On episode six of UnREAL, Rachel invites the abusive ex of cast member Mary to spice up the date she and her child are having with bachelor Adam. Things go (predictably) south when the ex becomes violent, tries to attack Adam, and, ultimately, has to be held down by Rachel’s ex, Jeremy the DP, and a random sound dude (I think). Sadly this kind of violence is all too common on Reality sets and, while I have never actually encouraged cast members to go at it, cast are well-aware that this makes for good TV so they tend to go there themselves (particularly if they’re wasted, which we generally ensure they are). The only thing that leaps out about the situation on UnREAL is the lack of Security. These days, we tend to have Security on hand for any brawls that might occur.
That being said, I strongly disapprove of these kinds of set skirmishes. Take this fer instance: I once worked on a show where a male cast member (drunk) was getting into it with a female cast member (drunker), and ultimately ended up grabbing her by the wrists and shaking her. This guy was built like a brick shithouse and had this woman by the arms and Security did not step in. Nor did they step in when the female cast member started saying (clearly to production) “He’s really hurting me, he’s really hurting me!” When the Producer on the ground tried to step in she was stopped by Security, who were hired by the broadcaster, because—they informed her—they are “trained” to know when to intervene. When I later relayed this little training factoid to the Producers around me we had to shoehorn our eyes out of the backs of our heads.
WTF is the kind of Security training doesn’t require that you help a cast member when she’s saying that she’s being hurt? Even setting that egregious error aside, what training provides you with the skill to know exactly when some drunken mess is going to pop off? How do you learn to read the intent to become violent? And even if you read that intent, how do you know where it’s going to go? Will it be aimed at the other cast members? Will it randomly involve someone not even connected to the show? Will it be focused on a crew member, as it was on Rachel when Mary’s ex went batshit?
Even if such “training” is plausible and you have well-trained Security on set, there is no way to assure that cast and crew are 100% safe (or even 90% safe). Drunken brawls are not controlled situations. How do you protect a cast member from getting struck with a stray fist that makes it between the muscled arm and bulky torso of Security? How is it possible for a camera operator to be safe, when the footage shows someone slamming into his lens? How do you protect a camera operator with Security, if that Security isn’t in front of his lens to stop someone from slamming up against it, when you can’t have security in front of the camera operators lens because, you know, footage. At least the sound guy doesn’t have a huge piece of metal jammed up against an eye socket. And yet a sound guy is usually lumbering around with shit-tons of equipment, making it hard to maneuver in the best of circumstances, let alone a fight.
The fact is that no one is particularly safe in these situations including members of the public who, while they may have tacitly agreed to appear on camera, did not tacitly agree to physical assault. These shows are accidents waiting to happen, and the fact that a major accident hasn’t occurred yet doesn’t make it permissible for so-called “adults” to continue to play the odds. Because that’s what they’ll do. And anyone who argues against them will be called a troublemaker.
Don’t get me wrong. I get it. These brawls make for amazing television. Sometimes, when you’re producing a fight in Post that doesn’t culminate in physical violence, there’s a sense of letdown. In the case I mentioned above, for example, we couldn’t include the male-on-female violence because it violated the broadcaster’s policies (although apparently letting it happen doesn’t violate their Security’s policy) and, as a result, the scene didn’t climax in a satisfying manner. An argument culminating in violence provides a release, it appeals to the part of us that would like to see a particular character smacked in the head. It appeals to our sense of Justice: we think they had it coming. But we really need to leave that shit to narrative TV. Because the Marys and Adams we work with, not to mention the Rachels, Jeremys, and Sound Dudes, are real people who can get hurt, and no great climax to some shitty scene is worth it.
#UnREALLifetime #BachelorABC #RealityTV #BadGirlsClub #SafetyForSarah