There seems to be a secret still held in the TV industry that paradoxically isn’t a secret. This particular oddball secret is the knowledge that writers can get real work working on reality shows writing situations for the supposed real characters. It’s something a bit undercover, yet you’ll see the real reality of this in the occasionally hidden articles on the web. The most recent is an editorial from an “anonymous” published on the site XOJane.com telling about working on various reality shows. This writer tells some interesting behind the scenes tales about writing various reality show situations so many people assume are real.
With that “anonymous” designation, you can see why the industry is still trying to convince the public that reality shows are real. You can say this even if most astute people have long suspected the situations we see on “Survivor”, “Duck Dynasty”, or “Pawn Stars” are mostly fabricated for entertainment value. In the above “anonymous” piece, the writer says they even write situations on game shows without ever fixing the system.
The above might sound like they come close to straddling the line of the old quiz show scandals of the 1950s. Regardless, the writer assures they don’t go that far. They also assure that TV writers have open opportunities now writing for reality shows when it’s been assumed reality shows have taken away from real writing jobs over the last 20 years. It only begs the question whether any other writer would feel right working anonymously writing situations for shows masquerading as being real.
Would You Write Situations for Reality Show Stars?
It seems the secret to writing reality show situations is to make them plausible and spin them off of likely real events. However, you can generally use some deduction in figuring out which shows have more writing than others. “Pawn Stars”, for instance, seems much more fabricated than most people assume. One reason is because the cast of the show doesn’t even work at the shop any more and only come in a couple times a week to tape the show.
Yes, this means all those family squabbles in the office are probably the work of a writer who creates the basic setup and then lets the cast riff off of the outline. The only things real are the actual people who come in with items and the deals made. Even the experts called in to appraise an item are probably part of a written setup.
Thanks to the “Pawn Stars” cast for being so down to earth in their presentation, most people wouldn’t guess the office scenes are essentially written in sitcom form.
For a writer used to writing in fictional terms, can they adjust things so they can write in a way that’s real?
Writing Scenes in Outline Form
Because most of these “situations” are probably done in outlines, reality shows can still safely say they’re truly reality. Almost all of the situations seem designed in a way that incites instantaneous dialogue from the casts rather than being tightly scripted. If they had to memorize lines, you can be sure real writing would be scoped out due to the likely unnatural reads.
Then again, you can’t underestimate some reality show stars. They may be the best natural actors on the planet today when given a basic script. With their knowledge of how much reality shows are being lauded and turned into instant millionaires, making things look believable is probably a top priority.
On the writing side, it’s probably too hard to resist not being a reality show situation writer when they may get paid more than writing for a sitcom or drama. God only knows how many writers in Hollywood have turned to this dark side of the TV writing profession. You have to envision some sort of secret club with embroidered robes, not unlike the “Saturday Night Live” Five-Timers club for hosts. If one exists, it must be as clandestine as the Illuminati.
We’ll only hope it isn’t part of the Illuminati in a quest to make reality shows become the only thing on television. Thankfully, dramas are making a huge comeback on cable, so some writers may finally be going back to where they exited a decade ago.
For those stuck writing for reality shows, you have to wonder how long it’ll be before reality show producers just admit on air that writers are involved. After almost 15 years of reality shows on TV, there seems to be as much concern about telling the public as the U.S. Government has with blabbing their own secrets.