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Reality Show: The Reality Show

In a Nutshell

Every week, a bunch of reality TV show editors are handed many, many hours of raw footage and they compete to see who can edit together the most compelling story.

If you work in reality TV, you're probably familiar with the term "Frankenbiting," a practice that involves mixing and matching random bits of audio and constructing an entirely new sentence. The example given in that Time magazine article I just linked to is from a show called The Dating Experiment. One of the contestants wasn't attracted to any of her suitors, which made for bad television. So the crew of the show got her to admit to loving something ("I really love Adam Sandler"), and then removed Sandler's name in editing and swapped it out for the name of the male contestant that the show wanted her to love.

Sandler was never an option.

I've talked to lots of reality show editors, because this is absolutely fascinating to me. This sort of thing happens all the time. Villains are created, feuds are manufactured and whole conversations are built out of random, unrelated words recorded across days and days. The film crews have literally hundreds of hours of raw footage and audio to work with, after all, so it probably isn't that hard to make your characters say almost anything.

Reality Show: The Reality Show would be a contest that focused on reality TV editors. Five teams of editors would all be given the same pile of raw footage of, say, a bunch of people living together in a house (or, in season 2, a zoo!). There is no immediately clear narrative in the footage -- it's just a bunch of people hanging out and talking, and it's up to each team of editors to edit together the most exciting and dramatic story by manipulating the footage using all of the tricks they've accumulated over their years of distorting footage.

"... splice in the CNN footage, fade ... annnd there. Snooki just orchestrated the Rwandan genocide."

It would be a fun deconstruction of reality TV because it would highlight better than any other show exactly how fake reality TV really is, plus it would be fun to see a bunch of wildly different stories all being told with the same material.

Why It Probably Won't Ever Be Made

Because at some point in the pitch meeting, someone will have to say, "You know all of the SEXY and EXCITING reality TV stars? This show would be about the hairy people who point cameras at them."

The Truman Show + Nightmares

In a Nutshell

A guy thinks he's just one of many contestants on a reality show, but he doesn't realize that everyone else is an actor. In the middle of filming season 1 of "the show," a zombie outbreak happens, and we see what this guy decides to do.

Back in 2003, Spike TV aired The Joe Schmo Show, a reality show about a bunch of strangers living in a house together (and getting real), with a twist: Every person on the show was a trained comedic actor following a script, except for one. This was a fake reality show with only one "real" person. It featured a young Kristen Wiig, Rickity Cricket from It's Always Sunny and the always awesome Ralph Garman as the "host."

Of all the shows in history, it was one of them.

The show was fun and a refreshing change of pace at a time when reality shows seemed to dominate all of television (a time I've come to refer to as "Forever, now, I guess"). As much as I enjoyed it, I do think it fell short, because at the end of the day, they were still just doing the tired old "bunch of people living in a house and stuff happens" bit. I say if you're going to make a (mostly) fake reality show, don't pull any punches.

That's where the zombies come in.

I don't want to watch a fake reality show that does a convincing job of looking like a real reality show; I want total anarchy. With this show, we have six people living in a house on some remote, tropical island. All of them are actors except for one, our Joe Schmo. The first few episodes will seem like a standard reality show (people hanging out in a house), but then weird things start happening. The reality show "contestants" lose contact with the creators of the show, then all of the phones stop working, and before you can say Sex House, zombies (or some other supernatural element) show up.

And now we get to see how our Joe Schmo reacts when he's faced with what he believes are actual, real zombies. The other actors would be around to make sure he didn't kill himself (or anyone else), but mostly they'd just watch things play out.

"... see? I knew it'd be a good idea to smuggle this gun out here."

I've seen how "real" people deal with lots of alcohol, and surviving on an island, and marrying millionaires. I have never seen a dramatic reality TV interpretation of an actual zombie attack. I want to see if an everyday guy could step up and become a hero if the situation called for it.

