Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The reality behind reality shows

In another communications class of mine, we watched the pilot of MTV's reality series Jersey
. I am not the biggest fan of reality shows in general; the characters are always very outlandish, unreal (despite it being a reality show) and overall seemingly obnoxious people.While I felt that watching the show was a waste of my time because it is so terrible, it sparked me into doing some digging about "behind-the-scenes" of reality shows. I noticed while watching Jersey Shore that there were a lot of fast cuts, repeated shots, and many voiceovers, which indicates that from piecing together various footage make a particular story, even if its not the story that was told originally.

According to the Writer's Guild of America West, reality TV producers create formats, cast people based on character traits, and then edit scenes to create a story arc. Teams will shoot several days of footage and then hand it off to the editor to create a story based on the guidelines that producers gave them. Because no one's life is constantly that dramatic, crews must film for days at a time before piecing together an episode. That's why there's so much voiceover and b-roll; it is up to the editor to create the story that the producer wants, as opposed to how events actually occurred.

David Rupel states that one of the secrets to creating the arc to a reality show is to "find a scene that has many of the same emotional beats as another, and use interview bites to shape it to be about the other topic" because if you remove all references to some other subject, it still makes sense. That way if some major even occurs off-camera, it can still be shown somehow. This method is used a lot in Jersey Shore, especially utilizing the "interviews" as making sense of the dramatic situations that occur by getting each person's reaction.

Snooki: "i'm too pretty for jail"
MTV networks President Van Toffler said that in the Jersey Shore casting process they looked for "candor, honesty, boldness, and a very combustible, chaotic mess. You could honestly say none of these people were traditionally beautiful."...combustible, chaotic mess is a very good way to put it indeed. And while all the characters are just generally unpleasant human beings, the show is wildly entertaining because they are all so outlandish. The casting directors choose them because they know that viewers will want to watch them do ridiculous things (that they are paid to do).

Reality TV is a form of entertainment that is constantly on the rise because the creators know how to draw people in with the fast editing and outlandish characters. Jersey Shore is just one example; other shows such as Dance Moms, The Bachelor/Bachelorette, and Survivor also follow the reality-tv-editing formula. (only difference is that those characters are slightly more tolerable!)

Here's a taste of what Jersey Shore is like. Watch if you dare.

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