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How “Real” is Reality Television?

September 29, 2015

I’m sure most of you realize that there is about as much reality in Reality TV as there is in Professional Wrestling. Now before you wrestling fans get your panties all in a twist, I’m not saying that those wrestlers aren’t really throwing each other around and slamming each other on the matt. What I’m saying is that those matches are predetermined and the backstory is all for entertainment purposes. Of course I feel like all professional sports go that route anymore, but I digress. So how “real” is Reality TV? Well, I hate to break the news to you, but those reality stars are all real… paid actors.

Paid actors? You mean they don’t just find random people off of the street to be a part of the show? No! They audition people. They need to find people that have the right personalities, and can create drama like only an actor can do, so that the show creates a compelling story with compelling characters. You can’t have an interesting show with someone to root for or someone to root against if you don’t have the right personalities in the right places. The producers are very selective in the actors they choose to play certain roles.

“But wait, Tony. Are you saying that these shows are scripted? They have a story already planned?” Yes! The technical term the producers like to use is “loosely scripted.” This means that they have a general story for the season. Each episode has a general storyline that helps build the seasonal arc. The actors are then given the storyline, but not actual dialogue. The actors are free to make that up as they go as long as it sticks to the story the writers have created.

So writers that write for Reality TV actually have to be very knowledgeable about how to create a compelling storyline. If you think about it, they have to create tension and story arcs based on the actors personalities that are hired for the cast. It’s not like creating something from an idea you have in your head. You have to take this personality before you and create a story from that. You’ve got to create the conflict. Who’s going to be the antagonist? Who’s going to be the protagonist? Where is the conflict going to come from? In my opinion, you’ve gotta be a pretty craft writer.

But let’s be clear. I, in no way, find Reality TV entertaining. I think that the acting is way over the top, which let’s face it, if the actors were any good they’d be on a scripted television show. But I do think that the writers have to be very talented. There aren’t many of them that actually get work. If you enjoy Reality TV and you enjoy writing screenplays, you may enjoy writing for them. I hear the pay very well. Break a leg and until next week, happy writing.

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5 Comments
  1. I know someone who worked as a producer on a reality show, and you are so right. Many of the situations and even dialogue are “suggested” by the producers.

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  2. This is a generalization against real actors and a lot of realitly shows. I don’t know of any that use this technique, however, they try and predict how people react to certain plot twists built into the show.

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  3. I don’t think the audience cares. We want entertainment. We don’t care if life is photoshopped a little. We want excitement.

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  4. Mike permalink

    Within reason…. I’ve worked reality shows and agree, yes, many follow this method. But, when the fools on Jersey Shore are getting black out drunk and hitting eachother and getting arrested. Now that’s reality! As deplorable as it may be.

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  5. I’d make a terrible reality star.

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