“Reality” Television

There’s a program on the Lifetime network called Unreal that’s a spoof of reality programs like The Bachelor. The New Yorker magazine – yes, The New Yorker again, you really should give it a look – published a profile of the creator of Unreal that began in the following manner:

For three years, Sarah Gertrude Shapiro worked as a producer on the reality show “The Bachelor.” Her task, as she recalls it, was to get the contestants to “open up, and to give them terrible advice, and to deprive them of sleep.” She sees it now as “complicated manipulation through friendship.” To insure that intense emotions were captured on camera, she sometimes misled contestants who were about to be rejected. “The night they were going to get dumped, I would go to the hotel room where they were staying and say, ‘I’m going to lose my job for telling you this, but he’s going to pick you—he’s going to propose,’ ” Shapiro said. After the contestant left the set, disconsolate, Shapiro joined her in a limousine while the stereo played a song that the contestant had been primed to see as “ ‘their song’ for their love story with the Bachelor.” Shapiro kept jalapeños or lemons hidden in her jacket pocket—dabbing something acidic in her eye allowed her to cry on cue, which helped elicit tears from the contestant. “I’d have arranged with the driver to have the song play just until I got a shot of her crying—then cut the music so I could start the interview,” Shapiro explained. “They’d often tell us to drive up and down the 405 until the girls cried—and not to come home if we didn’t get tears, because we’d be fired.” In hindsight, Shapiro said, being fired “would have been a great solution to my problems.”

The Curmudgeon suspects that most of us know that there’s not much reality in reality television but he must confess that he never quite envisioned this much manipulation of the people/fools who appear on such programs.



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