Reality TV now accounts for 20% of all prime-time network programming. Just how ‘real’ is Reality TV anyway? Consider this intelligence we got from SmartMoney.com. As it turns out, a lot of Reality TV is fake. At least what you see on TV isn’t how it happened in real life. TV editors use a technique called “Franken-biting,” where they stitch together a few minutes of highlights from hours and hours of footage. So many words and images get taken out of context. Producers are known to coach the action you see, in hopes of stirring up some fabricated drama. If it’s not the producers pulling strings, it’s the sponsors. Advertisers spent over $1.5 BILLION last year on product placement – mostly in Reality TV shows. In exchange for all that money, producers design plot lines that highlight the products. So that’s why you see so many “American Idol” contestants answering questions from fans in the Coca-Cola Lounge and why the construction crews on “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” go on so many last-minute shopping sprees at Sears.
Another secret about Reality TV is that shows are put together by casting agencies – just like in a movie. So while those are REAL people you see onscreen, interacting in REAL situations, they’ve been hand-picked by a casting agent for their drama potential. So why do we keep watching reality shows anyway? Psychologist Dr. Gene Ondruseck says it’s mainly because we identify with reality contestants more than scripted TV characters – they’re just like us. Reality TV feeds our natural voyeuristic urge. In other words, we like to feel like we’re spying on our neighbors. Finally, the main secret to Reality TV’s success is that it’s cheap. One hour of reality programming costs about a-third of what it costs to film an average hour of scripted drama. Why so cheap? Because reality film crews are made up of freelance workers, who are not regulated by unions. That’s why Reality TV is virtually strike proof and why reality shows will be around for many years to come.