Lots of rumours abound that Strictly, X Factor and The Apprentice, I’m a Celebrity, Britain’s Got Talent and others are fixed… so what’s the truth about reality TV?
Apprentice contestant Selina Waterman-Smith has claimed The Apprentice is fixed with another contestant Scott Saunders also reportedly leaving the BBC show after an argument with Lord Sugar.
These shows are watched by millions of us. So it’s not surprising that despite an Apprentice spokesman, the newspapers are full of headlines asking if it is ‘fixed’.
However the truth is not so cut and dried as saying they are not fixed, or they are fixed…
This is how reality TV works. They are entertainment shows. Thousands of wannabes apply to get onto them. And those wannabe contestants are whittled down in various interviews and assessments until we are left with the ‘lucky’ few who actually make it to the programme.
So in that way these programmes are fixed. In the past for example, for some TV shows I have received enquiries from researchers asking if I have any interviewees who might want to go onto them. The bottom line is producers are looking for interesting characters to go on TV shows. They are also looking for a mix of characters, ages and types to appeal to as wide an audience as possible.
Shows are then edited so that hours of filming end up on the floor rather than being shown on screen. This does not mean though that the person doing the editing is trying to make one contestant out to be better than another. Think about it – if you were a producer you would simply want to show the juciest parts that most people will be interested in. This naturally means rows and squabbles, disasters and the time a contestant said something outrageous will be the scenes shown to the public.
So in this way reality shows are fixed – fixed for our entertainment. Fixed to get the most viewers and the best headlines (to attract more viewers…)
However, as a real-life journalist I can say for sure you cannot odds what people will do or say. So the person Lord Sugar was incredibly impressed with at the start might reveal himself as a proper fool further into the process. Undoubtedly Lord Sugar is going to be like anyone else. All of us start off when we meet someone maybe not warming to them – then we get to know that person and they grow on us. Conversely, the person who seems fabulous at first might not really be so…
It is actually impossible to have so much control over these contestants, their thoughts, decisions and choices, in these programmes to ‘fix’ the result. For example contestants sometimes do stupid things which no amount of editing could cover over or they leave in the middle of the filming. Annoying for the producers but that’s life…!
With programmes where viewers have to call in and vote, strict legal rules apply. And while I can imagine it is infuriating for the likes of Simon Cowell if the act he likes best is voted off, it would be too much of a risk to fiddle the voting. Plus, if you look back at the history of all of these shows often it’s one of the runners-up which ends up making the big time. So often winning a show does not translate into actually doing well in a future career…
A while ago a former Apprentice contestant also came to me for advice and she told me the programme is not fixed. I believe her. And much as it makes great headlines for newspapers, I think the same applies to all of these reality shows.
I don’t believe for one moment Selina Waterman-Smith truly thinks The Apprentice is fixed – although she might tell herself that as she hasn’t won.
However, no-one can blame her – or other wannabes who are booted off these shows – for grabbing some more publicity for themselves.
After all, that’s what Daily Mail columnist Katie Hopkins did when she left The Apprentice – and now she has carved out a nice career as an outspoken writer for herself.
Therefore I would imagine the thought of becoming famous (the reason surely for going on one of these shows in the first place?) is the main reason why Selina Waterman-Smith is accusing The Apprentice of being fixed. And as a bonus what she says makes a good headline.
Have you ever been a contestant on a reality TV show? If so and you would like to give some insight into how you got on, get in touch!