Is Reality TV really real? Did the actors really eat cockroaches? How much is Scripted Acting?

Is Reality TV really real? Did the actors really eat cockroaches? How much is Scripted Acting?

Reality television has been around as long as the old Candid Camera show, but it experienced a sensational explosion in the 2000s. It may not have much scripting, but it does have a lot of fiction. Faking is big Hollywood business. Production crews are professional hoaxers who can produce flying garter snakes, imitate the bellow of a water buffalo in rut, and makeup Oprah Winfrey as ET. Just a day at the office for Hollywood, But it means anything we see might be fake.

Meet Doctor Frankenbite: A “frankenbite” is a deceptive clip. It may be several out-of-context bits welded together. It may even be one moment’s sound matched to another moment’s video. If Hollywood wants a contestant to utter something ridiculous, it will create the necessary frankenbite. Imagine writing a history paper and being allowed to lift and commingle any sentences from your sources, regardless of context. Think of how clever you would appear, until you got caught that is.

They only show the contestants’ mean or dumb or weird sides. Viewers don’t want to watch boring, normal behavior. Suppose that a reality TV show has, on average, four film-worthy group activities happening at a given time. Because they also film night-time activities, sleeping hours count, so that’s 672 hours of footage per filming week. Distilling those 672 hours into 42 minutes of TV means you see no more than a fraction of what occurs. If they chose the boring parts, would you watch?

Don’t be fooled by the sound stage. The Big Brother “house” was a soundstage. Donald Trump’s boardroom was a TV set, so were the apartments on The Apprentice. How did The Amazing Race dolly-grip ride along to get that shot of the contestant on the back of a yak? No matter how real it looks, all the Hollywood staffers, equipment and apparatus is just off camera.

Many of the contestants are really actors. More reality contestants have acting backgrounds than the producers would like to admit. People who have done some acting know how to play the show biz game, and many would like to play more of it and may be more easily manipulated. That contestant who is constantly singing copyrighted lyrics to spoil the live internet feeds gives producers headaches.

Reality shows have draconian non-disclosure agreements. These alone reveal how much there is to hide. Reality show participants are required to sign non-disclosure agreements. “snitch and our lawyers will visit”. Contestants on Kid Nation had to sign agreements that extended three years beyond the end of the 13 episode cycle. On other shows, between their elimination and the program’s wrap up, participants were sequestered at resorts. The Amazing Race contestants even made red herring appearances around the world to throw off viewers.

Not that reality TV producers fake or control “everything”. They may nudge the process toward a gripping final showdown, but the contestants still have to engage in competition. An American Idol finalist always gets a chance to wow the judges and the voting public. Contestants suffer real accidents and injuries. Stagehands didn’t push Michael Skupin into the fire on Survivor IV: the Australian Outback, nor were his third-degree burns merely makeup. Who doubts that Fear Factor contestants authentically vomited the genuine horse rectum, sow uterus, giant cockroaches, and other disgusting things they consumed?

What drives this reality TV craze? Profit. Always follow the money. Reality contestants cost less than big stars. What’s more, most show formats offer golden product placement revenue options. Suppose reality TV contestants win soda in a food competition. Why not make a promotional deal with a top brand beverage company? The excited contestants produce a free commercial, and all the revenue goes to the network. In the end, the dollar sign makes reality TV.

Reality TV is real or fake

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