Saturday, June 26, 2010

Reality TV

By way of Nathan Bransford, I read that a "Bachelor" dumped his television fiancee to focus on his new role in a cable show.  Should we feign surprise?

I'm not a "Bachelor" watcher, although I do get occasional updates on the show from my mother.  To approach this as a show about people trying to actually fall in love requires a certain level of suspension of disbelief that I'm not capable of.

The cast of these shows is generally attractive enough to be able to pursue romantic relationships through conventional channels (nobody wants to watch ugly people making out in hot-tubs).  If these people really wanted to pursue marriage, there are far more appropriate ways to go about it.

Their decision to pursue casting on "Bachelor" or "Bachelorette" is premised not on a legitimate desire to marry the lead, but on a desire to become reality-television stars.

We almost never see "Bachelors" and "Bachelorettes" marrying their co-stars.  We don't see former "Apprentices" in prominent corporate positions.  Instead, we see the memorable characters from these shows moving on to D-list celebrity lifestyles: cable gigs, more reality shows, and party-hosting at Vegas nightclubs.

The artifice is apparent; the producers decide who is getting the rose, and who is getting fired.  The competitors are competing for the camera's attention, not the Bachelor's or the Donald's.  If they can make themselves an indispensable part of the producers' narrative, they're safe from elimination.

The contestants understand the rules, and ham it up playing whatever roles they fall into.  The "villains" misbehave with relish because they know the producers will be keeping them around for a while.  And there's always a twist or a scandal of some sort that feels pre-packaged.

The producers don't even bother to hide the strings anymore.  They built in a rule on "American Idol" where the judges/producers can overrule an audience vote.

Of course some people can recognize the artifice and enjoy the skeeviness anyway.  For them, there are the indispensable television blogs at The AV Club.


  1. Oh... the colors on your blog are eye bending. After posting my last comment, the colors created a weird optical illusion. I saw cupcakes on my wall.

  2. Yeah. White on black was a bad call. I don't think they're scripted. I think if there was not a real game show at the root of "Survivor," it would have come out.

    But the pretense that the people on "Bachelor" are there to get engaged is so thin that it's really a weak link in the reality veneer. Similarly, on "Apprentice," someone relentlessly unpleasant and preposterously unqualified will hang around for ten episodes because they are a good "character."

    I prefer scripted television. "Mad Men," "Breaking Bad," "Party Down" and "Californication" are some shows I have really enjoyed lately.

  3. (Some reality TV contestants have married)

    I watch the "Real Housewives" shows for comic relief. I think the scenes are loosely scripted. Why does each HW show have one HW all the others love to hate? Conflict drives the drama. And why are they always at the same functions?

    I liked "The Tudors," "The Sopranos," and "Curb Your Enthusiasm."

  4. According to Wikipedia, there have been fourteen seasons of "The Bachelor" and five seasons of "The Bachelorette."

    One Bachelor married the winner of his season, and Trista, the first Bachelorette married the guy who won.

    The dude from Bachelor season 13 dumped the winner and married the runner-up.

    The vast majority of these couples ostensibly date for a couple of months and then quietly split. It's fake to the extent that these people don't really want the love story that is supposedly the central premise. They want to get famous, and then they want to explore their newly expanded sex options. The real prize on these shows is subsequent reality show gigs.

    New Bachelors and Bachelorettes are chosen from previous contestant pools. Standout cast members go on to other shows like "Dancing with the Stars" and "Drop Dead Diva."

    The competition for the central guy or girl is kind of a sham; the real objective is to soak up attention to become a reality star. To that extent, I think they are willing to fall into whatever role they think gets them the most screen time.

    I think it probably works better when the producers cast someone who has some kind of personality disorder to be the "villain," instead of encouraging a normal person to ham it up.

    But all these people want to be reality television stars, and they're perfectly willing to be Richard Hatch or Omarosa if given the opportunity.

  5. Well, Rob and Amber met on Survivor and they are married now with a baby. And Trista married Ryan (who she chose on the Bachelorette). And Jeff and Jordan met on Big Brother. However, I think if a person is serious about meeting a partner, he or she does not use the venue of television for that agenda. And if two people connect on another reality TV show not designed for matchmaking, the relationship may be just as short lived as any other relationships.

    In the end it really doesn't matter. It's only 15 minutes of fame. And after the 15 minutes, it is a struggle to remain visible.