Help me peek behind the curtain
February 10, 2015 5:34 PM   Subscribe

Does anyone know any good books/movies/tv shows/articles about how reality TV is made?

I love reality TV. More specifically, I love watching reality TV and thinking about how it's constructed - the plotlines, narratives, characters, etc. I'm fascinated by the idea of reality TV production, of taking a bunch of people, manipulating the situations you put them in, and then cutting and editing the chunks so that it forms a coherent story. I'd love to learn more about this production and behind-the-scenes type stuff.

Can anyone recommend any good media on this?
posted by Itaxpica to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Village Voice on Iron Chef America.
posted by cgs06 at 5:43 PM on February 10, 2015

Reality Blurred has a lot of stuff like this. For example:
Survivor rule book and contestant contract
Behind the scenes of the Big Brother house

I also thought I Didn't Come Here To Make Friends by Courtney Robertson was a good read. Lots of behind-the-scenes dish about The Bachelor.
posted by SisterHavana at 6:01 PM on February 10, 2015

Kai Hibbard has plenty to say about her time on The Biggest Loser.
posted by Flannery Culp at 6:09 PM on February 10, 2015

Here's a fun article from my college magazine from a few years back.
posted by janey47 at 6:09 PM on February 10, 2015

I remember a few AMA's on reddit.
posted by beccaj at 6:10 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I love Sharleen Joynt's Bachelor recaps. She was a contestant on the last season and writes as a fan with insider info.
posted by Leona at 6:33 PM on February 10, 2015

Well, it's not really an expose, but it could certainly play one on television. Donald E. Westlake's last novel, one of the Dortmunder series, is titled "Get Real." Dortmunder and the guys get involved with a reality tv series and .... well, it's complicated. And funny. And I remember, although I can't find the citation now, that Westlake himself was involved in crafting a reality show, and claimed the novel was actually toned down.
posted by kestralwing at 7:08 PM on February 10, 2015

Oh, also, did you know that Jason & Molly Mesnick have a podcast in which they talk about the Bachelor, based on what they see and tempered by what they know?
posted by janey47 at 7:32 PM on February 10, 2015

Here are some links on how they put together The Amazing Race:

Contestent interview

Phil Keogan AMA

Huffington Post article
posted by PussKillian at 7:34 PM on February 10, 2015

Ben Starr on MasterChef.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 9:16 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you're interested in fictional representations that ring really true, here are a few:

The short film "Sequin Raze" was made by a woman who used to work in reality TV, and it's becoming a television series called "Un-Real" some time this year. It's about working on the production side rather than being in front of the cameras.

There's an English mini-series "Dead Set" about what might happen if there was a zombie virus outbreak during a filming of "Big Brother". Created by media critic Charlie Brooker (who was also responsible for several reality TV-based episodes of the technodystopian series Black Mirror). Parts were filmed outside of the actual Big Brother house and during one of the "eviction nights".

On a lighter note, there's an episode of the excellent cartoon Mission Hill where one of them joins the cast of The Real World.
posted by lhall at 10:22 PM on February 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation had a series called Reality Check which unpicked the genre and how it worked. It has a panel format and each week one of the guests would be a reality TV host or producer and another would be someone who'd starred in a reality show. Some of the episodes are still available at the link above.
posted by girlgenius at 12:57 AM on February 11, 2015 [1 favorite]

A couple more fictional representations are two of Ben Elton's books. Chart Throb and Dead Famous.
posted by poxandplague at 2:07 AM on February 11, 2015

This might not be quite the information you interested in, but there is a book about Kate Gosselin that I found to be fascinating and sad. There is some argument about how "true" it is. You can read a significant portion of it on Amazon for free to get a feel for it. After reading the book and other related materials I choice to stop watching any reality TV that involves children.
posted by Shanda at 9:11 AM on February 11, 2015

It is a fictional TV movie, of all things, but this is one of the reasons that I love I Want to Marry Ryan Banks. It is part parody of reality tv, part homage, part dissection of how unreal the whole process is. There's a great scene where the main character is supposed to re-create her "first reaction" to seeing the castle over and over again until the production team gets the shot they're looking for, and the entire plot is based on the artificiality of the environment. (The concept is basically a version of The Bachelor where the bachelor in question is a washed up 90s star played by a self-mocking Jason Priestley.)

One of the best parts is where the main character tries to act like a horrible monster so she gets voted off the show, but the producers give her the sweetheart/dream girl edit and the audience loves her more than ever.
posted by a fiendish thingy at 10:09 AM on February 11, 2015

Charlie Brooker (already mentioned above) looks at how reality TV is edited to twist the mundane reality into a more compelling narrative. Check out the Screen Wipe episode here. I found it illuminating.
posted by guy72277 at 12:24 AM on February 13, 2015

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