Reality TV Exploits Real-Life Drama — and Viewers Are to Blame

Everyone who’s ever watched multiple seasons of any given reality show knows that the producers are following some semblance of a script. Take the “Bachelor/Bachelorette” franchise, for instance. Each season features one set of archenemies that must ultimately endure a ‘dramatic’ two-on-one date. Sure, personalities are likely to clash when living in close quarters with strangers, but this level of conflict always comes around like clockwork. Throw in some whacky professions—such as Free Spirit, Chicken Enthusiast, and Tickle Monster, for example—and you’ve got yourself some entertainment value.

But, as viewers begin to grow weary of the tiresome cycle, producers have become desperate to spice things up now and then. When Kayleigh Morris of “Big Brother” was forcibly evicted recently, the star brought attention to how eager producers are to manufacture drama, even if it’s at the expense of the cast’s reputation.

Morris told Aisleyne Horgan-Wallace of The Sun that it’s “really frustrating, as I had so many happy times in the house, but only the bad parts were aired, which I guess is the nature of the beast, but still…” Reality TV surely offers an opportunity to achieve fame and fortune for those who maintain their dignity, but those who’re targeted as villains live on in infamy, nothing more.

Nothing, however, compares to the fiasco on the set of “Bachelor In Paradise.” While the summertime offshoot never garnered quite the audience of its parent series, producers have tried to up the ante each season by cultivating the most controversial cast members of seasons past. For the upcoming incarnation, Corinne Olympios (Nick Viall’s season) and DeMario Jackson (Rachel Lindsay’s season) were set to reprise their ‘roles’ for some fun in the sun. But, just days into filming, everyone was sent home so investigators could look into claims of sexual assault involving the two stars.

Prior reports claimed that both Olympios and Jackson had been drinking excessively throughout the day, and that an encounter may have taken place while Olympios was too intoxicated to consent. Since then, officials have concluded that no such assault happened, allowing the show to resume filming ahead of its August premiere date. Olympios retained representation in order to get to the bottom of this matter, while Jackson has been dealing with the ramifications of being portrayed as a rapist, guilty before proven innocent.

While I’m not one to disregard assault allegations, for I don’t doubt that there could’ve been foul play, I can’t help but wonder if ABC will use this incident to boost its audience—and viewers are to blame.

Essentially, viewers are the addicts and producers are our enablers. When excitement from the typical drama fails to satisfy our cravings, showrunners must find new ways to draw the audience back into the fray. Each hit must be more extreme than the one prior to ensure our satisfaction. We sit on the sidelines, complaining about how reality TV has gotten out of hand, yet we still tune in to gawk as the drama unfolds.

Of course, while I’d hope that this particular case wasn’t manufactured—for the sake of assault victims everywhere—I’m positive that ABC will use this story to lure viewers, old and new, as the premiere date draws near.

However, we have the power to condemn such exploitation, and doing so takes little effort. Next time you see a Kayleigh Morris-like outburst, just change the channel.


(This post originally appeared on Storia.)



We All Know Why They Announced the New “Bachelorette” Early

Fans of ABC’s “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” are accustomed to the formula by now. Producers allow the current season to play out. Then, shortly after the finale—sometimes during the ‘After the Final Rose’ broadcast itself—they announce that one of the show’s most recent rejects will headline the next season.

Of course, while current “Bachelor” Nick Viall wasn’t rejected by “Bachelorette” Jojo Fletcher, his two prior appearances on the show, plus his “Bachelor in Paradise” stint, made him the prime candidate. (Or ABC knew he’d never leave them alone unless they financed his own “journey” to find love—one or the other.)

Yet, despite causing much drama during both Andi Dorfman and Kaitlyn Bristowe’s seasons, Viall’s own adventures have been rather bland by comparison. ABC was probably banking on ratings gold, but even Chris Harrison can’t claim it’s the “most dramatic season ever” at this point.

That’s probably why ABC announced Rachel Lindsay will be the next “Bachelorette” an entire month before the finale—and long before her own “Bachelor” elimination, oddly enough.

When ABC revealed its choice, critics were thrilled that producers made this diverse casting decision. (She’s the first black lead in the show’s 20+ season history.) Bachelor Nation sighed one collective “FINALLY!” into the void, and that was that. But deep down, it’s not hard to see why ABC bucked tradition and made this announcement before Viall and Lindsay’s inevitable break-up: They wanted to boost Viall’s ratings!

By announcing Lindsay’s upcoming role before her exit this season, producers were able to redirect viewers’ waning interest from this season’s lackluster lead to next season’s groundbreaking star. Even those who’d become bored with Viall’s relatively by-the-book season gained renewed interest because they wanted to learn more about Lindsay.

Producers claim this announcement came earlier than usual in an effort to cast an exceptional array of men, but it’s obvious that they wanted people to invest in Lindsay’s “journey” long before those limos pull up in front of the “Bachelor” mansion next season. Viewers witnessed her heartbreak after the overnight dates and now viewers cannot wait to see Lindsay pursue love on her own terms.

ABC will do whatever it must to keep this stale series fresh. In this case, their strategy just might work.


(This post originally appeared on Storia.)

The Legalization of Prostitution

When Donna Summer “works hard for the money,” we think of nothing more than “bad girls” singing a catchy disco tune that gets us on our feet.  When we are reminded of Julia Roberts’ famous role as a hooker in Pretty Woman, we think of an unlucky woman just trying to pay the bills who gets lucky – yes, it has two meanings – when Richard Gere whisks her away and turns her into the classy gal we all knew was hiding under that platinum blonde wig.  But once we turn our heads back to reality, we realize that prostitution is hardly rewarded with gold records and shopping sprees, but two silver bracelets and a lovely orange jumpsuit.

