(Pictured: NOT my dad, but Mendeces from Love and Hip Hop New York)
Today I spoke to a college sociology class about reality television. One of the questions they asked was about how much is real versus what is produced, which got me thinking that it depends on the production company–as well as the network the show is produced for.
From what I see on Bravo, the “Real Housewives” seem to genuinely get into their scenes, sometimes almost forgetting cameras are around them. One could argue that they become more heated about interpersonal hiccups because they’re determined to give those cameras intensely “raw” emotions.
I don’t feel that same authenticity (that I personally sense with a show like Real Housewives of New York) with reality shows on other networks. My dad was once on VH1’s Love and Hip Hop and it seems, if you examine the footage, that producers were angling for a very dramatic reaction to a treatable diagnosis. It’s interesting to note that mom Yandy is wearing a leather jacket with spikes, definitely not my own OOTD for pediatric visits carrying babies. Also, spoiler alert, just so you are reassured: Her son is fine today.
I’ve watched other episodes of this show and the fighting between main cast members always catches me off-guard. I get the sense that a producer stands by urgently whispering into a cast member’s ear “Did you hear what she said about you? Are you really going to take that lying down?!” until they capture the fight that they deem just right.
Bravo’s Below Deck is another show, like RHONY, that I feel isn’t too heavily produced. It has the advantage of capturing people working and managing a ship with guests on board. The captain flustered with crew members, or a Chief Stew annoyed with the smart-mouthed deckhand, is relatable and understandable given the backdrop of a yacht with guests (and their own host of perplexing preferences, quirks and personalities) trying to run smoothly.
Whether other Reality shows are real or not might not even matter to you if you find the show to be entertaining. We all had a laugh in my family when my dad, an orthodox Jewish pediatrician wearing a yarmulke, made his reality TV debut as the “hip hop doc.” His patients and my family enjoyed seeing his face in the coming attractions, which not only aired during other VH1 shows, but on E! and during commercials on Bravo while my favorite (very) Real Housewives bared their souls and exposed their dirty laundry.
When one Housewife on RHONY ran to the pediatrician for her son’s hearing test, I appreciated the simple solid T and ragged jeans. That’s my own reality.
(Here’s that Love and Hip Hop clip: http://www.vh1.com/video-clips/ckkmpb/love-and-hip-hop-2-yandy-s-son-needs-surgery)