Reality TV Villains
A couple of weeks ago I bookmarked the following article, as perhaps not surprisingly I happen to have a passing curiosity in what happens to reality television contestants once the lens caps have been put back on?
The thing is, when I got started in the television game as a naive optimist, I had this strange notion that I would end up making observational documentaries about real people, wildlife and topics that would 'make a real difference'...hmmm, the trouble with all of the above, is ratings. While I have been very fortunate to work on some television that I would consider worthy, the vast majority of it in recent years has been vacuous entertainment at best...precisely because that is what television programmers would have us believe is what their audience wants.
That said, I do think that broadcasters and production companies have a duty of care for the people that put themselves forward for these shows. Sure, its easy to sling off at them with the old "they should have known what they were signing up for"...but to be honest, having worked as a shooting-producer-director on a plethora of 'reality' shows, I am only too aware of the subtle skulduggery that we employ to get the 'talent' to react on cue with full cognisance of how the sequence will be edited together.
The thing is, apart from the odd narcissistic nut-job (hosts included) that sign on for a reality television show to improve their insta-profile, most of the people that I have met have been really nice people. Yes, (and this is a big generalisation) the cooking and renovation shows tend to throw up a more focused and less image conscious competitors than the dating shows, but without all these quirky and colourful characters willing to subject themselves to the constant harassment that we subject them to, then there might not even be reality television work to fall back on.
And this brings me to a reality show that I worked on 12 months ago in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. About to be screened on a cable/sat channel that I have never heard of...or ever likely to see, The Apartment is not that remarkable and wouldn't rate a mention if it wasn't for a directive that myself and my producer colleagues received during filming.
When management decided that the very same people that they had 'cast' were actually nice and too focussed on design...alarm bells started going off! What are the ratings going to be and how can we possibly have a design competition show without inter-personal conflict, cheating, animosity, bullying...well, that simply won't stand.
We were then told to make the show much more like 'Unreal'...a show purposely written to showcase the levels that producers will go to in order to solicit salacious content from contestants. The real clincher was an email that we were sent that said, "just to be clear, we are not encouraging anyone to jump off buildings?" Fortunately for all concerned, no contestants suffered at the hands of over-zealous producers and the show actually features moments of very clever design...who would've thought?
You can check it out on a channel called DIVA: