Ok so every year The Great British Bake Off, The Apprentice, X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing and I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here get set for their next series. The reality franchise is now big business, from humble low budget beginnings of Big Brother and Pop Idol to the huge productions and prime time spots of X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing. The format is tried and tested and the marketing formula is well-oiled and crude in places. Whether you love it or hate it, it’s easy to get sucked into the black hole of reality TV. But if you happen to be on holiday and out of the country at the time of one of any of these, it is completely possible to side step the whole event. So from headline grabbing warring judges, to sympathy sob stories, vote offs and charismatic hosts, here’s the PR and marketing recipe for the perfect reality TV hit show.
1) Fail to prepare and prepare to fail
Well, as much as you think these great people and God awful people just turn up…often they have been sought out. You don’t have a multi million pound set up and leave contestants to chance. Oh no. You employ people to look for people. People who were on previous X Factor, Pop Idol shows, people who used to be in big bands and then took a deep dive off the charts and off radar, and so on. Getting the great, the good and the bloody awful takes time and effort. And then there’s pre-screenings with a second set of judges before you even get near Cowell. For other shows, that don’t rely on public auditions – Strictly Come Dancing and I’m a Celeb will make sure they have a careful balance of celebrities before they go in. Mix of personalities, ages, sex etc etc. People guaranteed to clash are a bonus! Have you seen how on Come Dine with Me it’s like: ‘Hi I’m Anna, I hate ‘me, me, me’ people.’ Followed by: ‘Hi I’m Ben, I’m totally all obsessed with ‘me.’ Yah – totes rocket science!
You may have noticed that on the Great British Bake Off, hosts Mel and Sue go into the tent on day 1 in an outfit, say a mint green jumper and boyfriend jeans for Mel and a blouse, pink jacket and boyfriend jeans for Sue – lovely. On day 2 – same outfits?!? A tv faux pas surely? Non my friend. The decision to keep the presenters, plus Mr Blue Eyes Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry and for that matter the contestants in the same clothes is to help with editing. So if something happens on the first day which works better in editing on the second day – voila – move it around without any worry!
Creating a story sometimes comes at a cost- remember the summers heavy editing of the icecream task where Iain Watters threw his half made cake in the bin as Diana had taken it out of the freezer?! Hmmm sabotage? Or as Daily Telegraph quotes fellow baker Matha Collinson on Twitter “” So careful not to believe everything you see it may just be there for good ratings. Strictly Come Dancing literally makes a song and dance of their two shows – main one on Saturday and resuts show on Sunday. However – they film the Sunday one on Saturday and have to go through the whole nightmare of an outfit and hair change just to make you THINK they are filming it live. Whilst GBBO and Strictly take great care with consistency and continuity, however X Factor couldn’t give a rats ass. Little Dermot: ‘welcome to the X Factor, it’s not been such a good day here in Birmingham’ Cut to judges in one set of outfits in one scene, a completely different set of outfits thirty seconds later. It irritates me so much!!!!!!!!! Let it go, let it go, let it go. Without heavy editing we’d all be asleep.
3) The Judges
Jeez. Ok so the long looks, tears if poss, caring and sharing OR nasty/comedy judge. Pick a role people. You can’t be everything to everyone. And you need both to make a tv show work. Simon Cowell is Mr Nasty. Cheryl is the Nations Sweetheart. Paul ‘that’s ambitious’ Hollywood is Evil whereas Mary Berry is (excuse the pun) as nice as pie. Strictly Come Dancing has Craig R H. A good judge will be an expert in their field, be stacked full of slightly intelligent but tweetable AND headlineable (that’s not even a word) comments, and a hefty dose of charisma!
They are the people you love or hate and therefore keeps you tuning in. They are also paid to be controversial or keep acts that will sell papers. Remember the fuore when Cheryl Cole put Katie Waissel through to the live shows oof? Even in her biography she admitted in her autobiography as reported on Daily Mail “Simon Cowell had spent the past two years drumming into me that we needed acts who would be ‘good TV’. When I saw Katie perform this time, I had to admit that she was certainly that. She was quirky, intriguing and busting to succeed. In short, she had the character and drive it took to withstand the pressure of the show, and so I put her through, even though she messed up when she sang in front of will.i.am.” So there you go. No matter how many hours you put into singing, a little bit of drama or personality can take you further than a perfect performance. And before we get all up in arms about it, it is real life. Cheryl Cole herself might not be Celine Dion on the stage vocally but she has star quality and carved a remarkable career post Girls Aloud through hard work, talent and having the X Factor. The Apprentice is a bit different – Sir Alan is all out mean ‘enough bloody flannel you’re fired’ and he’s flanked by eagle-eye Nick Hewer and Karen roll-your-eyes Brady – who keep a watchful eye on all the contestants.
