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How reality shows are ruined, explained by popular movies

When a reality show goes wrong, or when a reality show seems like it has potential but just isn’t working, it’s easy to just blame “producers” or “the editing.”

But television is a collaborative medium, and many people have influenced the final product. That includes network executives, who give feedback on different cuts of episodes (there’s a new book about the network note process).

That feedback can be insightful and help to improve the show. It can also be stupid.

Network notes  range from subtle tweaks to bizarre requests for footage of things that never happened, just as they can ask for something entirely different than was first agreed upon. And frequently, the network wants those changes immediately.

Reality television producer Jon Collins brilliantly explains this absurdity by imagining what would happen if fictional films were subjected to the same process.

The results, which he’s been posting on his blog since May, are hilarious and almost unbelievable. But the reason his writing has gone somewhat viral in Hollywood over the past couple months is that it’s pretty damn accurate, too.

I’ve linked to the “If…Got a Round of Reality TV Network Notes” he’s written so far below, and included a few excerpts, but you really have to click through and read them all.

And remember as you read this ridiculousness: this is exactly what happens to your favorite–or least-favorite–reality shows.

  • The Wizard of Oz:

    This is a big note for all three of these characters. They all have potential but the current scene work with them is cheap and lackluster.  The Scarecrow wants a brain but comes up with great ideas; the Tin Man has no heart but he’s crying all the time.  Guys, we CAN’T be this sloppy. We are better than this. Remember, in our style guide, characters are defined by ONE personality trait that NEVER CHANGES.  We should to the following:

    SCARECROW — wants a brain — therefore must be dumb and say stupid things.

    TIN MAN — wants a heart — must be cold and unfeeling.

    COWARDLY LION — wants courage — must be afraid at all times.

    WICKED WITCH OF THE WEST — mean, wicked — angry, vengeful, obsessed with shoes

    The scene work with the Lion is the most consistent but for the other two, this is just amateur hour.  All the their introduction scenes will need to be recut along these lines. Remember, the audience is counting on us to give them the best story possible!

  • Star Wars:

    GETTING PRINCESS LEIA OFF OF THE DEATH STAR
    The plan to get Princess Leia out of cell block AA23 really could use a bite to further explain it. Maybe a fun graphic as well to help get the point across?  Give it a shot. Remember, guys, as storytellers, we need to tell the audience what exactly is going on at all times.  Otherwise, we are not doing our jobs.

    Please add an earlier pick up scene where Darth Vader explains the height requirements for soldiers on the Death Star.  Otherwise Leia’s line “Aren’t you a little short to be a stormtrooper?” doesn’t have context.

    We’ve been using a lot of orchestral music cues for a while. Let’s try switching it up here. Maybe hip hop? Or a Taylor Swift sound-alike? Check your music libraries and let us know if there’s a problem.

  • Mad Max
  • Batman
  • Inside Out:

    We really do like that Joy is our main character here. Her introduction is great and all, but with the arrival of each emotion into Riley’s brain, it starts getting confusing.  Yes, none of them look or sound alike at all and they each have a very distinctive personality, but we can’t assume that the audience can suss out who is who right off the bat.  So, let’s do a chyron pass and an intro package on each emotion. Sure, Anger says he’s anger, but if we throw in a lower third that says “Anger” when he’s on the screen, then the audience will know for sure!

  • The Hunger Games
  • Jurassic Park
  • Beauty and the Beast:

    I’ve never been fond of casting Belle; too bookish. (We should have gone more Megan Fox than Amy Adams, but I was overruled). Our research shows that our audience likes seeing women WITH books over actually LOVING books; the latter makes our target demographic feel dumb and unproductive.  And who wants that?  Let’s do an opening montage of Belle walking through her hometown where she explains who she is, where she lives and her interests (THEN show her reading a book for maybe 3 seconds).  This whole section can be trimmed down.

    Gaston has a great entrance. He is testing very well and we are big fans of his over here, so let’s set him up for success, shall we? Add in some very empathetic bites from him and La Fou about how much he’s loved in town.  That way, he can be great foil for Belle and not be so douchey. (Though a bit of douchiness is good; the affluencers in our demographic thoroughly enjoy tweeting about a lovable bad boy!) Recut Belle’s and Gaston’s confrontation where we tone him down some.  You guys, we need to protect our cast from themselves.

  • The Blues Brothers

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About the author

  • Andy Dehnart is the creator of reality blurred and a writer and teacher who obsessively and critically covers reality TV and unscripted entertainment, focusing on how it’s made and what it means. Learn more about Andy.

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