It’s no secret that a lot of reality TV shows are filmed right here in Georgia. Thom Beers, the brains behind action-packed programs including Deadliest Catch and Monster Garage, got his start in Atlanta working for Ted Turner.
For better or for worse, Georgia has a strong presence in the reality genre. But it’s highly unlikely you’ll see monster trucks or massive fish in any of the shows filmed here.
Atlanta’s contribution to reality TV is a little different.
“We bring the drama in a completely different way,” said Rodney Ho, who covers radio and TV for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “We have women fighting over each other and yelling and screaming. And, you know, flatulence on Honey Boo-Boo. Really classy stuff.”
This week, Ho sat down with GPB’s On The Story to talk about the reality TV market in Georgia.
There are about 20 reality shows currently being shot in the state. One of Georgia’s biggest reality shows is Bravo TV’s Real Housewives of Atlanta. In fact, the Atlanta show is the most popular in Bravo’s Real Housewives franchise.
Georgia is home to a version of reality TV called “scripted” reality TV. Instead of following a natural course of action, producers set up scenarios for show talent, film reactions, then edit the scenes for a more dramatic story.
But it wasn’t always this way. When reality shows first started out, they were a little more authentic to real life people and situations. Then, Hollywood got involved.
“I think MTV started it kind of with The Osbournes and The Hills. I think there’s lots of video online showing that they would often tape scenes at different times,” said Ho. “I remember watching a piece on Jersey Shore where apparently they were in the middle of a so-called fight and you could see one scene where the socks were on and another moment where the socks were off.”
Ho says these scenes are almost like a movie where the continuity doesn’t work. The show producers may “massage” certain segments. Unlike in a docu-series, they don’t have time to spend months waiting for great moments.
“I consider it like improv. It’s like, ‘We’ll give you a topic. You guys kind of know what you’re going to get into. And we’ll anticipate it. But you don’t know exactly what you are going to say.’ It’s not fully scripted,” said Ho. “That’s Real Housewives and Love and Hip Hop Atlanta.”
TV programmers like reality shows. They are less expensive to produce than hour-long dramas. And Ho has theory about why reality shows are so popular among viewers
“I think it’s the new soap opera. If you notice, you’ve seen all the soap operas go away. But I think the people who would have watched soaps are now into these shows,” said Ho. “They can talk about them the next they. They can tweet about them.”
Another reason, Ho said, is relatability.
“I think people can see themselves on TV. My esteemed wife would love to be on Real Housewives, believe it or not. I don’t know why,” Ho said, laughing. “I interviewed Andy Cohen, who runs it, and she even pitched herself as the Asian additive to Real Housewives. It didn’t quite work out.”