuck somewhere, with nothing but knives.

My pet idea has always been a show wherein at the beginning of the hour twelve contestants each swallow a little pink pill. At the end of the hour one of the contestants is a billion dollars richer and the other eleven are dead.


these are great. I mean, they're terrible but they perfectly capture what reality tv wants to be but could never be - it's the cruel human instinct but softened into bitchiness & idiocy... worst of both worlds. I'm actually surprised how many mefites watch these shows - I find them so irritating. I just waste my time online these days instead of in front of TV (at least until six feet under starts up again)...

but uh, yeah, we knew this from day one, I think. I also don't get what is meant by "scripted" when it comes to eg queer eye - the only plot there is that they get the guy new duds etc, so of course that's scripted in that they have to decide how they're gonna remake stuff - there are no dramatic turns or anything that the audience would expect to be spontaneous (presumably they wouldn't run one where the participants were unimpressed with the results).
posted by mdn at 7:42 AM on December 6, 2004


Next you're going to tell me that baseball is fake.

My idea for a reality show is for cameras to follow a lottery winner for the first year after they win. This guy's behavior has been well documented.
posted by Frank Grimes at 7:56 AM on December 6, 2004


Now, you all know that those women in the porn movies you watch aren't actually having all those screaming multiple orgasms, right?

'Cause I'd hate to have to be the one to tell you.
posted by briank at 7:57 AM on December 6, 2004


Okay, first off, I'm late to this discussion, but yeah...duh!

Second of all - that Queer Eye script. Of course there's planning before they go in on a shoot. If you're a producer, you want to make sure there's enough things for the gay guys to riff off of and concentrate on. They have to find objectives to deal with so that 1)They can fill an hour 2)The many product placements in the show will be represented and 3)There's a story to be told. No one's going to let these producers go in without a story.

Third I'd like to second what sycophant said, because I'm editing the show right now. Take the first act, where they raid the straight guy's house. They shoot it with two cameras for about 2-3 hours. Nothing is scripted or read off of cue cards, but each gay guy gets a one-on-one with the straight guy, and each has a few obvious points they have to hit. But everything is fixed in the editing.

I'm sure if you actually compared that episode with the script, you'd see that it's quite different. Lots of unexpected, unplanned things still happen during production and editing that form the final show. And that's pretty much how all reality shows - and long-format docs - work.

Unless you're watching raw tape, folks, you're seeing something that's been manipulated - sometimes to lie, sometimes to get a clearer truth.
posted by fungible at 8:08 AM on December 6, 2004


My pet idea has always been a show wherein at the beginning of the hour twelve contestants each swallow a little pink pill. At the end of the hour one of the contestants is a billion dollars richer and the other eleven are dead.

There was an indy film about five years ago called "Series 7: The Contenders" which was a mockumentary about a reality show in which six strangers were randomly selected to hunt down and kill each other. Pretty good movie, actually.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:12 AM on December 6, 2004


Dave and I have never missed an episode of Survivor or The Amazing Race. The Race continues to be a fascinating combination of relationship meltdowns plus travelogue. Survivor, on the other hand, has problems.

We have literally spent hours discussing strategy, personality clashes, and the generation gap. But unfortunately, the last 5 seasons have been a disappointment. Ever since Vacipia won, the winners have been the most insipid and the weakest physically. With the last strong, interesting person just voted off, this season is shaping up to be more of the same. Perhaps it isn't scripted enough.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 9:32 AM on December 6, 2004


The Joe Schmoe Show (and JS2) revolved around a clueless "contestant". It was interesting to watch for the multiple layers - the faked reality show, the "behind the scenes" shots, and what the audience was allowed to see. Makes you wonder what we didn't see.

The company I worked for licenced Joe Schmo and made a New Zealand version of it. Much of it was out and out copies of the American show (the first ep was almost identical).

What I can tell you is, yes it was legit, the Schmo was absolutely unaware of the reality behind the show. However were was obviously a lot of weirdness that he did pick up on.

Too some extent that show was harder for the producers than any of the other 'reality' shows they had done (which was heaps), because there was a huge requirement for secrecy and duplicity that simply wasn't an issue on most other shows.

At one point, our Schmo noticed his airfare and hotels were already booked for him at the end of the shoot. This was a huge error and the producers were freaked out that'd he'd trigger. But it was easy to defuse, because they knew he'd found out (he confided in a fellow 'contestant') and then an explaination was able to be fed back to him later on, that they all had the same thing, and they were being kept in town for a 'reunion show' at the end.

The bizarre thing about that show for us (the staff at this company) was that it was such a piss take of the whole core of our business. The company makes 90% reality shows, and this show was a massive piss take of the whole genre. Most of us really enjoyed the show for that very reason...

Hey, fungible, T-Shirt Hell used to make a great shirt that I always wanted, it was "Welcome To My Shitty Reality Show" -- (see) but sadly it's no longer available.
posted by sycophant at 8:09 PM on December 6, 2004


As a video editor myself, I've always wondered what it'd be like to work on one of these. I bet it's interesting as hell, and you have a lot more latitude than most editors for other kinds of projects ever do.
posted by Vidiot at 10:05 PM on December 6, 2004


Vidiot, reality show are actually a lot of fun to edit, or so I find. I'm pretty constantly amusing myself with funny little edits and stuff (getting someone to say something they didn't, adding sneaky little cut away to add tension that wasn't there).

It's like editing drama in many ways, especially multicam stuff, but at the same time it feels more rewarding in some ways as it is so heavily reliant on the editor to make certain things work out.

The show I am doing at the moment is more fly-on-the-wall style, about a serious subject. No eliminations, no artificial tension and conflict.. It's different again.

And soon it's on to a new job doing all sorts of different things...
posted by sycophant at 3:21 AM on December 7, 2004


I love the eco-challenge which is the precursor to "Survivor", and a lot of the other spinoffs which I find too contrived. Expedition/Endurance races are fun to watch. You know when contestants (who are arguably the best of the best in terms of expedition racing) are dropping like flies, it's gonna be good.

Mark Burnett, the producer of both shows, took an idea and ran with it. Unfortunately, the idea was diluted and slickened up for general consumption.

oh, and nofundy- by all means, do.
posted by exlotuseater at 3:51 AM on December 7, 2004


I saw a brief challenge in one of the Survivor shows. I'll try and be brief.

* Team members with big boxes on their heads or something similar. They can't see.
* One team member sitting on a pole who can see.
* Teams have to negotiate an obstacle course.
* Heavily scripted and edited hilarity ensues.

It was so fake it was laffable. It was Star Trek when the crew are going thru a meteor shower meets The Three Stooges. Everyone was hamming it up big time. Constantly falling over and smashing into each other.

Falling over? Someone explain the constant falling over.

Then there was the team member on the pole barking orders. Close ups that were 100% totally definitely filmed as a different take and edited in.

That 5 minutes of television was quite a revelation for me.

ps: For any Australian Mefites: The Block. Totally rigged. Been saying that from the word go.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 4:41 AM on December 7, 2004



Sorry, that should say "totally staged".
posted by uncanny hengeman at 4:42 AM on December 7, 2004


uncanny hengeman, did you see The Resort early this year?

That was a massive cluster fuck in many ways. It's what happens when the pre-production and production management isn't handled well enough.
posted by sycophant at 6:39 PM on December 7, 2004



Nah, missed that one!
posted by uncanny hengeman at 5:07 AM on December 9, 2004


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