At some point, each of us wanted to know what was going on in a reality show when the cameras stopped rolling. Well, that was what the “UnReal” series offered us, a behind-the-scenes perspective of the reality show “Everlasting”, the fictional version of the seduction TV format “The Bachelor”, where dozens of women “fight” to win the heart of a coveted suitor.
The series focuses on the competitors, but also on the production team, demonstrating how different the interests of the two “sides” are. The universe is very rich and the story shows step by step the unscrupulousness of the producers who are eager for ratings and an easy to sell product, but also how far the contestants will go for fame. The script hits on the idea of the cynicism of the producers, who, when selecting the contestants of a show, are taking advantage of psychological and health issues and then put the contestants in extreme situations.
In order to better explain this practice, we will use the following snippet from the series as an example that proves how the producers will manipulate the contestants to do what they want. We know all too well that in a show such as this one the competitors are deprived of communication with their loved ones.
It is a given that, before the actual shooting begins, the contestants will be thoroughly researched. As much information as possible will be gathered about them, their families and any issues that exist or are likely to occur. Therefore, the producers are required to notify the contestants when those at home are going through a serious situation.
This came to pass in episode 2 of season 1, when one of the producers was notified by the brother of a contestant that their father, who was known to have multiple health issues, is in the hospital and the doctors are very skeptical about his chances to survive.
The producer forwarded the information to the bosses, who decided that they had to finish the shooting for that evening first, so the producer, in an act of kindness/humanity/sincerity, informed the contestant about her father’s condition. Obviously, the contestant’s reaction was to run away from the set. Reaching the main road, she entered a bar and called her brother.
The producer, accompanied by a camera guy, caught up with him and filmed the entire “follow-up”, then asked the contestant to return, telling her that everything is going to be all right and that immediately after the shooting would end, they would go directly the hospital, with the contestant’s answer being “I did not even say goodbye … “
Lines were crossed and even after learning about the tragedy, the contestant agreed to return to the set only because she was promised that from there she would be transported directly to the hospital, but, having arrived at the shooting location, she found an entirely different situation; all the cameras were focused on her, while she, in tears, was having a nervous breakdown and cursing at everyone.
Her entire reaction was then edited in such a way that the contestant seemed to address those very strong words to her rivals. Unfortunately, this practice is very widespread in pursuit of better ratings, with many producers in today’s media using such methods in order to be able to create better and more interesting content for their audiences.
The constant supervision of the contestants with the help of both hidden and visible cameras shows us how some of them will gradually turn into stars, reality tv being a television genre that has much to do with celebrity culture and that also shapes the viewers` perception.
According to the journalists Jonathan Bignell and Jeremy Orleber, this type of television entertainment explores the unpredictability and emotions that older television genres no longer have because they have become easily predictable, but in the case of reality shows the situation is different due to the fact that the participants are being recorded 24/7.
Following a study from 2002, which, although not recent, still expresses the current reality, the PTC (Parents Television Council) in the USA came to the conclusion that reality shows are tougher than reality, exceeding permissible limits on obscene language, violence, and sexuality.
Despite these studies, this type of TV programs is the most addictive TV format and this means that the shows have certain special features that make them so popular among viewers. We have to admit that we have reached the stage where we have become regular viewers, if not fans of a reality show. There is no shame, we end up watching such programs because of the vicious circle in which we live, work-sleep, where we wake up in a routine in which we realize that we do not have time to create our own life and because of this situation we end up living vicariously the experiences of others.
According to Reiss and Wiltz in “Psychology Today”, many viewers watch such shows because they want to gather information that they can later use in discussions as a tool for connecting or belonging to a group. An example we can use is “Temptation Island”, a famous show that made an impact through the controversies created by moral standards or through images that contain explicit sex scenes.
It is clear that we are happy that we can and are used to looking through the „keyhole” and this curiosity makes us watch and become obsessed with such formats, but there are also fans who, by using the show as a sort of looking glass, discuss about the characters of the competitors and about how they should have acted to avoid infidelity.
Angelica Brown, who has worked on many matrimonial shows, states that the human element is the one that contributes the most to the quality of the shows, but also the one that makes the work harder for the producers, the most difficult part being the selection process.
Some are chosen, but don’t show up at the last minute or simply no longer appear when the shooting begins, other times possible candidates seem promising during the selection process, but during shooting refuse to display the same character, which wastes everyone’s time.
Another funny thing is that those who come to talent shows but don`t really have any, really think they have the “X factor”. American journalist Brown says that the producers approach each episode knowing in advance what they want and it is their job to turn their vision into reality, whether they want tears, a personal development story, a demented home renovation or a kiss between couples.
Another aspect the producers must always make sure is taken into account and achieved is the existence of a negative character. You might have noticed that in any show there is conflict, otherwise, it would be boring.
It is important to remember that producers can force an outcome or they can force contestants to register both endings. For example, in case of a love story, they will record one outcome where the contestants end up in love and getting married, and another one where they break up. Then the producers decide which outcome they prefer depending on what “works best” on the screen, no matter what happens in reality.
You can end up shooting for weeks on end for a single episode, recording can take up to 18 hours a day; it all depends on how fast the climax is taking place. If there is a fight or any other kind of action or something exciting is taking place quickly, the recording can be finished very fast. But if the contestants are just relaxing around a pool, recording can take several hours. This is the issue with the reality show.
All the aspects presented above show us for the thousandth time how television comes to control and influence our daily lives. We end “eating up” this type of entertainment, then later we want to become famous from the comfort of our own homes and eventually, through a little twist of fate, we can even become famous “for real” and then we will end up facing the issues of fame.
UnReal is a great example for those who are passionate about television and also for those who want to quickly achieve fame. We have all dreamed or are dreaming about being in the center of attention, on the heights of success, with the spotlights focused on us. No, we must not wake up; it requires much less effort for us to fulfill this dream. But always be wary about what you desire, because the road to fame is not always easy; you can become unknown as fast as you became famous.
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