Yet reality keeps trying to convince us otherwise.  (Forgive me, I meant reality television, not reality realty.)

All based upon the phony concept of “finding true love,” we find season after season of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette slathered across our TV screens because, in lieu of creativity, the TV powers that be think that watching 25 women throw themselves at a single man (and vice versa) is the new wave of entertainment. This love fest culminates in the dramatic outpouring of emotions and inevitable proposal, followed by the couple’s eventual separation, keeping misguided fans talking long after their 15 minutes are up.

And now, ABC has brought back past Bachelor and Bachelorette rejects in a new reality series, riding a wave that has quickly morphed into the tsunami of overkill.  If watching one man or woman flirt, kiss and reach near pornographic levels with 25 members of the opposite sex in just a number of weeks wasn’t sleazy enough for your viewing pleasure, the creators of Bachelor Pad have upped the ante, adding a $250,000 bonus as incentive in an already deceptive crowd.

Now, in Survivor-like fashion, these 19 contestants – 11 women and 8 men – will compete in various challenges.  The winner will then get to choose three members of the opposite sex to take on a date, one of which will gain immunity when the cast decides who should stay or who should go at the end of the episode.  (This is where I could begin an annoying and much too feminist rant on what the gender imbalance could very well imply, but I think you can all draw your own conclusions pretty well.)  Here, these lovely cast members play for love and money… but mostly money.  (Read this article by Entertainment Weekly’s Mandi Bierly posted earlier today for more information.)

They are, in a sense, selling themselves by using their sexuality and permiscuous nature to earn quite a large payout.  And while I do not want to sound overly judgemental, I do believe streetwalkers and gigolos use the very same tactic.

We will watch them fight, play, scream, cry and kiss all for our entertainment and their own monetary gain – porn for primetime television, if you will.  The only spark of reality that will ever gleam from this show is the hard truth that television continues to wane in the creativity department, while the viewing audience continues to gobble up this garbage, voluntarily demeaning themselves and nixing any chance for intellectual respect.  In fact, perhaps the biggest perpetrators are those who have unleashed such horrendous intellectual crimes on our culture, numbing our minds so we’ll never notice the atrocious programming they continue to slap in our faces.  Because if these shows and these contestants accurately represent today’s reality, then what they say about the world going to Hell in a handbasket really rings true.  Loud and clear.

(Photo courtesy of

The Good Ones Are Always Taken

They say you can’t hurry love.  (No, you just have to wait.)  Diana Ross, The Dixie Chicks, even Phil Collins – they’ve all sung the same story.  You simply cannot rush what is meant to be.  No matter what decisions you make to expedite the process, fate will ultimately make the final call and love (if that’s what it is) will find a way.

But on Monday night, the world witnessed the kind of fate that can only be orchestrated by a TV production crew, a swanky setting and a ridiculous concept. On ABC’s The Bachelor, Jake Pavelka (32) proposed to finalist Vienna Girardi (23), leaving Tenley Molzahn (25) a heartbroken runner-up. In a matter of weeks, Jake, a commercial pilot and former Bachelorette reject, weeded through the 25 women vying for his affection, narrowing his choice down to the two women that seemed to capture his eye the most. Despite his “emotional connection” with Tenley, Jake “shockingly” opted for the comfortable “physical chemistry” he felt between him and his new fiancé.

Having only confessed to Tenley the day before about his past tendencies to avoid the emotional and mainly seek the physical, Jake proved he truly does always head down the same relationship path every time by picking the woman least likely to remain committed. (Vienna was previously married for a total of three weeks.) The Bachelor does not have a great track record for successful relationships, in fact. Of the 13 seasons prior, none of the bachelors have married the woman they proposed to during the final rose ceremony. And though Jake seems convinced that his feelings for Vienna qualify as love, we have yet to see if their physical attraction will endure and lead to a happy ending, or if their time together will amount to nothing more than a fling fallen by the wayside like every bachelor since the show’s premiere in 2002. (Note: If all these men are such “amazing” guys, and considered to be “great catches”, why must they broadcast their last-stitch effort of finding a significant other on national television?)

Such a show brings into question exactly how one can find true love when their every move is being watched by the resident camera crew. With 25 women chasing after one man, one has to wonder if this is actually a single guy’s honest attempt to find the wife and soul mate he’s been searching for all his life, or simply one man living out his dream of having a harem. By the time the show reaches its final episodes, some scenes border on the pornographic; the ladies of the house need not worry about the resident bachelor ever kissing and telling, for we have already seen it all. But while he is testing the physical waters with everyone in the house, those women not solely in it for fame and fortune begin to actually fall for the man up for grabs, putting the saying “leading them on” in a whole new league of its own.

How, after watching the man you are falling for kiss and become intimate with a flock of other women, can you really feel special if you are the one he chooses? In the case of Tenley and Vienna, Jake was immensely conflicted up until hours before his proposal. True love is something you know and feel deep within, not a decision you make to appease a network’s allotted season. One may be able to find a potential life partner during these short weeks, but to end the season with a proposal is pushing the envelope. Love at first sight may be the culprit and exception to the rule, but with Jake’s tear-filled goodbye to Tenley, we know that is certainly not the case here.

Love is supposed to be a strong bond between two people, something not clouded by desire for another. If love is true, every member of the opposite gender will cease to exist in your eyes, leaving you to see only each other. Perhaps such love no longer exists in a world obsessed with speed dating and matchmaking sites; perhaps this assumption is simply a fairytale that now only exists in the movies. But such ‘happily ever after’ fantasies will never be found through a fast-paced, money-hungry reality television series, whether one relationship succeeds or not. But maybe – just maybe – if we slow down to peruse our bookshelves and take a few cues from our childhood storybooks, we will find the key to putting a little magic back into that little thing called love.