The Latest Real Housewives of Orange County Spat and the Reality of Fights

Much has been made of the recent Real Housewives of Orange County fight that took place on a bus touring Ireland, with most of the Twitterverse seeming to take sides against Kelly Dodd. Case in point:

Now, I didn’t see the RHOC fight in question, but having worked on many shows featuring fights, I feel obliged to point out how a fight plays out on a Reality show is often quite different from how it played out in reality.

Because someone’s motivation for getting in to a fight, who the aggressor(s) are, or even what is being fought about, is often quite different from what ends up in the episode. Often drastically so.

For the following reasons:

1. Despite appearances to the contrary, crews do not shoot with Docusoap cast members 24 hours a day. Ever.

EW and Vulture got their knickers in a twist about how shamelessly the crew let them down by not getting footage of a lead up fight to the one on the bus, with Vulture saying:

[…] how, logistically, is it possible there is no footage? […] The point of this trip is to film these women 24 hours a day.

However, if Vulture is perturbed about this they should perhaps not blame the crew as they did at the top of their article…

[…] it is hereby declared that everyone associated with the Real Housewives trip to Ireland — every producer, story editor, assistant, camera editor, location scout, craft-services provider, hair-and-makeup engineer, wardrobe supervisor, and whoever is in charge of Shannon’s trunk of supplements and Eastern remedies — is fired.

… they should, instead, take their complaints to Bravo!, whose notoriously stingy budgets determine the shooting schedule.

Or, their complaints could be targeted towards the cast themselves. Once a cast has achieved a certain level of notoriety, as the ladies on RHOC have, they tend to severely limit how long we can shoot with them.

So, shit happens off camera sometimes and the show is forced to figure out a way to tell the story anyway.

2. Sometimes Production knows about something that would cause a fight  but the cast members themselves are unaware of it. Production then “produces” the fight.

The famous Real Housewives of New Jersey fight that culminated in Teresa’s table toss, was clearly a fight incited by producers. I don’t work on the show, so consider the following my hypothesis of what probably happened:

Knowing that Danielle Straub had a criminal history, producers ensured that a book saying so landed in troublemaker Jacqueline Laurita’s hands. Jacqueline, as the producers no doubt intended, confronted Danielle with this information at a dinner hosted by Teresa Giudice. An argument ensued that somehow culminated in Teresa performing her famous table toss.

However, even in a produced fight things can go in strange directions. For instance, I very much doubt producers knew going into shooting the finale that Teresa, who had exactly zero stakes in their produced fight, would toss the table, or that Danielle would say something just snotty enough to trigger Giudice’s intellectual insecurities. But – fun! – it happened!

3. Sometimes the fight is about Production itself.

There are a few ways Production could have inadvertently caused a fight to occur (so, not a produced fight but a production-induced-this-would-never-be-an-issue-in-real-life fight).

A cast member might perceive another cast member as getting preferential treatment from production, triggering a fight. A cast member might take offense at something said in an interview on an earlier episode, triggering a fight. Or a cast member might be angry at production and act out while the cameras are rolling, which can be edited to look like a fight.

In all of these cases we attempt to situate the fight within the reality of the show rather than making any reference to production itself. Thus in the edit, with the assistance of interview bites and a form of faked dialog called ADR (automatic dialog replacement, AKA dubbing), we attempt to portray the fight as a dispute between two cast members (usually cast members that have some bad blood to begin with) regardless of who it was really between or what it was really about. Oddly enough, cast members seldom seem to realize themselves how such fights have been reframed.

So, all I’m saying is: Don’t go getting so passionately enraged at Kelly. Or Vicky. Or Yolanda. Or Teresa. Before you stab out your #IStandWith… tweet, remember that this is entertainment and about as real as wrestling.

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