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Are Reality TV Shows Actually Real?

Posted: 07/12/2012 1:00 pm

This question originally appeared on Quora.

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By Chris Cheng, History Channel's Top Shot Season 4 Champion, Professional Marksman & Spokesman for Bass Pro Shops, Former Googler (specialized in cloud computing and program/people management), Purveyor of Fun

I can only speak to my experience being a competitor on a single show (every reality show is different), but I would say that Top Shot Season 4 accurately aligned with my memory and emotions of the experience. One thing to note is that Top Shot isn't your typical reality TV show, as it does not derive its success from interpersonal drama. It's more about objective, performance based skill - did you hit the target or not, were you faster than someone else, etc. The New York Times had an interesting article on this topic: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/2...

Having gone to UCLA and being around TV stuff, I was very much expecting producers to try and feed me lines, stir the pot and cause drama, and do other things to make interesting things happen for TV's sake. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the producers were pretty much flies on the wall and let things happen organically. Before going onto Top Shot, I do remember saying to myself that I will not say or do anything that I do not agree with, and I'll suffer the consequences if any were to arise.

Another interesting thing to note is that with so many competitors, they have to whittle down our personalities to a simple one dimension. I was the "self-taught IT geek," which was the persona I carved out for myself. All the things we said and did on air were in proper context, but of course, they selectively left out a ton of footage so they could craft an interesting narrative (but based on the footage we gave them, not based on a narrative the producers wanted). Of course, with only 40 minutes of airtime in each of 12 episodes, there's only so much that can be shown.

Finally, it was funny for me to have a camera following me around during my morning routine, shaving, brushing my teeth, eating cereal, drinking coffee, etc. Sometimes I couldn't stop laughing at the thought of how boring this could be if they ever showed an extended clip of me eating my cereal. They shot so much of that footage where only a few seconds of it was ever used.

All in all, I had a fantastic experience being in a reality TV competition and would jump at the opportunity to do it again.

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