A commentary on watching reality TV in general, and The Bachelorette 5, in particular
Yes, I do think it’s too much to ask that “reality TV” be real. However, the good news is, that if you approach reality TV with the right attitude, you can enjoy it and have fun, even if it isn’t as “real” as the producers of the show would like you to believe.
I gave the answer above (or something like it) to the question posed by the title of this article, asked by a poster on Joker’s Updates. However, the poster’s question was longer than that, and so was my answer. So, the rest of this article is pretty much the answer I gave the poster to her further questions. (However, just like any reality show producer, I edited my original posted answer to make it “better.” :->)
The original question, was essentially the following (text in italics added by me): “First Jason dumps Melissa in front of millions (referring to Jason Mesnick ending his engagement to his fiance Melissa Rycroft on the finale of Bachelor 13); then the Donald (Trump) picks that horrible woman (Joan Rivers) as the Apprentice; Gilles (Marini) doesn't win Dancing With the Stars, and Adam (Lambert) loses on American Idol. Add to that the fact that (on the May 18 season premiere of Bachelorette 5) nearly all 30 of the men just seemed awful. Really cocky, arrogant, self-serving, etc. I understand the need for good TV but I'd rather see someone romantic with a good heart and fun spirit like Ryan (Sutter, who married Trista after Bachelorette 1) than some pompous *ss who wants to be on TV. I was so disappointed with the first episode of (of Bachelorette 5). I really want reality TV to be real...is that so much to ask? LOL.”
And, I posted the answer above—Yes, I do think it's too much to ask that "reality TV" be real.
In the case of Bachelorette 5, I think it may be too much to ask that the producers to give us 30 fun, nice, real guys like Ryan on Bachelorette 1. But, that's okay. Trista got some losers among the 25 men she was offered to choose from on Bachelorette 1, but she didn't need 25 great guys--she only needed one. Trista was wise enough to choose quiet Ryan over fan-favorite Charlie. And, Jillian Harris (the new Bachelorette on Bachelorette 5) only needs one great guy, too.
The ending of the last season of the Bachelor generated a lot of controversy when Jason ended his engagement to his first choice, Melissa, on national TV, and then, about 15 minutes later, told Molly, his second choice (that he had dumped earlier on the finale) that he wanted to get back together with her. Within a very short time after dumping his fiancé, Jason was swapping spit with Molly, something that a lot of America (including myself) thought was cruel and tasteless to do on primetime national TV. Although Jason took responsibility for his actions, it was clear that he had been heavily influenced by the producers to end his engagement with Melissa on TV. There were even rumors that the entire Bachelor season had been scripted from the beginning, although I think that, in the end, those rumors have been mostly dismissed.
People were not only outraged, but disillusioned. Viewers tune into The Bachelor looking for a real-life romance, and they felt like they’d been “had.” After that fiasco, how could anyone know what to believe on “reality TV” anymore? As reality TV has grown, it has become "big business" and virtually every reality show is much more about ratings and drama than about "reality." But, can we really expect anything different? There is big money involved here, and reality TV producers believe (rightly or wrongly) that they know what the fans REALLY want to see, and they provide it for them, whether or not it has any resemblance to “reality.”
However, I'm not convinced that "reality TV" has really gotten worse over time--it's just that there are more "reality" shows now than in the past. Just to name one of many examples, from the beginning of the reality show Survivor we heard stories (whether true or not) that the producers had tried to influence how Survivors voted, and the producer of Survivor admitted that, on Survivor 2, the show reshot scenes using staff members wearing identical swimsuits as the contestants. So, maybe, "reality TV" has never been "real"--even in the beginning.
So, I'm not sure true “reality TV” ever existed, and I definitely don't think it exists now. Reality TV producers like to call it “unscripted” TV—but It might be more realistic to call it "less scripted" or “partially unscripted” TV.
The reality show Big Brother should be the most realistic show of all, since it has a camera feed that (in theory, at least) is shown on the Internet 24/7. However, Big Brother producers have admitted that each “Houseguest” has a story editor, and frequently, the TV show seems to bear little resemblance to what we have seen on the Internet live camera feeds. Also, we have heard from past contestants (and from times when the people in charge of the Internet feeds have accidentally transmitted HG remarks), that HGs are influenced by producers off-camera.
