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Reality Show Production Companies Provide Networks High-End Casting

Guest contributor examines the starmaking process and traces reality’s roots to daytime talk-show segments - first appeared on The Wrap: http://www.thewrap.com/reality-daytime-talk-show-connection-guest-blog/

When producing daytime talk shows in the late ’90s to the ’00s, we used to produce every genre of pre-dated reality shows in one-hour talk-show formats (46 minutes of actual show time). Topics included: Wishes and Dreams, where — pre-Oprah’s “Favorite Things” — we’d give away a free house or a new car; find a lost love (thank you, Troy Dunn, host of TNT’s “APB”); and arrange meetings with celebrities (even if it was Maury’s wife, news anchor Connie Chung). In 46 minutes we’d give five sets of twins complete makeovers, making a quick change on a Broadway show look like eternity, and we had plenty of stories about little people and paternity tests. Now each topic practically has its own network.

Those segments have spawned a decade and a half of unscripted reality content to the extreme. Some of the folks who came out of the talk-show world to rule the reality world include execs like We tv President Marc Juris (“Rolonda”); Holly Jacobs, SVP of Programming and Development at Sony Domestic Television (“Sally Jesse Raphael”); and A&E and History Channel President Paul Buccieri (“Arthel & Fred”).

“We are all familiar with Joseph Campbell’s The Hero’s Journey. Archetypes are the delivery vehicle for story. Casting can be the most important part of storytelling in film and TV,” said Darren Campo, SVP Programming Strategy Food Network. “Great characters instantly convey a world of emotions and expectations from which the story unfolds.”

When a network sends a mandate out to us at TVGuestpert, or other producers and production companies, the veil is of a story line or range of which practically defines a personality type of person. This has many production companies scouring the country like a large casting call. In fact, sizzles have turned into talent reels.

“It’s all about, ‘Can this character carry a whole show?'” said Jordan Mallari, VP of Development for Stage 3 Productions with such shows as LMN’s upcoming launch of “The Last Goodbye” with medium Rebecca Rosen. “It’s 1) find great, fresh talent and lock them under contract, 2) develop a unique format around them, 3) showcase the talent and format.”

If you are paying close attention, you can spot the next trend. They come in waves of police shows, brides, unusual people, truck stops and diner types, survivalists to psychics. So the question here is: Have we simply become one uber-sized casting department or are we still producing story and television?

“It’s also knowing that the competition from production companies to digital media are doing the exact same thing,” added Mallari, a veteran reality show producer. “We are all looking for the next big name.”

What a Difference 25 Years Makes

When Roseanne Barr sang the National Anthem at a 1990 San Diego Padres baseball game, no one seemed to remember she was a comedienne. She made fun of herself by singing the lyrics off-key, in her white trash persona made famous by her hit show Roseanne, Roseanne added insult to injury when she grabbed her crotch and spit on the pitcher's mound as she walked off to a boo-ing crowd.

It was career suicide for the Primetime Network Queen. Even the president at the time, George Bush, called it "disgraceful," an anti-American sentiment that followed Roseanne around for years to come.

Fast forward, 25 years later headlines hail comedienne actress Maya Rudolph for channeling Beyoncé (her popular imitation Saturday Night Live character) for singing the National Anthem at the commencement address for Tulane University. Pop culture, social media, The Today Show.com, all loved it.

As a TV producer and media consultant, I am always observing, studying, and pondering why content hits and when it doesn't resonate.

I asked a few experts their take on the two different renditions to see if I was missing something, and the following is what was shared:

Christy Whitman (@ChristyWhitman), New York Times Bestselling Author of The Art of Having It All, said that there was a BIG DIFFERENCE in why Maya's rendition worked and Roseanne's didn't. One of the reasons mentioned was that "Maya appeared to be feminine, fun and classy and Roseanne really looked so masculine especially with her behavior of grabbing herself and spitting. It was far from feminine, fun and classy. "

But aren't they both impersonating? Or did we lose the fact that Roseanne was playing a caricature of herself? Or was it a matter of my favorite consideration which is know your audience?

Dr. Lynn Anderson (@DrLynnAnderson), celebrity yoga instructor and author of Sex Matters said, "The main difference is that Maya knows her audience and knows what she can do to entertain them. College kids! Roseanne was singing at a baseball game which is as American as you can get. She used the wrong approach for the audience. Patriotic spectators! So Roseanne missed her audience, and missed the key ingredient entertaining without insulting. Maya got it right."

I disagree. I think the National Anthem and both audiences should be held to the highest regard, and I don't think either performance worked, but I admit, I may be in the minority.

