Two years ago, a memo written by the casting director of Extreme Makeover: Home Edition surfaced which identified the precise nature of woe they were looking for in candidate families. Most people claimed to be shocked by the creepily specific nature of the show's screening process. But really, how did they think the families were chosen?
The selection process for reality tv shows is one of the inflection points around which the celebrisphere has crumpled and there is no fakeness or realness, only character. Which is why the best piece of advice in How To Get On Reality TV sounds like the bumper sticker next to the Deadhead sticker on a Cadillac: "Be the most real version of yourself." Like hippies, bolsheviks and new age gurus, reality TV encourages the merger of public and private self through self-conscious, self-directed, self sculpting. In this context, authenticity is not a matter of what you truly are, but what you truly want and how truly you want it: to be visible, desirable, memorable. It's a populist, broadcast-based answer to the question of how to be interesting.
Beyond its therapeutic value, the book is also full of interesting practical details:
- The famous Bunim-Murray screening process, pioneered by the producers of The Real World. It's like the focus group from hell, where everyone knows that hijacking the group is the point.
- If you're on a residential "social experiment" show like Real World, "change your hair color in the middle of the season because then the producers will have to present your experience chronologically." (Is that an issue?)
- To have any chance at getting Pimped, your Ride has to look terrible but must be in running condition. "After all, the show isn't called Repair My Car."