Back to the Bachelorette. We also know from the remarks of past Bachelor/Bachelorette contestants that they are influenced by producers to say and do certain things. The producers don’t even bother to hide some of this “scripting” as those of us who have watched multiple seasons of The Bachelor/Bachelorette can attest. There are “pet phrases” of the producers such as “my journey on the Bachelorette” and “I’m looking for a fairytale ending” that show up season after season. We also know from past contestants that their remarks have been edited to make them say the opposite of what they originally said. So, a bachelorette might say something like, “He’d be the last guy I’d want to marry,” but we’d see her on the show saying something like, “He’d be the guy I’d want to marry,” an easy editing trick just by cutting out one word.
The vast majority of television viewers don’t follow The Bachelor/Bachelorette closely on the Internet, so aren’t aware of the heavy editing of the show. And, even those of us who know about all the editing tricks the producers play, including myself, find ourselves believing what we see on the TV.
So, I had a similar reaction as the original poster to the premiere of Bachelorette 5—I thought that a lot of the bachelors chosen for Jillian seemed like real losers. (Although, I, personally, thought there were some potential winners in the bunch, too.) But, I also know from watching past premieres of the Bachelorette that it is virtually impossible to tell what any of the bachelors are like based on the first episode. The producers of the show like to emphasize “drama” in the opening show, assuming (incorrectly, I think) that the drama is what will keep people watching. Unless the people who post on the Internet are completely different from the rest of TV audience (which I don’t think they are), viewers tune into the Bachelor and the Bachelorette as much for romance as they do for drama.
To cut the producers a small break, as the Bachelorette becomes better known, it may be harder for the producers to find guys to come on the show truly looking for romance, as opposed to using the show as their opportunity for some TV “air time” to further their show business or other career.
I also know from past Bachelorettes that there have always been at least SOME guys on every season who seemed real, and seemed like nice guys looking for love. From Bachelorette 4, names of apparently “nice guys” like Richard, Fred, and Brian come to mind (and I know there were others that I'm forgetting right now). DeAnna Pappas (on Bachelorette 4) did not pick these particular guys because, to name only two possibilities--1) during the show DeAnna didn't necessarily know what she wanted (or needed), and 2) what it turned out DeAnna wanted was a show business career, and that didn't fit with the long-term goals of any of the guys I named above.
However, I am cautiously more optimistic about the upcoming Bachelorette compared to Bachelor 13 and Bachelorette 4. Gillian Harris is no DeAnna. She is much smarter, and seems much more real and “herself.” She also seems like she has a strong backbone, and is less likely than Jason to be influenced by the producers to do things she doesn’t feel comfortable with, or that she will later regret.
Because she is human, I'm sure that Jillian will disappoint us sometime during the show--it's inevitable. And, unfortunately, if history is any indication, Jillian will almost surely be edited in such a way that, at some point, we will be angry at her.
I'm not willing to give up yet on this new Bachelorette season, because I'm not willing to believe that all guys are jerks--even those who go on the Bachelorette. And, I don’t think we’ve seen the “nice guys” yet, because they aren’t as interesting to the producers. We can only hope that Jillian finds one of the "nice guys" we didn't see on the premiere episode. And, if Jillian doesn't find the right guy on the show, the exposure from the Bachelorette will make it much easier for her to find a great guy who is already living in Vancouver. In the meantime, I hope she has fun in the process. So, no matter what happens, Jillian wins.
If we go into this season of the Bachelorette with our eyes open, knowing that the show may be less "reality" than editing, and knowing that there are lots of things that will happen behind the scenes that we will never know the truth about, we can still have fun watching. I think that, as the season progresses, some of the guys will show themselves to be nice, fun, good people. I hope Jillian picks one of those.
Sorry if my initial answer to your question seemed like a "downer." I think even "partially scripted" TV can be enjoyable, if we approach it with your eyes open. Although the Bachelorette continually talks about a “fairytale” ending, anyone who has been married (or even in a serious relationship) knows that love isn’t like that. It can have a “fairytale beginning,” but true love also requires work, sacrifice, and some disappointments. No one, ever, gets “happily ever after.” That’s why they are called “fairytales.”
For all its MANY flaws, we can have fun with the Bachelorette this season, if we don’t take it too seriously, and remember that a lot of what we are seeing isn’t “real.” And, if Jillian finds "true love" on the Bachelorette, it will be an extra-- an unexpected bonus.