“Reality” TV

By Matt Morr

Reality television shows are some of the most popular television shows because of how dramatic and entertaining they are.  Shows like “The Bachelor” and “The Jersey Shore” garnered many viewers because of those characteristics.  They’re so dramatic and entertaining that they almost seem scripted… but are they?  The simplest definition of a “reality show” is that it real, meaning that the producers aren’t intervening to create a story, and the cameramen and producers are just filming and letting the situations play themselves out.  But it’s also been revealed that both a lot happens behind-the-scenes and afterward in the editing room to craft particular stories.  Is it possible that reality shows are scripted?  When I say scripted, I mean the contestants are specifically told what to do so the show can be even more dramatic than it already is.  So, how much of reality shows is actually reality and how much is scripted or controlled?

Take “The Bachelor/The Bachelorette” for instance:  How much of it is actually reality?  Well, “The Bachelor” isn’t scripted, but it is choreographed sometimes.  Martha Sorren, who wrote about this, said “Producers console contestants who want to leave, suggest topics of conversation during one-on-ones, and let people know which portion of the date is best for the heavy stuff they want to talk about.”  Sometimes the producers will feed situations to the contestants, but whatever the outcome ends up being is completely in the hands of the people on the show.  The producers actually do make sure that the contestants have no interaction when the cameras aren’t rolling to make everything as real as possible.  This is a breath of fresh air knowing this because of how dramatic the show is.  This season, Corrinne seems to have a headline every week on the tabloids and on social media.  She told Nick (the bachelor) that she owned a multi-million dollar company even though she does not.  Another example of Corrine’s heinous behavior was when she interrupted everyone at a cocktail party, then was mad when she got interrupted.  Perhaps the most outlandish thing she did was when she missed the rose ceremony because she took a nap.  She justified it by saying that it was ‘okay, because Michael Jordan and Abraham Lincoln took naps too.’  Yup!  Whether it’s a surprise to you or not, she did not receive a rose just a couple weeks before the final episode.  Her antics made her a mini-celebrity and it made me wonder how much of it was the producers and how much of it was just her insanity.  

Corrinne’s mom was interviewed by TMZ recently, and she had some comments about both her daughter and the show.  She says, “the model’s aggressive behavior is all for show. She decided either you are two people that get remembered — the winner or the villain. Just like Chad [Johnson] and a few others in the last [shows

Image result for corinne
Corrinne & Nick in the pool

].”  She went on to say:

“She took it to the limits, most of it is fake.  Even when she decided to lose the top she had cover-ups on. When she was in the trench coat she had a bathing suit. It was all for TV. Reality TV and TV is very fake and you have no idea what they have cut out.”

These are interesting points that Corrinne’s mother, Peri, makes.  But does that mean it’s fake?  Corrinne’s behavior wasn’t scripted by the producers of the show, but by herself to make her stand out and be remembered.  And even what seemed bad on the show wasn’t necessarily bad, but rather a great editing job.  The show’s editors created the illusion that Corrinne was being naughty, even when she wasn’t going as far as people thought.  It wasn’t scripted, it was just edited.  That means the situations played out as they did, but some parts were cut out to make it more dramatic.  The situations remained the same, but the editing made it better, not fake.

After review, I’ve concluded that “The Bachelor” is NOT scripted, but it seems that way by the way the producers edit the show.  The show is not meant to look scripted, but the editing makes it more fun to watch.  That surprises me, as I really thought the producers had way more intervention than that.  

What about one of the most influential reality shows, “The Jersey Shore?”  Was this show scripted or was it just insane and maybe edited to make it seem even more dramatic?  There has been skepticism that “The Jersey Shore” was scripted.  An example of this occurring  is when Snooki “crashed the cast’s Fiat Multipla into a police car. The car she hit was the team’s own protective police escort, and witnesses said that, oddly, there was a camera crew on the ground (in addition to the crew tailing the car) at the precise location the crash took place.”  “They were traveling at a very slow speed and it looked like the car intentionally hit the police escort and then kept moving forward for no reason.”  Another time when “The Jersey Shore” appeared scripted was when the cast was working at the pizzeria, O’Vesuvio’s.  It was found out that the cast actually rented out the place for six weeks and any of the customers were hand-selected and had to sign an agreement.  Even a clerk at a tobacco store down the street from O’Vesuvio’s said that he was told it would be closed to regular business for six weeks.  MTV declined to comment on this, but they did suggest that certain elements of the show are “pre-arranged,” but “in general they are totally unscripted.”

