I watch reality t.v. Not as much as I used to, and I never got into the whole "Survivor" thing and I'm not a fan of "American Idol", but I watch some "reality" t.v. from time to time. The Amazing Race, Bachelor and Bachelorette, Fear Factor, the Voice, Extreme Home Makeover and Biggest Loser have all sucked me in from time to time. I used to watch some of them every time they were on, and some, just once in awhile. In watching all of these shows over the past few years, something always amazes me - the surprise on the contestants/participants faces when they are told to do something or a "surprise" twist is revealed. Can you picture me, yelling at the television: "Are you kidding me?!?!" No, I'm not yelling about the "twist," I'm yelling at the contestants.
How can anyone with even a remote touch on reality these days not know how these shows work? Even the news covers these shows, right there along with the Internet and Entertainment Tonight, Access Hollywood and TMZ. Newspapers and magazines cover these shows and the contestants. So you can imagine why it is so hard for me to understand how someone can claim to not know what is coming. Fear Factor always had bugs or something slimy to lay in and Amazing Race always has something strange to eat. It is just how these shows work.
The reason for my latest bout of incredulity comes from Tuesday's offering of The Biggest Loser. Apparently the remaining 5 contestants got wind of the upcoming "surprise twist," that the 14 eliminated contestants would be given the opportunity to earn a spot in the final, with just a few weeks left in the show. For the first 10 minutes of the episode, we were treated to a show about the remaining players' internal struggle with "what they believe is right" and their "principles" and got to watch the camera crews and producers scramble because they did not have anyone working out in the gym to film. Bob, one of the trainers, said it best when he was told what was going on. He said, "Have they never watched this show? This happens every year!" He's right! Just last season (or was it the season before?) the eliminated contestants were given the chance to earn a spot in the finals - all they had to do was run, and win, a marathon (26.2 miles.) None of the remaining players complained. No one staged a coup or threatened to leave. They ran the marathon. In Tuesday nights episode, Alison didn't even have the chance to reveal the twist - the contestants got wind of it early and staged a coup. Really?
2 of the contestants ended up going home. Maybe they were just done. Maybe they thought that they had achieved all that they could at the Ranch. But if they truly admitted their reasons for leaving, my guess is that it would be all about the money. They weren't upset about the twist of bringing back eliminated players. They were upset that there was possibly another challenge to their quest for the "dough," an unknown element, something they had not counted on. If they were there to lose weight, if they were truly concerned about their health and livelihood and showing their children how to live healthy (like they all claim,) then they would have stayed. To leave, especially so close to reaching their weight loss and other health goals, is to admit that they were only in it for the money, and when their access to that money was threatened, they ran.
It will be interesting to see if they are invited to the final, or if they are eligible to compete for the "at home" prize. We will have to wait a few more weeks to see how that unfolds. But the attorney in me cannot help but wonder whether or not they will have to face any repercussions from their choice to leave. My guess is that they signed some kind of "iron clad" contract when they signed on, that they would subject themselves to whatever the producers threw at them. In fact, Tuesdays' episode showed them meeting with the show's attorney and the attorney pointed out the part in the contract where it says that eliminated players would be brought back at some point. Those choosing to leave said that while they acknowledge signing the contract, they did not feel that it was "fair" to spring the twist on them this late in the game. Um... o.k. Like I said (and Bob said,) all they had to do was watch the last few seasons to see how that played out. But back to the attorney in me. Do you think that they will now have to pay for the fair market value of Bob's time in training them? Do you think that they will have to forfeit any of the little prizes that they might have won over the course of the show? Do you think that they are going to get hit with a whopper of a 1099 at the end of the season? I do.
One thing is certain - at least from my perspective. The actions of those 2 contestants on this season are likely already having an affect - you can bet that the attorneys for the show are currently rewriting the contract before signing up the contestants for next season - and you can bet that it is going to specifically address what will happen when or if a contestant decides to walk out. Oh to be a fly on that wall.
I have to wonder what people who sign up for these reality shows are thinking when they start. Do they think that it will be different for them? Do they think that the things producers did in the past will just be set aside for them? Or do they think they can handle it, and when looking into the belly of the beast they realize that they can't, and that is when they bolt.
The Bachelor and Bachelorette are fun samplings of this same behavior. The boys and girls happily tramp off to the "mansion" in hopes of finding Mr. or Mrs. Right and getting their "happily ever after." Then they act surprised or upset when the door opens and reveals 20 other guys or girls looking for the same dream. So many tears when they should know better. Then again, I guess the tears is what makes it "good" television, right? People are still tuning in, so I guess something is going right.
Perhaps it is time to go back to scripted television. After all, the drama that these 'reality' shows are producing has to be scripted in some way, right? Or are we really supposed to believe that these people really have no clue what they signed up for when they showed up on day one? Perhaps we should be asking ourselves the same question - have we never seen the show? Should we not expect these little things to up the ante and increase the drama? Maybe the producers of Biggest Loser leaked the "twist" information on purpose, to then create the drama of contestants leaving, and maybe the joke is on us, the viewer?
Until next week's episode, I guess we will just have to wait to see.