Well, that depends. When reality shows began, the “sell” to the public was,“Yes, it is real.” Let’s take MTV’s “The Real World” as an example. The first series aired on the MTV network in 1992. The show started with these words
“ This is the true story of seven strangers, picked to live in a house, work together and have their lives taped, to find out what happens when people stop being polite… and start getting real.”
This was an affective and popular show, as it is going into its twenty-third season, which a remarkable. The show revolves around seven young adults ages 18-25 and put them is a house and film their interactions with one another. It seems real, or at least the first season was. As the show gained popularity, the “cast” became more outrageous, and the people selected were chosen so they would create some “drama.” And it worked.
Reality TV producers will tell you that these shows are “unscripted” meaning they don’t work with memorized dialogue. However, over the years, other shows such as “The Hills” started getting called out by the public. People claimed to witness “multiple scene shots and retakes” in public places such as the airport. Now, reality producers and past cast members have admitted that there are “planned stories” or intentional situations meant to offer some drama.
Past reality stars have come forward from all types of “reality” TV shows, claiming they were coached to say certain things, and some felt they were exploited for the entertainment of others.
Because reality shows have to follow the basic rules of telling a good story, there has to be a beginning, middle and a conclusion. This is much more difficult to do when your cast is not following a script. This is where exceptional editors come in and put the story together. They pull in different conversations or footage, and fill the story with cast interviews in order to round out any gaps in the story. This is misleading to the audience, not that I think the audience cares all that much.
In order to get as much content as possible, cameras are rolling 24/7 to catch any detail and search for common themes. When the writers spot a recurring theme, the editors go to work and take clips and string them together. Sometimes, the clips are from different days. Sometimes a clip could be a facial expression that had nothing to do with the story,
but is added to make it seem like the cast member responded in an interesting or negative way. On the average, it requires three days of filming to get enough material to put a one-hour show together.
So, there you have it. I personally feel that the truth about reality TV is in the middle. Yes, there may not be a script, but these are real people put into actual situations. And sometimes their behavior is just that…the way they really are. That’s my story, and I’m sticking with it!