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What is Real?

What is Real?

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Author: Amee Wittbrodt
Description:
  • Understand, analyze, evaluate, and use different types of print, digital, and multimodal media.
  • Critically analyze information found in electronic, print, and mass media and use a variety of these sources.
  • Gain an understanding of the history of reality TV and where it originated.
  • Define type casting, scripted dialog, and product placement.
  • Analyze why reality TV is so popular and predict its future.
  • Identify the effect product placement has on viewers.

This packet presents information on the history of reality TV and where it originated. Students will explore type casting, scripted dialog, product placement, and advertising revenue. Students will also explore why reality TV is so popular and how product placement is used to increase profit.

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Tutorial

Background Information

What is Real?

In the past few years, so-called reality programs have proved to be very popular television shows. These programs include the Disney Channel’s Bug Juice, MTV’s The Real World and Road Rules, Fox’s Temptation Island, and CBS’s Big Brother and Survivor.

One of the criticisms of these shows is that much of the “reality” is actually scripted or staged. In other words, some of the things that happen on the show occur because the people making the show have told the people on the show to do or say something, or not do or say something. There have even been claims that some of the “real” people on The Real World have actually been professional actors.

How are the people on reality shows chosen? Certain people are chosen on purpose to fit into specific roles. This is called typecasting. Have you ever noticed that the same types of people are on almost every show? Examples include the small-town boy, the party girl, and the mean girl who creates drama.

Are the events in reality shows “unscripted”? Not really. The writers and producers of these shows choose the locations and combination of people on the shows, and even re-stage events that the cameras were not able to capture the first time.

Is what you see on TV what really happened? It is an edited version of reality. Hundreds of hours of raw footage is filmed each week. Decisions are made to cut it into a half-hour or hour-long television show. Look at the following example of dialogue editing from The Real World:

Jim: “I don’t care what anybody thinks. I’m sorry if I use the phone too much, but I’m having a hard time adjusting to being away from my family.”

Amy: “Jim is getting on my last nerve … but he is my favorite person in the house and I’m going to see what I can do to make him feel better.”

The underlined text is what made it into the show. How does the editing change your perception of the events? Why would the editors make that decision?

Why are reality shows so popular? Without an audience, they wouldn’t exist. Someone must be watching them. Reality shows are also easy and cheap to make. The combination of low production costs and product-placement revenues make the shows very lucrative for media companies.

What is product placement? Product placement is when companies sell space in a TV show to advertise a product by either sticking the product in or mentioning its name. Examples include Coca-Cola in American Idol, Home Depot sponsoring Survivor and Trading Spaces, and Cover Girl cosmetics in America’s Next Top Model.

 

Reality TV: Ideas Gone Bad

History of Reality TV

Full Screen

Source: Encyclopedia of Television

Why are Reality TV Shows so Popular?

Two-time Academy Award-winning documentary filmmaker Bill Guttentag examines the ongoing popularity of reality TV shows. The popularity of documentary films has exploded in recent years, resulting in a constant flow of narratives based on true events and real people. In a world where many would rather watch than read, the veracity of these films is often unquestioned. Should it be? Do these films manipulate reality? What are the responsibilities of the filmmaker? Guttentag tackles these and many other questions - The Commonwealth Club of California

Discussion Questions

  1. Which word means, "only using parts of a conversation and taking out the rest"?
  2. Which word means, "advertising products within TV shows by either sticking in the actual product or mentioning its name"?
  3. T/F? Syndicated talk shows such as Geraldo, Oprah, and Phil Donahue are also considered Reality TV.
  4. T/F? When Reality TV first became popular, critics predicted that it would be around for a long time.
  5. T/F? Most of the Reality TV shows we watch originated in Europe.
  6. T/F? Without viewers, Reality TV wouldn't exist.
  7. What year is often considered the starting point of the reality television phenomenon in the U.S.?
  8. Why did television companies decide to make so many Reality TV shows in the first place?
  9. How do television stations make money off of Reality TV? Think about product placement, audience participation, and cost to make the show. Explain.
  10. Look at the following example of dialogue editing from The Real World:

    Jim: I don't care what anybody thinks. I'm sorry if I use the phone too much, but I'm having a hard time adjusting to being away from my family.

    Amy: Jim is getting on my last nerve, but he is my favorite person in the house and I'm going to see what I can do to make him feel better.

    The underlined text is what made it into the show. How does the editing change your perception of the events? Why would the editors make that decision? EXPLAIN
  11. Why are reality shows so popular? On some of these shows, people have had terrible conflicts about their relationships, including people cheating on other people, and so on. Often, these people end up screaming at each other, threatening each other, and trying to physically hurt each other. Why do people want to watch this? Do you?
  12. Predict the future for reality TV. Will the market continue to grow or is it so saturated right now that people will get sick of watching it? Explain.
  13. Almost ALL Reality TV shows use product placement to make money. This popular form of advertising has also spread to prime time TV and movies. What impact does product placement have on viewers?
  14. This website analyzes product placement in best selling movies. Paramount's Paranormal Activity, featured 5 products. Sony's Zombieland featured over 20 products! This is a form of advertising and it isn't cheap. Advertisers want viewers to develop an emotional attachment to their product by associating it with a positive experience, watching a movie. The products being advertised are actually written into the movie script.   

    Explore this website- brandcameo
    What is the current best selling movie? How many brands are featured in it?

Just for Fun- Product Placement on TV

Product Placement as seen on various TV shows.