Reality in bites

2011-02-05 09:27

South African personality Nonhle Thema has posed for FHM, hobnobbed with international A-listers and owns a production company. So it seems fitting that the darling of youth TV should launch her own reality show, Nonhle Goes to Hollywood.

The “day in my life” show will bring viewers into Thema’s world as she searches for more fame.

“It took me a year to decide on my reality TV show,” says Thema (28), “because I knew I wanted to do something that was refined.”

With shows like those featuring the Kardashian sisters and Kimora Lee Simmons being at the forefront of “reality TV”, one has to wonder just how real it all is. While Thema is quick to rebuke any insinuation that her series is comparable to Keeping Up with the Kardashians, the premise is similar: “I have an exciting career but the series represents me on many levels. Fans will get to see me on my first date in LA. The series took an entire year to film so there is lots to see.”
Surely all those hours of filming mean that a story needs to be weaved out to make it compelling? The idea that a particular series can be shot in real time and edited later does bring the idea of “real” into disrepute. Hours of editing, searching for the perfect squabble and a mix of marketing ensures that the show has enough talking points.

The Apprentice contestant, Omarosa Stallworth, stated in an interview with Time Magazine: “Some quotes may actually be manufactured. Clashes and ugly feuds between the reality stars may be constructed and some parts of the shows may also be completely edited.”

In an episode of Nicole Ritchie and Paris Hilton’s The Simple Life, a farmer came under criticism when the pals milked the cows into bottles without pasteurisation. The farmer responded, saying it was set up for the show.

Even the Emmys decided to recognise reality TV in two categories: reality unscripted and reality scripted. A scripted show is like Idols, where everything – from the presenters’ comments and jokes to the “surprise” choreography and guests appearances – is scripted and rehearsed, whereas an unscripted show is like Cream Cartel, where everything is off-the-cuff and in real time.

A poll in the States showed that 57% of viewers knew when something was scripted or wasn’t. As we get more and more reality shows, South African viewers will come to their own conclusions whether the “reality” they are presented with is really real.

» Nonhle Goes to Hollywood starts on Wednesday on Vuzu (DStv) 7.30pm

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