Reality TV - Real or Not?

The short answer is not. And the reason is simple. As any author can tell you, a story thrives on conflict. Real life is often, well, boring and tedious. So it only makes sense that TV producers need to give “reality” a jolt.

So how do they do it, and how do I know?

My sister and her family were on a TV show called Trading Spouses. Why, you might ask? And I can only say that some people love to be the center of attention. If you get addicted, I guess you go from show to show like that guy on The Bachelor that Carol talked about last week. My sister did only one show, though it took a week of filming to produce that one hour show.

In every show, there’s the “good” wife and the “bad” wife. My sister got to be the good wife. I felt so badly for the other woman. They sliced her and diced her and made her out to be a lazy good-for-nothing. How?

-My sister cleaned out the cabinets in the other woman’s house. When everything was all over the kitchen, they filmed it and said, look what a slob this woman is. As if that were the way she always kept her kitchen.

-Each show includes a party of some sort. During the show they criticized the other woman (in my sister’s house) for hiring a caterer to put on a dinner for ten people she didn’t know. We’re sitting there watching the show and one of my kids shouts out, “Hey, there’s auntie’s caterer.” Yup, there was the same caterer my sister always uses. The producers not only told this woman whom to hire, they vetted every single person who came into any contact with the show with legal releases, etc. That caterer was no surprise. But on the show, they portrayed the traded spouse as a lazy woman who couldn’t manage to host a dinner on her own.

-The woman invited my niece to swim with her in the backyard pool. On the show, they showed the woman floating on her back, as if lazing all by herself. My niece said to us later, “You notice how they don’t show the other side of the pool? That’s where I was.” But you wouldn’t notice if someone didn’t point it out.

-My sister said they took words she said in one location, say a restaurant, and dubbed them into another scene, where, out of context and abbreviated, they didn’t say at all what she’d said. It was her voice, her words, but not her meaning.

-They used props to heighten the contrast between the two families. For example, my sister had a Hummer. So they rented another Hummer, and outfitted it with the cameras, etc. that they needed to film people in the car. But they kept both Hummers in the circle in front of the house (making it look like a fancy circular driveway, when in fact it was the road.) Many people commented on the two Hummers online, believing the family owned both of them.

-My nieces and nephews were offered money, I think $200, if they said something obnoxious to the woman and got a reaction. They never did it though.

My sister and her family enjoyed their fifteen minutes of fame. They loved visiting Hollywood and getting the “red carpet” treatment, literally. But there was nothing “real” about this “reality” show.

I doubt any of the others are different.

If I were going to watch reality TV, though, I'd watch Dancing with the Stars.

Carly Carson


Nicole North said...

Neat! I loved this behind the scenes look at a reality show. Though I haven't seen this one I'd like to. I watch a few reality shows but I'm by no means a huge fan. I do watch the Bachelor, Dancing with the Stars, and a couple others.

Carol Ericson said...

Carly, that's so interesting. Yes, I noticed on The Bachelor that the scenes had been edited. I think in that show, they made out the one girl to be the "bad" girl, since she's the one the Bachelor ended up choosing. Drama, drama!