With the exception of a few, like media psychiatrist Dr. Carole Lieberman (@DrCaroleMD), who felt like me, "Quite frankly, I find both Roseanne's rendition and Maya's rendition offensive. In today's world, with threats against America coming from all sides, we need to give the national anthem the respect it deserves."

Twenty-five years is along time and collective opinion does soften, according to Los Angeles therapist Judith Claire (@topgunlove) and co-author of, So That's Why They Do That, "Steven Colbert's nine-year run as a conversative, a-la Fox News talk show host, who is an over-the-top patriot with a huge ego, has been another step in letting us know there are no sacred cows, and we can laugh at anything and still be a good American."

As I reconnect with my own sense of humor, Claire reminds me, "Our ability to laugh at ourselves and the craziness in our world might make us better Americans."

Rachael Ray: Not An Overnight Success, but Through Hard Knocks, Capitalized on Her Moment

In Allen Salkin's new book, From Scratch: Inside the Food Network, he describes Rachael Ray's rise to TV fame. What I love about his take on her, is that she is the perfect example of the overnight success, that was years in the making. As a TV Producer and media consultant, people expect to be an overnight success with very little effort. Yes, there are some folks who come out of no where and do land some fame, but for most of them, they don't have long lasting staying power.

In a society where becoming a celebrity is actually a profession, I respect and admire someone who works their way to where they arrive.

In our media training workshops, most people think the immediate chemistry is a one stop shop, but this moment, as reprinted by Allen Salkin in Emmy Magazine, is a perfect example of a lifetime of training:

Rachael Ray: Not An Overnight Success, but Through Hard Knocks, Capitalized on Her MomentFrom her first pop on national television, Rachael was gold - so obviously appealing that you can sense what Lou had heard on the radio simply by reading the transcript from her appearance on Today.

Al Roker: This morning on Today's kitchen, comfort foods of the century. With the kids home from school and a winter that just won't go away- neither will my friends - there's nothing better than cuddling up in your flannels with some hot and tasty comfort foods. Rachael Ray, author of Comfort Foods: Rachael Ray's 30 Minute Meals, is here - you got very excited when I said that.

Rachael Ray: Yeah, it's cool. Al's saying my name. Groovy.

Roker: She's here to show us how to make one-pot dishes.

Ray: Yeah.

Roker: So, now what's the deal? Why are we so excited about comfort foods these days. Rach?

Ray: Well, because they bring everybody back to their beginnings, you know. Comfort foods are as different as wherever you grew up, you know.

Roker: Right.

Ray: My grandfather is from Sicily, so for my mom, a big pot of escarole and beans is comfort foods. My dad's from own South, so for him, jambalaya is comfort foods. Me, I've always lived in the Northeast, so what we're going to make right now is comfort food for me.

Roker: Chicken and dumplings.

Ray: Chicken and dumplings soup.

Roker: All right. How do we get started?

Ray: Okay, well I know you know how to cook, but can you just pretend you don't for a minute, okay?

Roker: Okay, I have an no idea.

Ray: Quick - quick chopping lesson.

Roker: Uh-huh.

Ray: If you're not comfortable in the kitchen, first thing to do, get a firm grip about whatever your chopping, curl your fingers under so they don't call you lefty.

Roker: Okay.

Ray: Okay? Get a nice sharp knife...

That my friends, is how it's done. Within two minutes, you've learned about where she comes from, what she's going to make and why she's going to make it. In the process, she has captivated her interviewer, told a joke and taught a lesson. It's not as easy as she made it look, but after a childhood in restaurants and years of work, it was easy for her.

TVGuestpert comments: Rachael knew how to immediately frame her opening sound-bite that set up her expertise, define the segment, and take assertion of the segment in a charming entertaining way while giving the viewer at home invaluable take away information.

If you have a chance to read Salkin's whole piece on Rachael Ray, it says that she didn't get her way either when the Food Network green lit her show. She had to concede to the idea that she would only do one meal per show instead of three which became the successful ingredient for her signature show.

Jacquie Jordan

Jacquie Jordan
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Jacquie has produced countless TV shows and been involved in booking, or producing 10,000+ television guests. Jacquie also works with exciting new experts and celebrity clients on their branding, promotion, marketing and development, as well as on-camera skills.

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10/5: Pat Pattison on Skywalking Through Neverland

10/13: Christy Whitman on The Law of Attraction Show with Dave

10/21: Dr. Gayani DeSilva on Singin' In The Rain

10/21: Joanie Marx on Singin' In The Rain

10/23: Shawn Simons on IdeaMensch

10/24: TVGuestpert's Media & Marketing Workshop with Guest Producer Adam Spiegelman, Senior Producer of The Real (FOX/BET)

11/6: Christy Whitman on KPFK Radio, Wake Up! the Sound of Transformations

11/20: Lisa Haisha's 2nd annual Legacy Series Event



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