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The Truth Behind Reality Television

By Jessica Berardino
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Photo Credit: CBS

Photo Credit: CBS

(Source: NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) Mike Pintek
Mike Pintek loves Pittsburgh, but being a “D” student in geography...
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PITTSBURGH (NewsRadio 1020 KDKA) – Earlier this month, the reality television show, “Big Brother,” came under scrutiny as the 24-hour house camera exposed a white female making racial comments towards a black cast mate.

The Founder and Executive Director of Women In Media and News Jennifer Pozner was quoted in an article from the Associated Press as saying, “Why should we believe that you as a network did not get exactly what you wanted?”

Pozner is the author of “Reality Bites Back: The Troubling Truth About Guilty Pleasure TV,” but she really isn’t a reality television fan. KDKA Radio’s Mike Pintek agrees that he is guilty of watching reality television but not sticking with a show.

“No, I did as much research as a human being possibly can and be able to retain any brain cells,” said Pozner. “I watched about 10 years worth of reality TV from 2000 to 2010, probably more than 1,000 hours.”

She refers to reality television as “culturally toxic” and can’t support a genre that is doing more harm to the viewers. Pozner compares that a Big Mac tastes good but too much of it could rot your insides.

During her research, she discovered that in the 1990s television shows used to be more about the cast pulling from conflicts to understanding and resolutions. They would cast people with different lifestyles to bring more acceptance to other ways of living. But now people are cast because of their extremes, like bigotry, anger issues and depression in order to create drama.

“Shakespeare was drama,” said Pozner. “It’s easier and more creative to put people with known bigotry in to the same room and encourage the drama to happen.”

“It’s easier to cast people who will hate each other and soak that behind the scenes where producer’s ask specific questions with leading questions that you never hear on camera,” said Pozner. “Behind the scenes you take people with vastly different backgrounds and you put them in to a house, you give them very little food and a lot of alcohol, you often include sleep deprivation tactics and other behind the camera manipulation in order to create anger, hostility causing break downs and conflicts that viewers want to tune in to.”

Through her research, she discovered that some shows are like this, but really it’s a case by case situation. Some are very scripted and others are the typical “scripting” like memorizing printed words. Shows like “Curb Your Enthusiasm” have a plot but the actors improvise their dialogue.

Pozner describes what the reality television industry call “Frankenbyte.” This is where a cast member could have numerous conversations throughout a week, but the editor will take parts and piece together a whole new sentence to make the viewers believe you said.

“It’s a form of editing conversations together to make something that wasn’t there before,” said Pozner. “I can manufacture love where it doesn’t exist, hate where it doesn’t exist, I can make it seem like you’re tired or excited or angry, anything.”

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