Part of the bargain of being on TV is being out there for “public consumption.” And consume the public does. It’s a trip digesting everything directed your way: the public’s judgment, leaps of logic, mocking, and even undue praise. Whereas once confined to living room discussion or the water cooler, the Internet puts all these thoughts, observations, and judgments out there for the world to see. The flipside of this bargain is that those posting also end up putting themselves out there for consumption as well. And now it’s my turn to judge and comment! Oh, what fun : )
I believe there to be three types of viewers/fans of The Apprentice (and most other reality shows from what I can tell):
The Professor. This type of viewer/fan has the strongest opinion. They believe themselves to be the show’s expert and dissect every second of the footage while assigning it astronomical value. They believe what they see on TV to be what actually happened. They claim an understanding of the editing and the potential for manipulation, but end up aligning their opinions and feelings in the way the editors intend. Once their opinion is formed, anything to the contrary is ignored as noise.
The “Realist.” This type of viewer/fan watches the show, but takes everything they watch with a grain salt. They typically hold the more moderate of opinions. They listen to interviews, try to read between the lines, and look for inconsistencies in the editing/extra footage, etc. The show is entertainment: they like the show, but fundamentally accept that editing is often done in bad faith. They form their opinion of each and every character often in spite of the editing.
These two types of fans who make up 95% of the posters/bloggers about the show. The other 5% seems to be made up of cast members themselves, friends, family and probably people who work on the show.
The last type of viewer doesn’t really read or post about the show. They watch the show as pure entertainment. They laugh, mock, roll their eyes and then forget about the show 15 minutes after it’s on. From personal observation this is the vast majority of viewers.
And then there’s a tiny splinter group that I have to talk about. The Experts. (Note, this might be limited to The Apprentice.)
The experts post about the show in some kind of professional capacity. They attempt to take away lessons from it: executive/workplace, psychology, business lessons. Lots of lessons. I’ve been told that every season, cast members will write to these wonderful people and tell them that they’ve drawn lessons that are way off base. That these lessons are not only not based in reality, but are sometimes the opposite of what happened. These experts respond that ‘if it wasn’t shown on TV, it’s like it never happened. And that by going on reality TV this is the risk we take.’ The idiocy of “learning” from tiny snippets of a reality TV gameshow, in which hours and hours of footage are edited down to mere seconds, and drawing wisdom from it is laughable. But as going on a reality TV show allows contestants to be consumed and commented on, someone posting “lessons” also opens themselves up for commentary as well. So: anyone who thinks someone is credible as an executive coach, publisher, business consultant, whatever based on an “analysis” of a game show called the Apprentice– you might deserve each other : )
A few notable exceptions: there are those who actually interview the contestants and try to find out what actually happened to get at the lessons/theories they want to discuss. They may choose to not believe what the cast says, but at a minimum, they acknowledge that seconds on TV isn’t a basis for an accurate judgement. There are also those like cast-favorites’ Mike and Marjie who know there is so much more out there and facilitate getting that other side out there.
I write this for me and my fellow castmates who either read the message boards/blogs/myspace updates all throughout the season, or browsed them at Derek’s house last Thursday for the first time and were horrified.
And yes, Marisa, we enjoyed watching you reading TWOP that night as much as anything else that entire weekend.
4/16/13 – When I look back at The Apprentice, I’m most struck at how much I cared. I almost have a hard time believing that I could care this much about a TV show, what random people thought, about the moronic pundits or anything else. Memory reminds me of how intensely I took it all, but with hindsight this only reminds me of my foolishness. Oh, the ever-present inexperience of youth 🙂