Also, selfishly, if this show ever gets made, I would like to be considered for the role of the guy who doesn't know he's on a reality show and gets a chance to totally John McClane all over some zombies. Just putting it out there.

Why It Probably Won't Ever Be Made

I think it's technically a kind of torture.

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"Stop Filming Me I Do Not Want to Be On This Show": The Show!

In a Nutshell

A camera crew follows a guy around everywhere, forever, even after he refuses to stay on the show.

This is definitely my most straightforward pitch. Step one is getting a guy to agree to be on a reality show. So he'd sign all of the waivers that grant permission to a TV crew to follow him around, and then you drive him crazy. It's, admittedly, more of a sociological experiment than a reality show.

"Hey! Is this a date? Does this girl have anything to do with all those Valtrex bottles we found in your garbage?"

The thing about most reality shows is that all of the people who go on those shows WANT to be seen. They want to be on TV, they want some vague notion of fame and they specifically want to be known for what mostly equates to bullshit. I'm sick of watching those people drink and fart around on my television; I want to see someone else, because the kind of person who doesn't want to be a famous reality TV personality is infinitely more interesting to me than the kind of person who does.

Also, once the guy realizes that the film crew won't stop filming him even after he's said he no longer wants to be a part of the project, the show then becomes about this guy's desperate attempts to evade a highly skilled film crew. It's like a reality show about people chasing after Bigfoot, except we KNOW that our guy is real.

"He's screaming and running toward us with a hatchet, make sure to get that!"

Why It Probably Won't Ever Be Made

I am certain that this is illegal.

Celebrities Being Useful

In a Nutshell

Dimwitted celebutantes must perform selfless and creative acts of kindness and charity (or, alternately, invent something that will help humankind), or they get kicked off the island or whatever.

There are only three different kinds of reality TV show: 1) people live in a house and do bullshit together; 2) people have interesting jobs that most other people know very little about; 3) horrible celebrities are horrible all the time. I understand why the first two breeds of show are popular, but I'll never totally understand why we're supposed to be entertained by famous people who are only famous for being reality TV stars. There's a chicken/egg thing happening that I'll never fully grasp. One day I'm going to have to explain to my grandkids why I know who Paris Hilton is, and every time I practice that conversation in my head, I sound like an idiot.

"You see, she's very RICH. She's not a porn star, but at one point she had sex with a guy who ALSO wasn't famous, and it was a HUGE DEAL, because they filmed it, and I got to see it. Is- does that clear anything up?"

I'm sick of parading a bunch of people around who are famous for being famous and calling it entertainment. I've never been to Kardashia, so I don't know a whole lot about the swarthy, terrifying, Amazonian women it produces. I just know that they are all 60 percent butt, have a pathological inability to stop partying and will wilt if they're not on television for longer than two months.

"One of them also had sex with somebody else on camera, and it was also a big deal, but no, she's not a porn star, but yes, it still made her famous somehow."

So let's take advantage of these celebutantes' needy desire to be on television. Put them on a reality show where, every week, they either need to perform some incredible act of charity or they need to invent something that will change the world, and if they don't, they get kicked off the show and they won't be famous anymore. It's as simple as that. A reality show where the challenge for the cast of Jersey Shore isn't "Try to hold down a SIMPLE JOB FOR MORE THAN FIVE HOURS," it's "Fix global warming."

Why It Probably Won't Ever Be Made

It turns out celebrities aren't actually good at anything.

Daniel O'Brien is Cracked.com's senior writer (ladies), and has a lot of innovative ideas for either reality TV shows or reality sex tapes (TV executive ladies). Follow him on Twitter. Or stop by the LA Convention Center September 15 and 16 for Stan Lee's Comikaze, where he and the rest of the Cracked.com gang will be hanging out all weekend long.

For more from Dan, check out Proof That Porn Stars Are Smarter Than Most TV Executives and What The Fuck Happened to TV?.

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