Are TV game shows rigged

How Real Are Reality TV Shows?

When Jason drove Melissa for Molly on the After The Final Rose show based on ABC's The Bachelor, it wasn't just Melissa who smelled a rat. Many viewers reacted like they'd gotten caught up in a reality TV Ponzi scheme. The blogosphere was thick with hot-blooded comments, mostly with the word "manipulated".

When Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak was still dancing on “Dancing with the Stars”, he said in a Facebook post: “The producers play games to get viewers and don't reveal the (voting) numbers. If they reveal the numbers it would be less of a game but still suspicious. If they say tomorrow that I'm on the bottom two dance teams, including the audience votes, I think that's an outright lie. ”

Wozniak ended up in the bottom two, but by then had gone back, calling himself a "heel" and a "loudmouth" and apologizing for questioning the show.

But the seeds of discontent in reality have already been planted, sprinkled, raised to full growth and exhibited. Perhaps only shy optimists believe that reality shows are in full swing; On the other hand, it is perhaps only the most suspicious conspiracy theorists who believe that every detail is planned as meticulously as an episode of "CSI".

But there might be a middle ground that most closely resembles the semi-improvised “Curb Your Enthusiasm” in which a sketch is prepared for a plot, but where to go from there no one can guess.

"Of course, reality TV is a very rigged format that puts real people in unrealistic situations to create a story," said J. Rupert Thompson, a director and producer who includes "Big Brother" and "Fear Factor." “Under his credits.

“Once you get into an unreal situation,” said Thompson, “you could argue that it's a script because the situation is created by the producers. What makes it so compelling is that you never know what a real person will react to an unreal situation. That's why you get such great things on reality TV. ”

But do the viewers care if their shows have been artificially amplified, for example?

"I think there are both types out there," Thompson said. “I think some want credibility and some just want to be entertained. I think the educated viewer knows what reality TV is and what it has become. ”

Call it "partially scripted television"

Ray Richmond is on a crusade. The longtime television critic for the Hollywood Reporter, who now blogs about entertainment and pop culture on manbitestinseltown.com, said he had tried - so far, unsuccessfully - to change the term “Reality Television” to “partially scripted television”.

"It started with the first of the new generation of reality that was (1992)‘ The Real World, "said Richmond. “While“ The Real World ”is not fully prepared, attendees have claimed that producers are interfering - denied by all parties - to stir the pot and add to the soap conflict.

"The editors have grown into new storytellers who alter the sequences and flow of events and contextual elements to create a story that is radically different from the story," says Richmond. "And as more than one person pointed out, is it possible for people on Survivor to starve to death when there is a junk food-laden craft table out of reach of the camera?"

But is it important? Among the top 10 shows in Nielsen ratings for the week of March 23-29, two installments of "American Idol" and two of "Dancing With the Stars" ranked in the top six. Of course, people watch, despite the unrest about what is real and what is not.

Some parts are real: Nobody dances for Steve-O

"I think people don't care if their favorite show has been rigged," noted Lynette Rice, television in charge of Entertainment Weekly. “Every year, fans of Dancing with the Stars threaten to boycott the show because they feel that ABC manipulated the votes and won the wrong D-level dancer. Even so, viewers still turn up in droves because if so, there aren't any producers out there manipulating Steve-O's legs while he fox trots. He does everything himself.

"Not everything about reality shows can be manipulated."

Still, Richmond remains very skeptical. He feels that despite the popularity of reality shows, a bill of materials is being sold to the public. If he's right, expect more controversy.

One came up recently when the New York Daily News ran a story claiming that the four finals on “American Idol” had already been selected by the judges (meaning the audience vote meant nothing).

That story appeared to have been refuted just a week later when Alexis Grace, a candidate listed among the supposed final four, was eliminated, but the controversy lives on. Commenting on the Daily News story, one reader wrote: “Of course, Alexis was voted out. According to this article, American Idol voted them out. "

Richmond does not see things any less bleak in the future. “We can expect more and more reality shows to be written, albeit unofficially,” he says. “It is important to remember that almost no one involved in these shows will ever recognize the wizard behind the curtain. There is almost an element of collusion by everyone or a code of silence to never allow the pot of gold to go away.

"What they're doing on these shows is taking a core of the facts and building a layered fiction into the shape of truth and actuality," said Richmond. “This results in a product that is not only mislabeled, but also insincere and deceptive. ”

But the reality TV police don't stop, fans tune in, and studios and production companies continue to loll around Moolah.

And Entertainment Weekly's Rice doesn't see reality TV going away anytime soon.

"The bottom line: Reality shows - especially the gold standards like" Survivor "," Amazing Race "," Dancing with the Stars "and" American Idol "remain more popular than ever because a) nobody can come up with better ones, and b) a lot scripted TV out there just isn't that entertaining, "she says." Until someone creates a really good comedy that makes me laugh more than I did at ‘The Bachelor’, I'll keep going in the best rose ceremony ever! "

Michael Ventre is a frequent contributor to msnbc.com