Reality television has become commonplace on original networks and cable channels. Produces have come up with everything from talk shows, dating shows, a group of Italian-American spending the summer in New Jersey, cook-offs, to finding the newest designer. The possibilities have seemed endless and yet despite the difference in context three things remain the same – competition, drama, and audience participation. “Ordinary” people interacting, living together, and competing for a prize causes nothing but drama and audience opinions.
What has this new voice given American’s? Laura Grindstaff explains that this interaction between reality television and audiences has allowed viewers at home to become potential “producers”. Having the power to vote for a contestant gives voice to the individuals sitting on the couch enjoying their television program. The fans become influential in determining the course of narratives.
Magical Elves Production Company is famous for creating reality television programs that are extremely successful and have won many Emmy’s. One of their most popular programs is Project Runway, a show that follows contestants through fourteen-week process of challenges and eliminations. Unlike some contestant shows, viewers don’t have a “voice” in which contestant is voted off each week. This season Magical Elves changed that by instating a “Who’s your favorite fan?” campaign where viewers were encouraged to tweet at their favorite designers, the contestant with the most mentions at the end of the season wins $10,000. The interaction of the audience engages the viewers and provides a sense of involvement in a venue that used to be out of their control. Audiences know that their voice will be heard and accounted for – this encourages them to watch week after week.
Regardless of on the interaction available for each show – the interaction gives the viewers the power to be “potential producers”. This ultimately creates excited and enthusiastic viewers which lead to higher ratings and ultimately greater success.
Questions for Christian Homlish:
1. When producing a reality television show do producers always look to “type cast”?
2. How much input does the producer have in what is actually said on screen? Are there ever cases where the production staff can force a contestant to say something?
3. How did you get involved in this industry? Have you always been interested?