Casting & Production for Reality TV


Reality television is a classic example of the way media can construct a reality and the way that the audience of that reality can willingly suspend its disbelief. We know it is not reality we are watching but we usually choose to ignore that - otherwise it wouldn't be any fun.

The final product of any reality tv show is a construction of selected representations. The decisions made by the Producers is created via a process of selection and omission construction.

Selection = What they choose to keep
Omission = What they choose to remove


Demographics: Gender, Age, Income, Family.

Geographics: Where you live, How you live, Where you holiday, Where you hang out, Where you buy things – online/in-store.

Psychographics: Your likes, Dislikes, Hobbies, Your thoughts on things, Social media use, Who you hang out with, Buying trends, Do you follow others, Are you a leader, Introverted, Extroverted, How important social media is to you, Behaviours, Positive or negative mindset, Out Spoken, Political, Activist etc.


Frankenbites is when Media content creators make a mashup of soundbites that never existed together in their original form. Sometimes in order to make a character say what the producers want to hear, editors and story producers will grab a phrase here, a word there, and cobble together a brand-new thought or narrative for audiences. This is often why reality tv cast members will often report that the producers made them look a, particular way to viewers and they are not actually like that in, ‘real life’.

If you’re not familiar with the word, it’s a combination of “soundbite” and “Frankenstein,” the novel written in 1818 by Mary Shelley about a mad scientist who stitched together a monster from pieces of various human corpses. A description that some would consider accurate when applied to Reality TV in general.

Can you think of some Reality TV shows that may use this technique?

Kristin discusses being misrepresented on Reality TV

The real toll of being an contestant in Reality TV

True Dangers of Reality TV

Questions from Clip: True Dangers of Reality TV

  • Outline a list of things that could be implemented to ensure cast members are emotionally and psychologically ready to undertake the pressure of instant fame and criticism from the public.
  • Why do you think Producers and Executive Directors of Reality TV shows place importance on the, ‘Backstory’ from their contestants?
  • Why do you believe laws in Australia are being investigated to ensure that psychological follow-up should take place post the series airing?
  •  List five reality tv shows where you believe on-set counselling is a must for cast members and producers. Beside each show outline why you think this.
  • Why do you believe many past contestants state that, ‘by going on these reality tv shows, will give them validation’?


How your final is presented is up to you. Some ideas include:
• Power point presentation
• Prezi
• Folio with images and mind maps
• Moving image
• Scripts, Podcasts
• Print Productions – magazine, website

Here is a rough plan of things to include. You can use these as headlines for your task.

• Name of show
• Who is the audience of the show? Break this down into demographics and psychographics. Gender, Age, Likes, Dislikes, What else they watch, Where the hang out, Are they educated, Do you they use social media etc & What is important to them.
• Explanation of the show.
• How you plan to Advertise for your cast – For example a website calling for applications.
• How do people apply? The application process. For example do they send in an, audition tape, Interview, Provide social media accounts etc.
• Who you cast?

• Description of show – How long an episode goes for, where a bout’s in the series does this episode sit? Pilot, Ending, Middle.
• Where is the show? Setting / Location. Include an image. For example, Country, Mansion, Warehouse.
• Map out what takes place in this episode. Events, Crisis, Joy, Laughter, Love or Failures.
• Timeline of chain of events. Include images always.
• Your ending of this episode becomes the 30 second BITE to promote the next episode and audience to be hooked.

• Outline what the 30 seconds includes.
• Which cast members will it involve. Include images.
• Describe your audience and why they will want to watch the next episode or series.
• Describe your audience expectations.

The Stanford Prison Experiment – 1971

The Stanford prison experiment was a social psychology experiment that attempted to investigate the psychological effects of perceived power, focusing on the struggle between prisoners and prison officers. It was conducted at Stanford University on the days of August 14–20, 1971, by a research group led by psychology professor Philip Zimbardo using college students.

Here we analyse the results of this experiment and their impact on Reality TV shows, like Big Brother & Married at First Site.

The Stanford Prison Experiment