Fiddling with Reality in Reality Shows


I was a little surprised to find I was on “ABC World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer” Thursday night, for even a couple of seconds.

America’s leading reality TV blogger Andy Dehanrt noted that a few frames from a summertime discussion on the nature of reality TV that we had with producer Thom Beers was used in a report on the lawsuit filed this week claiming that Beers’ “Storage Wars” was scripted, and that they salted or planted treasures they found in the storage units that were bid on.
The June 18 panel, with Kate O’Hare of Tribune Media Services and moderator Damian Hoolbrook was nominally about the new National Geographic Channel show “America’s Lost Treasures” and was taped at Nat Geo’s headquarters here in D.C.
At one point, when O’Hare (who was strangely off screen for the entire interview) asked about rumors of planting items into “Storage Wars” lockers, said “Nope, I can honestly tell you that the stuff found in those containers are found in storage containers.”
But he added that “occasionally maybe one piece shows for one auction container” shows up in another, for storytelling purposes.
In the same clip, Beers talked freely about writing lines for reality subjects so they don’t have to hire an offscreen narrator. “I admit there is some writing involved,” he says.
“What I like about it is there is a little bit of a chance to make a more clever turn of phrase. So, in essence, there is some writing; it is a set-up.”
So you give them the line? I asked him.
“Oh yeah,” he answered. “Absolutely we will.”
Always? I asked. Or do you give them a chance…
“We come up with about half of them,” Beers said. “We say, ‘Look, we’d like you do say something like this.’ And then they go, ‘OK, this is how I’d say it.’ So we allow them to translate what we need to push the story.”
The funny thing for me is that I forgot about this whole part of the discussion (bad form to take notes during taping). That it may be part of the trial will be no more weird than the fact that it appeared on Diane Sawyer as well.

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