My brief experience with reality television has hardly been plain sailing since the cameras stopped rolling. From experience my view on reality television has changed somewhat since those five days of torture 5.30-6pm for a whole week watching myself on the box. Reality shows are a scar on our culture, they present us with the lowest common denominator of behaviour and intelligence, and require zero imagination or brains to watch. The thing is that there’s nothing “real” about them. Reality shows are carefully staged productions of filming clips cobbled up by the producers of the programme to elicit the most outrageous and humiliating behaviour possible from the participants. Humiliation is the key.
Rant over and now I have got that out of my system I though I would share a few thoughts with anyone who cares to listen about my ‘post-airing experience’ after being on the reality cooking competition TV show Come Dine with Me.
In hindsight the producers saw me coming, I recall the producers comments in my pre-filming application video “you’re great… this is perfect… brilliant… television gold”. I was the producers dream candidate: They lined them up and I hit them right out of the park. I have less-than-zero sympathy for those who seek the fame by applying for these things then complain. It shows a damaged ego and profound lack of character. If you put yourself through this then be big enough to reap the consequences. For the record, depression and paranoia are obligatory side effects of being on a reality TV show.
Watching yourself and even worse hearing yourself on television with modest viewing figures results in a desire to crawl into a cave and live there for the rest of your life, but don’t get me wrong it was an interesting learning experience….. I may even go as far to say, it has changed me.
Life in front of the TV cameras taught me that reality television shows are made up, even the ones you don’t think are made up, once you’ve been on one you can spot the flaws a mile off. Post-broadcasting I had a sudden realisation that I never want to be on a reality television show ever again. Not only is it a huge invasion of privacy, but you have such little control over how you are perceived.
Anyone reading this with an ounce of common sense will be thinking ‘What an idiot! Of course reality TV shows are scripted’. Yes I know this now and before, but watching the programme back the editing was so disjointed, I saw myself giving answers to questions that I hadn’t been asked and laughing and frowning at things I didn’t laugh or frown at. The dialogue and editing can frequently make something happen that never actually did. However, I guess it would have made for a very boring viewing without the editing.
When you sit down and actually watch yourself on television you can’t watch an episode without noticing small details relating to how the producers cobbled together a mosaic of actions and events off camera, unless perhaps you’re a media studies student with an assignment due in. For example, I now clearly see why we had to do numerous laborious random laughing, eating and mulling over shots.
Thankfully, Antiques Roadshow has filled the Come Dine With Me shaped hole in my life. I’ve no inside track on how that smart little show is made and, as far as I’m now concerned, that’s the way such things should stay. I can’t say I was a loyal fan of Come Dine With Me prior to filming.
My coming in at third place didn’t reflect the effort I put in, I looked after my guests off camera (and by that I mean hiding alcoholic drinks in obscure places as we were on limited measures for obvious reasons).
Even now on occasions late on a Friday night I find myself staring at the TV making casual disparaging comments about people in similar made up shows but its only after appearing on reality TV that I’ve considered how such comments may hurt actual people. When the programme aired, I bottled out of following the hashtag on twitter, I’ve never been on Facebook but thank god as I’m pretty certain I was the ‘posh bitter gay’. I won’t lie, I was scared to death about how people perceived me. People that know me know it didn’t even sound like me on day one and for the rest of the week I was just playing the game. It’s people that don’t know me that think I’m probably a bit weird!!!! I found out anyway what the Facebook brigade were saying about me thanks to work colleagues and other people on the periphery of my life. I’d like to thank my loyal follows on Twitter who defended me to the hilt, you know who you are. One such comment I quite liked and can share in less than 140 characters… ‘his culinary knowledge is actually quite arousing’.
A week appearing on national television will blow the wind right out of your sails if you ever had delusions of grandeur of yourself coming across as interesting, intelligent, nuanced or any of the above. That dynamic, mysterious and complex persona you might think you’re portraying will be cut at the stem leaving you with just one solitary characteristic, in my case the TWAT. The producer had me dressing up at a local fancy dress shop in 80’s gear, yep you got it sunglasses, moustache… My only saving grace was watching the programme, I observed how the other contestants got the same treatment. All were reduced into various caricatures that bore no great resemblance to the personalities I remembered from the actual experience. I thank the editing team as it could have been worse. I’m sure they could’ve just as easily spliced the footage of me to fit the profile ‘depressed paranoid psychopath’.
I am an extrovert, but equally I’m easily offended and like to be liked. I’m interested in other people’s views and feelings and would help anyone if it was within my power to do so. So that’s me done the only time you will see me dressing up and making a village idiot of myself will be on Twitter and Vine in less than 140 characters!