10 Things I Have Learnt Off Reality TV
The "noughties" has heralded a relatively new phenomenon - the "reality television" genre - you know, that "fly on the wall" view of people dealing with ordinary [and sometimes extraordinary] situations broadcast live, with a studio audience watching the monitors and feeling loved by the host. I find this genre simultaneously repulsive and irresistable so thought it time to blarg on a bit about it from a personal perspective. This genre encompasses such a myriad of forms from the social voyerism of watching deliberately assemblages of incompatible people in a confined space, physically challenged people publically overcoming their challenge, celebrities going about "real life" tasks with hilarious results, despirate to be noticed people trying to survive against the odds and despirate and dateless losers trying to hook up with others for the lure of a prize.
I make the following observations and my analyst tells me to let things out rather than bottle my feelings up, so here goes. they are in no particular order of importance, but I cling to the rather thin hope that talking about it, I do not have to watch it. Read on ...
- It's Not the Money, honestly.
No matter what the competition, contestants believe that there is cred in stating emphatically they are not in it for the money. When all is said and done, it is just as well because the recompense for making a complete arse of yourself and allowing the programming directors represent you however they feel will play best is barely comparable to the lowly salaries of real actors who know they are pretending and are paid because they are actually good at it.
What price privacy? I am not sure how you put a dollar value on broadcast rights of people's most intimate moments in any other industry but the porn industry ... er ... so I am told. I guess there is solace in the fact that no one has privacy anymore - most places you go are surveiled with video, most people carry arond with them mobile phones with cameras, even Kevin Rudd shot a sex tape that went straight on to youtube [well, I made that last bit up, I think he was too drunk to remember the exact details] but you get my drift. There is a clamber to be celebrity and living proof that if Paris Hilton can manage it, anyone can.
- The Money Shot.
Ever wonder how directors know where to position the cameras to catch that poignant moment when, in a completely dark bedroom [well, in truth, filming in night vision is cheating] someone thwaps their genitals on the face of a protesting housemate? How did they know to zoom at the point when the largest person in the room bursts into tears with pride as their thinner and more likely to win brand new second best friend lost more weight than her. How images of a deskjockey trying in vain to open a coconut manages to damage himself with the communal machete on a supposed desert island? How the exact moment the chair of a kid-run council says something profoundly complimentary and heartfelt to a half-starving pre-teen who tried really hard in the marshmallow stacking competition and just missed out on winning the water slide, we see her burst into tears? How did the camera man happen to be in the entry hall just when Ozzy's imbred yapper craps on their imported turkish rug or their overfed daughter throws a tantrum in the living room [which is more or less the same thing, demographically speaking]?
Coincidence and good luck, gotta be, just gotta be.
No, seriously, it must be because I steadfastly refuse to believe that such heart rending moments were not spontaneous and one-off. A director would never instruct such an event to be repeated so they can change the lighting to highlight the tears. I have to believe that reality is like that - and telly is full of serendipidous moments of magic. There is historic precedent - an ancient show called "candid camera" caught normal people reacting to abnormal stimuli - be it shock, assault, abuse or humiliation - on film for the amusement of a studio audience. That is of course vastly different to the "lamest home videos" style show in concept and audience appeal as I cannot get enough footage of brides falling over at the altar, daddy's talking a bollocking from their toddlers tricycle and the family pet coming close to needing a vet.
- Gotta be Cruel to be Kind.
"Your answer: the malaysian camel-bear-pig is locked in. The correct answer, for $500000 ...
will be revealed after the break" APPLAUSE!
... 2 minute ad break ...
thank you for rejoining us live.
Your answer: the malaysian camel-bear-pig is locked in. The correct answer, for $500000 is ... do you want to phone a friend?"
Suspense, on edge drama is all very well but this sorta stuff was learned in torture chambers, surely. We just need a contestant to have a seizure or heart attack during such a teasing and I wonder if the rules would change. I wonder if that has already happened but that episode was not aired - no, surely not.
- Heartstrings Matter.
Get 'em to cry, get it on camera, that's a wrap babe, thanks - love your work.
How does the director know to interview miss no-one from nowhere special at the 7th audition call in a backwater and get her touching back-story about how she wants to dance the tango one last time for her dying blind latin grandma, only a few rounds later to .. actually .. manage to randomly draw out of the hat the "tango" with her emaciated but supportive alternative orientation mixed-race partner, then go on to get a glowing report from the judging panel and a standing, teary ovation from the studio audience.
We want to know there people, feel where they have been, journey with them because we know just what they are going through. We want to demonise the judges, it makes it easier if you do not like them because then if the mood actually takes them, they can speak truths that polite people would supress [lose 20kg, get a haircut, stop that and stop it now - someone escort this no talent loser off the premises immediately please - have a nice day].
- Host with the Most.
Urge to kill rising, seriously. Leering hosts wearing designer
gownless evening straps or rugged blokes tanned and wearing a straw har in the out doors really get on my nerves. They are nearly always american, or aspire to be, often have no communication skills other than those piped directly to their ear pieces as they talk live to camera, with just enough slack in the "live" to edit out major goofs and accidental rude words, inappropriate flashing of mis-spelled protest signs, body parts and brand names from non-paying sponsors.
Brutal and crushing comments on how they have been voted out of the house, can in fact NOT dance or as a singer they would make a great train driver are followed with hand-held camera work to the public de-brief and the pseudo "oh poor you, how do you feel and what would you like to say to the judges?"
- Use the Illusion. - wip
- What goes around, comes around.
- Celebrity and the age of the Viral Star.
- Your vote counts.
What do you
me with your ideas/feedback - I'll post it for others to see if you like.