April 19, 2004, 7:01 am
Filed under: uncategorized

As sort of a follow up to my article over on Next-Wave this month, one of the things that has always struck me about the whole “reality” TV genre is what a mediated reality it really is. The creator and executive producer of Survivor and The Apprentice, Mark Burnett, won’t even discuss “reality TV”, but insists on the term “unscripted drama” when discussing his shows. Notice that he says “unscripted” and not “unedited”. Major, major difference. It’s not just that some of the things we see on the show – the conflicts or romances or whatever – seem to be artificially staged, but also that the things we aren’t seeing in the final shows is frequently more true than what we do see. Now, obviously, nobody would watch Survivor if they didn’t edit out what happens most on the show – a group of hungry, dirty, tired contestants flopping around on the beach bored for hours on end, waiting for the next challenge. But the way the shows are edited actually alters the reality contained in them. Certain players are portrayed as cunning, while others are portrayed as innocent. Even in the non-competetive shows, the editing is extensive. If those guys that build the funky motorcycles weren’t yelling at each other at least a couple of times in each episode, it wouldn’t be nearly as fun to watch, but are we really to believe that life around the shop is really that intense constantly? If that’s the case, then we’d likely see more visits from the local law enforcement team on the show.

Anway, with that as a backdrop, I just saw a little article in the local paper about the new reality TV series that debuts tonight on A&E – Family Plots. Its a show that follows a family run mortuary. As it turns out, it’s a mortuary in the San Diego area – one that I’ve worked with on several occasions. I know these people – not very well, mind you, but when I’m having coffee at the Starbucks closest to their business and they stop in, they always greet me – the director, in particular . . . “Oh hello, reverend. It’s so nice to see you again. I know I always say this, but you have the greatest glasses.” That always creeps me out. These people are the only ones that have ever addressed me with the title reverend. The last time I saw them, I was wearing a surfer sweatshirt, a baseball cap, and my eyebrow ring, and they still recognized me and greeted me, “Good morning reverend.” “O.k., really, STOP CALLING ME THAT!”

They’re nice enough folks, and I’ve had pretty good experiences with them. I will say this, though – if my experiences with them are consistent with what the cameras catch on tape, this may be an interesting show. They’re a bit quirky. Good folks, but definitely quirky. The show is on a little late for me, but I’ll tape it. It’ll be fun to see how my reality compares with A&E’s.


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