Friday, September 30, 2005

Reality Bites the Age of Innocence

I was talking with a friend yesterday about TV and she started her usual rant about how reality TV isn't really real. How events on ''Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County'' seem contrived. How there are too many coincidences--like when Stephen just happened to call Kristin while she and Roz were talking about him during the last ep.

She's now convinced that people behind the scenes pull the strings to make the stories on reality shows more interesting. Ya' think?

I've tried convincing her for years that unscripted TV shows were carefully positioned. Arranged. Carefully edited. Probably even rehearsed. That this practice of shaping a story for unscripted series was prevalent on TV since the '50s. It's not new. Just look at the big quiz show scandals.

But she has no patience for history nor stories that take longer than 30 seconds. My quiz show stories fell on deaf ears. I needed a good anecdote. Something short and to the point. I had nothing.

Until now.

I was doing some research in the archives of Time Magazine and stumbled on this great tidbit from September 23, 1957:
The M.C. of TV's ''Bride and Groom'' had a 'big surprise' for the groom last week, and he coyly let the audience in on it: he had corralled the bridegroom's best friend for a 'completely unexpected appearance' and was hiding him behind a screen offstage.

M.C. (to bridegroom): We tried our best to have him here, but we had no luck at all.
BG.: I guess he couldn't get off from work.
M.C.: Do you think he is watching this program now?
BG.: Yeah, I guess so.
M.C.: If he is watching, where do you think he is right now?
BG.: Well, if it's anything like rehearsal this afternoon, he would be sitting behind that screen over there.

Finally, an antidote for my anecdote. This story clinched it. She finally believes.

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