Reality TV's Real Successes, Failures And Viewer Aspirations

by , Jun 18, 2012, 9:34 AM
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Just in case you still don’t know, it’s worth repeating: Reality shows are phony three-quarters of the time.

Mike Fleiss, creator and executive producer of ABC’s "The Bachelor," said recently at the Banff World Media Festival:  “I think most of the shows are fake.” But not, of course, “The Bachelor.”

Reality shows reach phony-levels 70-80% of the time, he said.

You know the drill. Reality series are “loosely scripted,” Fleiss said. “Things are planted…salted into the environment to seem more shocking.” But this isn’t true of talent and other competition shows, he said. (There have been claims in the past about some skewed judge and public voting).

What does this mean for viewers? Light deception doesn’t amount to much hue and cry -- at least not the cry, part. I’m not sure about the hue.

What does this mean for marketers? Reality shows still present opportunities for companies when it comes to brand entertainment activities – stuff that adds back many impressions which have been lost to broadcast television in particular.

Real life has rare and big dramatic moments interspersed by long periods of boring activity. Perhaps we should then call these shows: “Edited real-life television where people are put into manufactured settings and activities.”

Real-life performers go on to other things, such as Bethenny Frankel (“Real Housewives”), Jesse Palmer (“The Bachelor”), Bill Rancic (“The Apprentice”) and Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi (“Jersey Shore”).  If these reality performers were truly part of real-life TV, shouldn’t they go back to their “real” lives? (The vast majority, in fact, do.)

TV producers, to their credit, can get stuff to appear “real” and not scripted. And because they are cheap to produce, the genre is here to stay, networks say. And here’s the real key, according to Fleiss: "(Viewers are) not requiring a pure delivery of non-fiction content (from the shows).”

From all this we can figure, TV watchers are then hopeful that real people on TV have more dramatic lives than themselves -- in which they can fantasize and be entertained.

What makes a bad reality show? Contestants who make viewers roll their eyes or shrug their shoulders, boring storylines, and, of course, bad hair? Hey, that sounds like real life.

 

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