Wednesday, January 24, 2007

SCRIPTED REALITY

I think we all aknowledge that reality shows are somewhat 'steered' by their producers to deliver an entertaining show. But I suspect there's actually a lot more 'steering' going on than we assume.

Of course, we all know that with shows like BB, and WifeSwap the producers deliberately pick participants that are going to spark off each other. We know that they'll pick people with provocative opinions and attitudes, people whose personality traits are instantly unlikeable.

Hell, we know all that....but I've noticed how a lot of these shows seem to follow a very predictable story template, not dissimilar to the standard movie 3/4 act script:

Act 1
  • The show starts with participants sharing a wary honeymoon period.
  • An initiating clash ensues, ending the honeymoon period.
  • Usually, this clash occurs just around the point that the first commercial break hits us.
Act 2
  • A feud begins, with several more minor clashes gradually building the tension up.
  • Some specific incident heightens the tension, which lines us up for the end of act 3 showdown.
  • ...and hey presto...another commercial break!
Act 3
  • All the little 'set-up' conditions are established for...
  • ...The Big Shouting Match. Lots of screaming, whinging, crying, bitching.
  • And, yup, another commercial break.
Act 4
  • Some more fireworks, tears, 'video-diaries'.
  • And then a resolution, usually a compromise of some sort, or some tearful making up.
  • The show concludes with a rather unsubtle 'moral message' from the narrator.
Which leaves me very suspicious that a lot of these shows, and I include all those other supposedly 'instructive' ones such as, Tiny Tearaways, Uncontrollable Teens, Nanny 911 etc etc are 'directed' in the way Mike Leigh directs movies - ie: he explains a dramatic situation to his ensemble of actors, what each character is feeling, and what each character wants out of it, and then, with no script at all the cameras roll and the actors effectively play themselves. Ken Loach adopts this technique as well, usually not even using proffesional actors.

You can even see the dramatic template above in the likes 'Time Team' - the contrived race-against-the-clock archaeology show, where instead of having characters bitching at each other to generate the tension, you have some time-critical ingredient thrown in to create tension: 'Oooh, the developers have only allowed us 3 days to dig on this spot of land', or, 'disaster strikes as our JCB suddenly decides not to work', 'a sudden downpour has covered up the exposed mosaic...and with only a few hours left....'

You get the idea.

1 comment:

parmenion said...

nooooooooooooooooo you dissed time time...shame on you LOL!!

it does all sound very familiar though!!