Jersey Shore 1.png


One more example that I found comical was in a fight scene on “The Jers
ey Shore.”  It appeared that the scene was filmed
in multiple takes because in one frame
J-Woww has white socks on her feet, and later in the scene, they are gone.  This does not necessarily mean it was scripted (although it does appear that way), I jus

Jersey Shore 2.png
No socks!

t found that funny.

Certainly there are some reality shows that are completely unscripted,
but shows like “The Bachelor” and “The Jersey Shore” seem too dramatic, which  ultimately make them  feel scripted.  However, after reading multiple articles and sources, they are more real than I thought they were.  There may be some points where producers suggest ideas or intervene to make scenes  more intense or dramatic, but for the most part it’s real.  “The Bachelor” especially surprised me because I couldn’t find much evidence of it being scripted.  Is scripting reality shows a bad thing?  Not at all, but calling it a reality show may be slightly false advertising if it’s not all reality.  People crave drama and the producers know that.  Nobody wants to watch a boring show and the more drama there is, the more viewers there will be.  Producers giving input and tossing in situations just makes the show more entertaining.  It doesn’t mean it’s scripted, it just means the show becomes more fun to watch.

4 thoughts on ““Reality” TV

  1. I always wonder about reality shows like “The Bachelor” and “Jersey Shore”. What a throwback that one is, and the comical fight between JWow and Sammy was one of my all time favorites in the show. Reality shows definitely do require a lot of drama in order to attract viewers, otherwise they would not be as entertaining. The fact that everyone believes these drama filled scenes to be reality and not scripted plays into the amount of viewers they get. I personally always thought reality television was in fact reality, not scripted.

    Corrine is honestly a rare type of human, and she made me sick to watch. I could not stand watching her on “The Bachelor” because she is just extremely ditzy, and it is so unattractive. I feel as though she was almost too much, and kinda hurt the ratings. She was just extremely full of herself, and a complete embarrassment. I think that when we were younger we also may not have known better as to what was actually real or fake. Now that we are older, we can differentiate more between was is scripted and not, or do our research to find out. Great job on your blog, it was a great read.

    – Michael Sabatino


  2. While reading this blog it definitely made me think. I never watched much of “Jersey Shore” and saw “The Bachelor” for the first time this season and I always thought it was scripted. Corrine was my favorite character because of the fact she seemed as if she was acting as herself and not doing what anyone told her. The fact that her mother came out and said it was all fake is definitely a curveball.

    Reality television is one of the most popular kinds of television because of the fact that people can relate to the characters. Although they seem scripted because of the craziness, but maybe being in the close environments with random people for an extended period of time really does make the ordinary person act like that.

    Patrick McAvoy


  3. This blog was so relatable! Every time I watch a reality TV show, such as “The Bachelor” or even shows on Lifetime or TLC, I always wonder how much of it is real and how much is scripted. There’s so many times when a show is just so ridiculous that how can you not wonder how this could possibly be how these people really act and speak and think. However, I think TV would be boring without these shows. Like you said, nobody wants to watch a boring show. I think every show that is reality TV is so crazy and can get so filled with drama so fast. But, I think thats what keeps people coming back for more. People love drama, and not just when it comes to TV. I feel like our society feeds off of drama because of social media and all of the technology that we have. So for reality TV, whether its scripted or not, people keep coming back for more because of the drama. Nice job on this blog!

    Ally Noble


  4. I think you make some really good points as to how reality TV can be manipulated. I like how you used concrete examples on how “the bachelor” was edited to make it seem more dramatic and seem more scripted, while there are probably other things that go on behind the scenes I like how you used what family members of contestants said happened and contrasted it with what happened on the show to give more insight as to how it may have beeb manipulated. I’ve never really watched jersey shore so i cant comment much on that but overall I think your blog made some good points as to how editing can make or break a show and how audiences precieve a contestant and their decisions. overall i think maybe some of these editing choices like suggestions for what to talk about could be to make the show feel the same to loyal viewers from season to season in order to get ratings. overall i really enjoyed the blog.
    – Sarah Seero


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