Since the dawn of The Real World, many reality shows have followed suit. Viewers are glued to their televisions, hanging on every word, every fight, every innuendo to see what happens next. It is almost that they are a fly on the wall, peeking into the characters’ lives– Only, the characters are “real people” and what is happening on screen is actually really happening. Hence the term “reality television”.
If you have ever worked on a television show– Any television show will do– you know the waiting periods that occur. For example, a cameraman runs out of film, or the lighting isn’t right, or a plane is flying too low overhead and ruining the audio track. So, “take two” (or more) is required. “Reset” is called by the director, and the actors perform their scene as though they are doing it for the first time.
Unfortunately, this scenario can also be the case with reality shows. As a matter of fact, it often is the case with reality shows. Perhaps something happened so fast that the Field Producer couldn’t follow it, so she asks for it to be done over. Maybe the camera was in the shot the entire time a poignant moment was occurring, so the people involved had to re-do their entire moment. These resets and re-shoots cause the moments that were originally caught on film to feel trite and contrived, sometimes even forced. And why? For the benefit of the viewer. Perhaps something so great happened that was inadvertently ruined, that the Field Producer asks for it to be staged and filmed again.
The problem with these situations is that reality show characters usually aren’t trained actors. So, the moment really is lost. The reaction isn’t as genuine. Sometimes, the camera can’t even capture anything genuine from the re-shoot that the characters appear fake even after editing. It is frustrating for all parties involved– The producers, the characters and, of course, the viewers. Only on a show like Big Brother, where cameras are running 24/7 throughout the house, can genuine reactions be captured, edited and displayed on the show.
With all of the staging and re-shoots that occur, how well does the viewer get to know the characters? After all, the character isn’t the one that decides which side of their personality gets conveyed. All of this is done in the editing room, well after the scene was filmed. Was Coach from Survivor: Heroes & Villains really that much of a psycho? Was Parvati really that manipulative? Was JT really that much of a moron? The viewer only sees what the producers want them to see, which may be a manipulation of what really happened.
Another bit of information that a lot of viewers don’t know is that producers actually feed bits of information (whether true or not) to certain characters in order to create situations on the show. A big culprit of this was Temptation Island. The producers felt that things weren’t tempting enough for the viewers, so lies were told to the people on the show in order to stir up drama. Then, voice overs were dubbed in so that it seemed as though Mark L. Wahlberg (the host) was asking questions to which the characters were responding. Unfortunately for Temptation Island, it was a very short-lived series.
It is a shame that the viewers can never really know a character on a reality series, no matter how often they watch. Characters on these shows are often under the restriction of a confidentiality agreement, where they cannot say what did or didn’t really happen on a show, what was fake, what was real and even their opinions on the final version that airs. It would be so nice (and perhaps well-rounded) if a reality show was able to incorporate a true, personal blog on a website from each of the characters. Who knows? Maybe the integrated media will be the next wave of reality entertainment.