Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Realities of Reality

Let me preface this by saying that I admit, I am a reality show junkie. That being said, I felt compelled to write about this recent phenomenon not with rose-colored glasses, but objectively as a viewer myself.
When this whole reality show excursion bursted onto the scene, I was very skeptical and apprehensive to take part in what I call “train wreck television.” And for the most part, I actually held up my convictions until recently. In the past year or so, I have become addicted to (insert embarrassment here) many of the reality shows and competitions on the cable network, BravoTV. 
I have never watched Survivor, American Idol or The Amazing Race (or whatever it’s called), but when Bravo premiered Project Runway several years ago, I just had to watch. 
Since my first major in college was fashion design, I have always had a keen interest in fashion and how it comes to fruition. For me, Project Runway was a perfect gateway to fulfill that fixation. Since I hadn’t started watching it from the beginning, I rented the first few seasons to play catch up so I can immediately capture the current moments of each Project Runway season. 
I loved it. I couldn’t get enough of hearing Heidi Klum utter the words each week to the failing contestant—“you’re out.” It was exhilarating.
Then came Top Chef. Since I loathe cooking and get quite bored with it, it provided that escapism aspect that I needed. Even though I had no idea how they were creating their dishes, I enjoyed watching the narcissistic attitudes of each chef that was provided for us—the viewing audience—each week.
Then came The Real Housewives of Orange County. Please understand, that when this show first came on the scene, it wasn’t the train wreck television that we see now with any of the Real Housewives’ franchise (i.e. Orange County, New York City, Atlanta, New Jersey and soon-to-come, Washington, D.C.). No, just the opposite—it provided a glimpse in the life of the rich and affluent lifestyles of these Orange County housewives and their daily interactions with one another, frequent shopping sprees to boutiques I can only dream of, unlimited travel to exotic locations, and a close-up glimpse of the inside of their beloved McMansions. 
I loved it.
Again, it provided the escapism that I needed in my life.
Fast forward to 2010, and what we see now is a compilation of catty and faux rich women who each have their own skeletons in their large walk-in closets. With each of these Real Housewives shows, they provided the curiosity syndrome that most of us “real folk” only dreamed about. 
Until recently. 
It seems that with the combination of on-camera evictions, recent bankruptcy filings, sex tapes abound, et al—instead, what Bravo provided was nothing but a sham to the viewing audience. Out of all of these ‘characters’ from these shows, it seems that only a handful (and I’m being generous here) are who they say they are—meaning, they’re actually wealthy in real life. The rest? Not so much.
I have come to learn that most reality shows (if not all) that are out there, are not considered ‘reality.,’ but just the opposite. They’re scripted like any other show with real actors, only they want you to believe that what you’re seeing is real. But is it? In this Photoshop-ladened era, it really doesn't surprise me that most of what we're seeing, is fake or scripted.
Nowadays these networks have the viewers believing they are in fact, reality. So even though reality shows have evolved since the popular MTV series Real World came onto the scene back in the 90s, or veteran reality show inaugurate, The Osbournes, I believe we have grown as an audience, as well.
Either way, I know it seems trite and quite mind-numbing to watch the majority of these shows, so why does the American public continue to watch them?
One answer: because it’s like a car accident, as macabre as it may seem, you just HAVE to look.



OC editguy said...

As an editor for the Real World and for RHOC, I can say with all honesty that the shows are not scripted. I have no idea where you get your info, but we work really hard to make everyday life interesting for viewers. The last season of OC was definitely easier to do because there was so much real life drama, but these shows are not fiction.

One Girl Creative said...

Although I will not specifically name names, a friend of mine who recently received her PhD, wrote her dissertation on reality show television and how they're scripted and not made to look as "real" as the viewing audience is made to believe.

As she continued to work on her research for over a year, even though the majority of these shows are in fact, reality, they were embellished to create more drama to entice viewers to continue to watch.

Why I ask, knowing how hated Jill Zarin has become on this past season of RHoNY, was she not asked to leave? Because she creates the drama that the viewers crave.

Why was DeShawn Snow asked to leave from the first season of RHoATL? Since it appeared that she was the only wealthy housewife who wasn't going through the financial tribulations that most of the other housewives were struggling through.

Because she didn't create enough drama. So if what is provided is non-fiction, why was she asked to not come back?

Let's face it, if you do in fact work for Bravo and you are an "edit guy" for the Real World and RHoOC, then we both know that you have a contractual obligation to maintain anonymity as well as discretion when discussing these shows in great lengths.

Or am I wrong? Please, enlighten me.

Thanks for your comment.


Cat said...

Scripted or not, most reality shows are so formulaic that I watch them mostly to try to psych out the formula after the train wreck effect has worn off.

Who KNEW that it wouldn't work out between the skank and the rock star and he would have to do another season of his popular reality show to find true love?