Now and then, opportunities come along in this business that you really have to think about. Â Television is such an important medium in our society and many performers view appearing on television as the “ultimate” success. Personally, I don’t think all “exposure” is necessarily “good” exposure. Â I believe each situation has to be given serious consideration. Â We have appeared on several television programs but none of them without a great deal of thought. Â Recently, we were asked to make a television decision again – and it was not an easy one by any stretch of the imagination.
For more than 3 years, I’ve been exploring the possibility of a reality show for television, something along the line of Survivorman. If you’ve watched any of our YouTube shorts or the ASIA dvd, you know what I mean. Â I’ve been working with two dedicated and wonderful producers for more than a year to finalize some of the aspects of this project. They were able to put together a very funny and interesting Pitch VideoÂ to sell that show – and we had some positive/strong interest from reputable networks.
But, after all that time, energy, and effort, Cindy and I came to realize that reality television could be more damaging than beneficial to our relationship and our business. Â Two very good friends who have worked in television for many years helped us see that truth. Â And on more than one occasion, friends who work in television have said, “Only crazy people do reality shows!”
Hollywood is all about making money, whatever the cost. Â Case in point – TLC’s Jon & Kate Plus 8.Â Â This is a show about a normal family raising eight kids including their sextuplets. Â In the last two weeks, every gossip and entertainment show on television (including a few on CNN) has been trashing the couple because of an alleged affair between Jon and some other woman. Rumors and speculation are running rampant. Â Entertainment tonight actually referred to them as “blood sport!” Â There is absolutely no concern for the couple or their family – only what kind of ratings can theses shows get as a result of this frenzy. Â Everyone in the media is willing to destroy this family for just a few more viewers, a little more press, to expose a “secret,” and to make a buck. Â Profit at the expense of the suffering of others. Â How debase is that? Â Just last night, entertainment news shows once again commented that the world is watching the destruction of a family.
On more than one occasion, television has been willing to sacrifice the good on the altar of the dollar. Â The carnage is undeniable and it has fed a socially demoralizing “15 minutes of fame” attitude that causes people to do stupid and embarrassing things on YouTube.
You just can’t trust Hollywood. Â It boasts of tolerance while outing people on the cover of entertainment magazines so they can sell a few more. It collectively cries fowl about the weight requirements of women on television and in film while mocking celebrities who have developed a more “curvy” figure. Â Hollywood is the height of intolerance while preaching tolerance to the rest of the world. Â And I’m supposed to trust them with our career?
We have worked very hard for more than 20 years to build a show, a business, a reputation, and relationships with people around the world. Â These people trust us to provide them with a first-class production and 110% effort to make their experience the best we possibly can. A reality show puts a lot of things on the line, there’s a lot at stake – and I’m talking about much more than just our privacy.
Every part of who we are, what we do, and how we do it would be on display for everyone to see. Â And Reality Television has a way of distorting the facts to CREATEÂ ”stories” that are more interesting for the viewer without regard to the truth or the eventual fallout.
Do we really want to be turned into television characters, nicely packaged and labeled so the general public can “relate” to what we do?
Jesse Thorn wrote a great blog on this very subject.Â Â Â A friend of his (Tyler Macniven) was the winner on The Amazing Race, another one of my favorite shows. Â He knows Tyler well. He commented that the first episode of the show sliced and shaved Tyler into a man he barely recognized – a fictionalized characterization defined by the producers of the show.
He summarized the Reality Television paradox Â this way (you can read his entire blogÂ HERE.):
The first hundred years or so of real-life film was held to non-fiction standards. Certainly some documentary films have been accused of say fudging timelines, but I think the very fact that I can use the verb “accused” demonstrates that that sort of behavior wasn’t kosher. Essentially, when we watched non-fiction film, be it on the news or on a nature show or on a documentary special or a documentary feature, we had the expectation that the editing involved was an attempt to best represent the truth of the people and situations depicted. Sometimes they succeeded, and sometimes they failed, but at the heart of the matter was an attempt to accurately and interestingly represent real events.
It’s that expectation, that legacy, hanging out in the back of our mind, that gives reality TV it’s punch. The implied promise that they may be editing, but they’re doing so to give us the most compelling representation of reality. Â That’s not how reality TV works, though. Situations are fabricated from whole cloth. Performers are given scenarios and even dialogue. Producers massage storylines into the shows as they shoot. Then producers pull them out of shows as they edit. Even shows that don’t do deceptive things in pre-production spend post-production not looking for the most compelling representation of what occurred, but rather looking for the most compelling TV they can create — whether or not it fairly represents reality.
As we talked about our involvement in a reality show, we decided we’re just not willing to throw away everything to become characters on television – to create compelling TV that doesn’t truthfully reflect who we are, what we do, or the dedication it takes to make it all happen. Â And we are definitely not willing to toss aside all the relationships we’ve made with people – those with whom we work in cities around the world and, most importantly, those with whom we share our lives on the road.
I’m sure several of our competitors will seek out this opportunity and try to capitalize on what we’ve decided wasn’t right for us. Â That practice is something we’ve gotten used to long ago. Â But we know we’ve made the best decision for us and other, more appropriate, opportunities will come along. Â So, for now, THE SPENCER’S ROAD SHOW can only be seen “for real” – touring from city to city, not on television.