Reality TV has been a hot topic for me lately. While I don’t often talk about work, I spend a lot of time with clients developing reality TV shows from start to finish. It is something I just fell into and wound up loving. While each project is unique and exciting, it has also jaded me from watching TV like a normal person. With every new scene, I watch it through a “man behind the camera” lens.
Last week, I chatted with Mary Mel of WRUW about my love for Erika Jayne, work and the change of going back to school to get my masters in PR/AD. Reality TV, more specifically Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, has always been my guilty pleasure. When I am stressed, I numb my brain with their complaints about their 15 nannies and gossipy glam sessions.
With so many people consuming reality TV and a new show popping up every week, I wanted to share some behind the scenes facts and tips on how to land your own TV show and what really goes down behind the camera, because let’s be real: I know some of you lead crazy enough lives to deserve a camera crew.
1 | Although it is “reality,” nothing is unplanned. Every conversation is sketched out in a plot-line. While this does not mean scripted, there is a general guide of what the subjects will talk about and when. If the producer does not catch a scene exactly as they need it, the subjects may be asked to create it again. On a different note, even late night talk shows are scripted. Producers will check with a celebrities publicist to get talking points and the host will rehearse them with the interviewee.
2 | Reality TV shows seek out “flawed” individuals. Whether it is having a harsh temper or being terrified of flying, you bet that producer is going to pick on your weaknesses. Take a TV show like The Bachelor for example, there can only be one winner. That means that of the 30 girls in the cast each season, only a few can be “normal.” They have to fill the season with other tune-in worthy stuff to keep viewership high, and that means c.r.a.z.y. Imperfections set you apart- sometimes in a good way.
3 | You only see a small portion of the action. Something that drives me crazy is when I see hundreds of angry tweets about a specific moment on a show and in reality producers are master manipulators. They have 50 hours of video content, and cut together different scenes into a half hour episode. If someone gets eliminated on a talent show for bombing, remember that all of their applause could have been cut out and they could have been eliminated simply because they weren’t as interesting as other contestants.
4 | A show cast or contestants on a talent show are chosen to play specific “characters.” People are cast to fill specific roles, for example “the mean girl” or the “girl next-door.” The cast signs onto these roles and agrees to play to that role for the camera. Ex. Corinne from The Bachelor.
5 | Getting a show picked up by a network isn’t easy. Having a show go from concept to on air can take many, many years. Typically, a production house will fund your concept and then try to sell it to a network. People think it is glamorous, but in reality it is a lot of waiting around! There are many different ways that a network can order a TV show, so it changes depending on the case. Your best bet for getting picked up for a TV show is to send an email directly to a production company, such as Story Monster, to see if they are developing anything.
Obviously every case is different and some shows are filmed with honesty, but a large chunk of the TV we consume on a daily basis follows these steps.
Did you know any of these things before? What is your take on reality TV?