Reality TV producers gathered in Santa Monica on Wednesday and Thursday for a conference in which they told each other how much reality TV benefits society and complained about how their genre — Factual Entertainment, they call it — is unfairly maligned. Then they finished with a big circle jerk (citation needed). From the WaPo’s Lisa de Moraes:
“I firmly believe it’s the most socially valuable product on television,” Rob Sharenow, senior vice president of nonfiction programming at A&E network told a Fairmont Hotel ballroom filled with people who nodded sympathetically…
“Who did more for a gay child struggling with their identity than Pedro did?” Sharenow asked rhetorically. He was referring to Pedro Zamora, the AIDS activist who became a pop-culture icon when he was cast on MTV’s “The Real World: San Francisco” and died not long after that edition of the reality series wrapped.
Oh, an example from 17 years ago! So timely, especially with the continuing AIDS pandemic. Hey everybody, remember when “The Real World” was about something besides people getting drunk and screwing?
“Reality TV and the documentary have always been on the front line of doing good and showing the world for what it is, and I do get frustrated with the industry’s and society’s attitude toward unscripted programs,” Sharenow added.
Hey, don’t blame society. Blame “Temptation Island.”
Asked if there was any instance in which he’d gone too far in the genre, [CAA agent Alan] Braun said it came when he sold “Who’s Your Daddy” to the Fox broadcast network.
That 2005 gem involved adult women who had been put up for adoption as infants. Each was put into a room with 25 men, one of whom was her biological father. After interviewing the men, if the woman correctly named her father, she won a measly $100,000. If the women got it wrong, the guy who’d duped her got $100,000 and the network would tell her which guy actually was her dad…
“I saw daughters meeting their dads and it was more like a dating show, and I knew at that moment it was not a good show for society,” Braun admitted Wednesday.
Asked if he returned the substantial agent’s packaging fee he’d collected on the show, he said he had not and added, “but I felt bad for a few weeks.”
“Now if you’ll excuse me,” he added, “I need to go meet with TLC’s midget wrangler.”