4) The Host/The Voice Over Man
If you have judges and contestants you need a damn cool host to anchor the show! And totes possibly a catch phrase to help. Dermot ‘your Saturday night starts right hereeee’ Leary is cute, confident, suit wearing hotty ‘I have to rush you Louis.’ Mel and Sue are tongue in cheek comediennes of the double entendre variety. Tess and Claudia are ‘keeeeep dancing’ razzle dazzle. But it is Ant and Dec who consistently steal the show from the contestants, the jungle and all those creepy crawlies. The best ever was then straight forward mockery of Peter Andre’s insania. Duh do do do doooo this is insania. The voice over man is another CRUCIAL factor. Gotta love the voiceover man. The first big winner was the Big Brother dude Marcus Bentley ‘dayyyyy thirteeeen in the Big Brother house’ and then we have Come Dine With Me’s sarcastic voiceover ‘just get on with it love!’ and finally X Factor’s Peter Dickson ‘Waaaaagnerrrrrr.’ These people are the foundation of the show.
5) The Marketing Pitch
The sob story – You know the one. They NEARLY made it in the music industry, they were in line to be the next Justin Timberlake, and it all went wrong. Cue sad music. They lost their dog, they broke their leg, they lost their voice! For years, it has been over. But now, here’s a tiny ray of light in the form of the heaven that is the X factor. Simon Cowell is God – he will save you! All contestants have to say “I just want this more than ANYTHING else. It is all I want. I’ll work so hard, I’ll give it 150%.” And the sob story is never over and can be relied upon week after week, new stories can be dragged up from anywhere darling! Alternatively there’s the game face. More often seen in The Apprentice with stacks of confidence and tall tales. Remember Bags the brand? Oh yes – classic! “I’m Stuart Baggs ‘The Brand’ – I’ve got a certain type of charisma” and “Everything I touch turns to sold.” Yikes! These characters and their stories are integral to getting you to pick up the phone and vote or tune in to cheer on your favourite or take to social media to share your views. It’s a little soap opera at times but emotional rollercoasters create a show with people you care about with plenty of light and shade. Be nuts, be crazy, be kind, be funny, be sad. In reality TV, whatever you do, just be memorable.
You’re like a young Gary Barlow. You’re a ready made pop star. You give it 110%. You’ve got four yes’s. You are the hardest working/nicest contestants. You need to find yourself. Please don’t think they’re safe. You’re the next BIG THING. We’re going to deadlock. Vote on the red button. I love that you took a risk. You nailed it. You’re what this programme is all about. You’re like a little brother to me. You’re a ready-made recording artist. You smashed it. This is what that competition is all about. You made it you’re own. Every week you get better and better. You deserve to be in the final. We need everyone in Ireland to pick up the phone and vote. I’m enjoying EVERY minute of it. Thank you to everyone who has voted for me. I’m so lucky to be here. It’s been a real journey. It’s been such a roller coaster. Amazing comments, how does that feel? How do you feel about being in the bottom two? How do you feel about not being in the bottom two? This is the hardest decision in the competition so far. In NO particular order. Do you think you keep growing each week? Honestly. Boring, boring, boring.
7) The public
We need the public to vote! Finally the public are the only real wild card with reality TV. You just can never tell how we’ll react to a story and who’ll we’ll vote for. No matter how scripted these things are, you cannot make the public like someone. You can’t stop random events occurring and stories on contestants coming out of the woodwork. ‘The Public’ can often be quite mean – think I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here when ‘The Public’ voted time and time and time again to put Helen Flannagan was voted for a record number of 7 consecutive trials. That’s a lot of cockroaches.
So just a few steps to reality TV gold. After that has been thoroughly mastered the stars of the show can get a new lease of life. Celebrities can get a new lease of life from a TV show – Abbey Clancy in Strictly or Myleene Klass and her white bikini in the jungle. It can also make serious stars of normal people – step forward Susan Boyle and One Direction where worldwide fame can beckon. But careful for every success there’s a celebrity failure – cautionary tales are Steve Brookstein, Nasty Nick (although didn’t he make a career out of being Nasty?!) and basically anyone who went near Fame Academy. You’ve been warned. Approach reality TV with caution.