Confession: I’m a sucker for reality TV shows. I love the adventure of Survivor and Expedition Impossible; the artistry of MasterChef, Food Network Star, and HGTV Design Star; the mock value of True Beauty and America’s Most Smartest Model. I even went through a Bachelor/Bachelorette phase until Jason Whatshisface put me over the edge by proposing at the end of his season, breaking up with his new fiancée in front of a live studio audience on national TV, and then asking out the runner-up after the next commercial break. Maybe it’s the competitive aspect of these shows. Maybe it’s the ridiculousness of some (okay, nearly all) of the characters. I don’t know. But I just keep coming back for more.
As I was watching the final few episodes of MasterChef this week, I couldn’t help but notice some of the characteristic traits that are unique to reality shows, particularly in the way they’re edited and promoted. So I bring you the top 4 list of things that reality shows do that would be downright silly on a normal show:
4. Recapping the most dramatic parts of the entire season before every single episode. True, many other shows do a quick “previously on ___” to catch the viewer up on key plot points, especially if the show is about to revive a previously-dormant plotline. But the clips are selected based on the plot elements they reveal, rather than because they involve a high concentration of yelling, fighting, crying, or bleeped-out words.
3. Precapping the rest of the season at least once at the beginning, middle, or end of the episode’s air time. In an attempt to convince the viewers to watch the rest of the season, The Bachelor/ette parades every possible catfight scene, HGTV Design Star highlights clips of paint spills and furniture that won’t fit through the door. What if Grey’s Anatomy started flaunting all their upcoming breakthrough surgeries and one-of-a-kind patients?
2. Coming back from a commercial break and replaying the exact same footage from the last 15 seconds of the segment before the commercial break. In case you forgot, Chef Ramsay was counting down the final seconds of the Mystery Box Challenge while the contestants hurried to complete their soufflés. This is especially great when watching the show on Hulu when the commercial breaks are usually under a minute.
1. Previewing the most dramatic parts of the remainder of the episode before each commercial break. If normal shows followed suit, it might look something like this: “Coming up next on Law & Order: SVU . . . Benson and Stabler discover new evidence on the kidnapping case, but the ADA Cabot claims it’s not enough for a warrant. Will they find seven-year-old Tommy in time? What will happen when Elliot and Cragen go head to head? Find out. Next!”
What other reality-show-specific norms have you noticed?