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.
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
Source: Encyclopedia of Television
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
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
Product Placement as seen on various TV shows.