Friday, 14 June 2013

Reality TV Shows: Deceptive, Yet We Love Them Anyway

by Taylor Richardson

In the last couple of years there has been a surge of ‘reality’ TV shows that have hit Britain’s screens. From Essex to Chelsea and Newcastle to the Welsh Valleys Britain has become obsessed with these dramas that appear to follow real people’s lives – but how real are they?
Let’s take The Only Way Is Essex to start with. The opening frame is a written paragraph informing viewers, in concern with the cast, that “some of what they do has been set up purely for your entertainment”. Is this a get-out-of-jail free card for the producers to air as many ridiculous scenes as they desire and, in the face of criticism, say they covered their backs with this tactically placed line? This leads onto how cast members ‘coincidently’ (I think not!) bump into each other and respond in hoards of drama, from gossiping to arguing, whilst a cameraman just happens to be with them at the time.
Even the cast explicitly state the show is scripted, which is unusual seeing as they are the ones being filmed and getting paid for it! Mario Falcone, a regular on the show tweeted "Me and [TOWIE co-star] Little Chris set up our argument in the first episode [of the new series], producers knew but still put it in - all very scripted!" Well, I think we have our proof right there; not that it was particularly needed to see this show is as real as Eastenders. If people are not cheating, arguing, partying or hooking up with each other something is definitely wrong in the fabricated world of ‘TOWIE’.
From Essex to Chelsea we see a clear shift in style – parties become balls and high street becomes designer as class oozes on Made in Chelsea. Or ‘Posh TOWIE’ as some call it. There are still plenty of conveniently awkward run-ins and pauses to go around, arguably more so, yet viewers cannot stop watching the structured drama. What are the chances that Louise and Andy will cross paths with Spencer later in the episode if they are seen chatting about how much of a pig he is? As someone who has watched the show from the beginning (I’ve fallen into the ‘reality’ trap!) I can tell you it is no less than 100%.
Don’t think Made in Chelsea has not had its fair share of scandal though. From the first episode speculations rose around the show’s credibility because it was revealed they were filming in nightclubs in the daytime and music was put over clips as opposed to truly being there in the scenes. Suggested reasoning for this was that Chelsea night club guest lists feature a variety of celebrities who do not feel comfortable attending whilst filming is under way. The producers got around this by filming in the daytime and hiring extras to style the setting as natural. (Yet we know this is exactly what it is not.)
Elements of these shows are definitely artificial yet across them all reactions and conversations are relatively valid; it is the creation of them which is not. If two people have fallen out in the show they may be asked to attend an event but not told why, to then discover they are also there with their not-so-favourite cast members. Then the reactions from here onwards are not scripted, or are to a lesser extent.
Whether you believe these shows are fake or real – hopefully not the latter option – they are incredibly popular as viewing numbers are still going strong. Can you blame producers if they are fabricated? Nevertheless, this sparks conversation and anticipation for the next episode, potentially to see if it is possible that Louise Thompson has anymore tears within her to conjure out of nowhere. I am convinced these reality TV shows are structured from start to finish yet I cannot get enough of them. After all, who doesn’t love a bit of drama?

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