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What every reality show contestant should know

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My friend Warren writes for reality TV shows. He's penned plot twists, unexpected outcomes and judges zingers for Hell's Kitchen, The Mole, The Bachelor, Top Chef and many others.

Come on, you didn't think these shows were ad lib did you? While the contestants may not have to memorize all their lines, they are certainly guided and prodded. Plus, if things aren't going well, the writers help spice up the mix.

I asked him for a few pointers for those perspective contestants out there. He gave me 10 suggestions. I hope it helps you cause I'm sick of watching they same idiots do the same stupid things.

Here's a list of 10 things perspective reality contestants should know...


10 One of your fellow contestants is a plant, a fake, or a "mole." His or her job is to sabotage things and stir things up.


9 Be a good teammate. If you make it to the final two, there's a very, very good chance that the last challenge of the show will focus on you working with the people who were cut before.
Be an asshole and they won't rally to help you.


8 If you plan to do something outrageous, something to get press coverage or gets you 15 seconds of fame, don't do it in the first weeks. Wait a bit, so the network has a chance to hype your stunt and you get a chance to build your character. It may help you stay around a few weeks longer.
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7 Dignity Alert: Remember everything you say and do will be recorded. The goal of a shows producers is to get you so caught up and stressed that you forget that you had a life before the show. Getting you to fly off the handle, commit adultery, get drunk and do something stupid makes better TV. So unless you plan on apologizing for years to come, try to keep your wits about you.


7a Furthermore: Interviews, confessionals and anything you say to camera by yourself may be edited and shown out of order. Something you may have said in week 1 may be shown in week 8 to forward tension. So watch the interview room as well.

(Warren says, be yourself to a point. It might be better to act like Ari Fleisher than Oprah.)
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6 People form alliances. Being part of one is much better than being alone.


5 If you're going to talk back to the panel of judges be witty not smarmy. First off, they partly decide your fate (although the producers have the final call.)
Second, judges can alwaysl go back and record a better come back, if you get one over on them. Remember, the judges can never be made to look stupid. They are the experts cause they have been picked to be. They bring star power. You are the props. Be gracious, even in failure.


4 If you got boobs, use 'em. Some cleavage can be your friend. Especially if America is helping pick the winner. (Just ask Carrie Underwood.)
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3 If there is a call from home, something is wrong.
Real Show producers know everything about you and they will keep tabs on your family life since it's hard for you to do so. If you are allowed to call home or suddenly get a call, chances are it's time to push an emotional button. They can fill 1/2 an episode on a sick kid, death in the family, etc.


2 There's a good chance that many of the people on the show with you are mentally unstable.
When choosing contestants, reality show producers like to get a nice mix of "interesting" personalities. They will do their homework and conduct psych exams to know what buttons to push. Alcoholic parents, drug addiction, attempted suicide, sex issues, the more screwed up your are, the more interesting someone is to cast.


1 Sleep is your friend. So are power naps. Get sleep whenever you can.
Reality shows have small budgets and they are usually filmed in a matter of weeks. Production schedules are tight and so there's lots to get done. You, the contestant, are the guinea pig and are at the beck and call of the production team.
This means long hours, nights and weekends. Oh, it also happens that when people are sleep deprived they have shorter fuses. That makes good TV too. Just watch any episode of The Apprentice for proof.


Good luck out there. Try not to make a fool out of yourself.

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2 Comments

This is a great list, Baierman -- should be required reading for any potential reality TV auditioners. I don't think too many of them realize just how much manipulation can be done in an editing room.

One that I would add for people trying out for American Idol in particular: for the love of God, DO NOT audition with "Over the Rainbow," "The Star Spangled Banner," or "I Will Always Love You." It's pretty much a given that you will not hit the right notes.

said Jeem on February 2, 2009 2:40 PM.

Good points. Damn Carrie U has a nice, healthy looking, (real?) chest. Yes she does....

said E on February 2, 2009 7:50 PM.
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