Monday, May 1

Manufacturing Reality TV

The Morning News has an ongoing and very interesting series on manufacturing reality television. This is big news if as a viewer, you think reality tv is largely unscripted. But instead Keith Hollihan discovers the rigid engineering involved in crafting a reality tv show--from how contestants are chosen, the battery of tests they undergo, to formulating an interesting mix of people who would give good primetime drama. And according to their findings:
"the most compelling viewing comes when people with different yet recognizable personalities evolve over time in relation to those around them while dealing with competition and trying circumstances—crisis meeting characters to create drama. While reality TV may not be Shakespeare, it’s at its best when viewers are drawn in by the contestants’ personalities and become invested in what will happen to them."
On any given RTV show, there's like three psychologists who work hard to profile you. This is all in the name of prevention. It's okay to be crazy if you're "crazy fun" but not if you're "homicidal crazy." This is all in the name of prevention, one that dates back to 1997, when one of the early rejects of the Swedish show Experiment Robinson, of which Survivor is but a licensed American incarnation, hurled himself in front of an oncoming train.

The supposed "authenticity" of reality tv shows, especially those by producer Mark Burnett, has been likened to the 1971 experiment by Philip Zimbardo, where he put 21 "normal" college students in a mock prison and they could choose whether to be inmate or guard. But the Stanford Prison Experiment, cited as a "landmark psychological study of the human response to captivity," was "stopped after only six days because the abuse and trauma generated by the situation got out of hand so quickly."

Everyone likes the rawness of reality tv, but not too real as to see splatters of blood on the couch.

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