Episode 4 of UnREAL ::SPOILERS AHEAD:: heads into new territory with Rachel committing to both a better wardrobe (yay) and her job. Also, instead of spending her time fucking over cast members (in every way ever done on any Reality show ever), on this episode Rachel tackles nothing more sexy than set decoration. Turning some shitty location—in this case bachelor Adam’s vineyard—into something presentable both to the damsels he’s courting and the discerning home audience… now, that’s real. It is far more common (and infuriating) for Producers to spend time dressing up a location than taking down the cast.
The fact is, Producers don’t have to waste time manipulating blowups and breakdowns on Competition Reality (into which genre UnREAL’s Everlasting would fall); the production model does it for us. You see, a Competition Reality set is a prison and the cast the prisoners. This scenario alone is far more effective at lighting fuses and pulling triggers than we ever could be.
Say, for instance, you’ve been cast in The Bachelor. Now, just getting to this point has been a full-time job, involving detailed applications, shooting, editing and submitting a casting reel, taking a screen test, and consenting to a psych eval. By the time you made it onto the show you’d committed so much unpaid labor to achieving your goal that you were in it for the long haul (more about this later). After all, you’re well on your way to winning a millionaire’s hand in marriage!
Farewell to small town fetters: your shitty apartment; your family (who, let’s face it, never quite got you); and your Yorkie named Boo, and Hello to your handsome future husband; a made-for-TV mansion; and 20 or so other bitches cast specifically to piss you off. You blithely surrender your phone, computer, ID, credit cards, and money upon coming into our custody (that’s the actual term), effectively severing all contact with the outside world and—literally—shedding your identity. For the next six weeks (give or take) we decide where you live, and when or if you can eat, sleep or take a shit.
For the next six weeks you are constantly observed by cameras, fellow cast members, Producers, or Cast Wranglers (who live with and monitor the cast). Privacy exists solely in the toilet (provided we’ve given you permission to go) but even there, if you leave your mic pack on, we can hear you weeping. And weep you might. Whereas on a show like Housewiveswe may shoot 12 hour days, on Competition we can shoot anywhere up to 24 hours a day. The niceties of a meal break every 6 hours doesn’t apply, especially when you’re shooting 12 episodes in six weeks.
A typical day begins at 6 am when we arrive to shoot house reality. By 8 you’re lined up to learn about the day’s challenge. The challenge is shot from 10 am to noon. You learn if you’re a winner/loser from 1 pm to 2, then it’s on to the next challenge and so on for 14 physically and emotionally grueling hours (because who actually revels in being literally judged on a daily basis). After that it’s back to the cast house to shoot more reality. And then to bed? You wish. Nights are when we often have to shove in interviews, which accounts for most of the explosive shit that comes out of people’s mouths. Who can blame you? By day three you’re pretty much delirious/belligerent constantly.
Consider who you’d become if you were confined for 24 hours a day with people deliberately cast to rub you wrong; if you slept on average 4 hours a night; if you were away from anyone who gave two shits about you; if you worked all day every day and every other night were liquored up and lined up to be judged by some douchebag with roses. Would you lose your mind? Become a Bitch? Whimper like a Whiner? Display emotions that can be interpreted as Needy? Congratulations: you’ve just become The Bitch, Whiner or Needy Nelly of the season. (We don’t do subtlety on Reality TV).
Once you wake up to the – ahem – reality of your situation, why do you choose to stay? (And stay you will, like nearly every other prisoner without whom the networks would have no ratings.) There’s that time you spent getting here in the first place, when your family said you were nuts to try and your friends suggested you should just stick to your career… There’s that Appearance Release you signed, too. Don’t you have to legally compete until you are eliminated, no matter how unhappy you may be? (Um, no, but don’t let us disabuse you of that misconception.) Finally, and most disturbingly, you will stay because doing what you’re told becomes a habit. You accept the role of prisoner. (In fact, Jan de Bont, one of the creators of Big Brother cites the Stanford Prison Experiment as inspiration for that show.)
The question, though, is not only why you accept your role as prisoner. Rather, it is why we Producers so readily accept our role as your guards. Oh, and also, where can I get my hands on that leather Rachel’s wearing?
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