Today Laura Heffernan has stopped over to share her new book and some inspirations behind it.
Favorite Moment: Casino night. The "popular" contestants had done the math, formed their alliances, and come up with a foolproof way to get either Charla or Dave eliminated. Then Dave won casino night, choosing Charla as his partner for the week and ensuring that the two of them would live to fight another week. That moment marked a huge turning point that ultimately led to Charla winning.
What I Learned: A show may be billed as "reality TV," but what really happens is far from real life unfolding. That's not exactly ground-breaking news now, but back in 2003, it was fascinating to see the producers' fingerprints everywhere.
2. THE GLASS HOUSE: A reality show where viewers had total control. They voted throughout the week on things like what the contestants ate, what they wore, what alcoholic beverages were available. In addition to the regular broadcasts, ABC posted three live episodes per week online where viewers voted on what the contestants would do. In between episodes, we voted on who slept where, Team Captains, and more.
Now, most people who know me are wondering why this show isn't #1 on my list. I watched because my best friend was cast as one of the contestants, and obviously, that was a huge influence behind AMERICA'S NEXT REALITY STAR. But Paradise Hotel stuck with me for 13 years, despite not knowing any of the contestants.
Why I Loved It: It was cool to watch someone I knew appear on ABC every week. Even though it was also weird. The show was also interesting in that ABC went out of its way to cast people who weren't in their twenties, many with careers and/or families, and who were largely informed about the world. Much drama came from the contestants being told to discuss current events.
Favorite Moment: During one of the live broadcasts, the Network brought in a pole fitness instructor to teach the contestants some moves. One of them, the wholesome girl from a religious family, pouted and acted shocked and basically didn't do anything. Then, the episode ended - but the network left the cameras live-streaming. All of a sudden, she revealed that she was basically an expert pole dancer. What? People on reality TV acting? No way!
What I Learned: Plenty, really. When Steph got home from making the show, we watched some of it together. What airs is not necessarily an accurate depiction of what really happened (shocking, I know). Also, before the show started, I got an inside look at the casting process (partially because I thought about applying for roughly 11 seconds), and the secret live feeds gave behind the scenes peeks at what reality show contestants do when they think no one's watching (Spoiler alert: it's not that exciting. There was one broadcast where they were basically sleeping for like two hours).
3. Average Joe: A model went on what she thought was a Bachelorette-type show, only all the guys were conventionally unattractive. Then, halfway through the season, the network brought in a bunch of “hot” guys to join the competition, leaving the models with a decision they all tried to make look more difficult than it probably was.
Why I Loved It: Human nature fascinates me. I like seeing what draws people to each other and how attraction builds.
Favorite Moment: On Season 3, when the producers brought in the model-pretty woman to compete with the regular contestants, chooser Adam freaked out and sent them all packing (although, he still picked the woman he was most attracted to out of the original contestants).
What I Learned: What stuck with me was the way the girls still found the best-looking guys of the bunch. And no one was really surprised that the women wound up picking the hotties at the end of each season. Disappointed, sure. Surprised? Nope.
4. The Real World: San Francisco, MTV, 1994. Full series aired 1992-present. Who wants to say it with me? "This is the true story of seven strangers picked to live in a house and have their lives taped. Find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real."
Why I Loved It: I watched many different seasons, but Season 3 stuck with me for a couple of important reasons. First, I grew up in a fairly sheltered environment. Pedro was the first "real" person I'd ever encountered with HIV. In fact, he may have been the first openly gay person I could name who wasn't a huge celebrity. That season opened up my worldview, and I learned a lot watching it. The second reason, not surprisingly, was Puck.
Favorite Moment: When everyone in the house got together to have Puck removed from the house. The Real World wasn't like Big Brother. People weren't supposed to get eliminated each week. Or at all, actually. The idea was just to follow them around. But Puck went out of his way to be so awful, no one wanted to live with him.
What I Learned: The Real World: San Francisco, to me, marks the beginning of the reality show villain The person who goes on a reality show for no reason other than to make people hate him (and presumably, derive later fame and fortune). In the earlier seasons, we saw people who seemed more or less to be acting like themselves. They had jobs and friends outside the show. And while there were arguments, you didn't have anyone who devoted themselves to being loathed by all of America. Then there was Puck. He wasn't the last reality TV villain, not by a long-shot, but he's the one I'll never forget.
5. Bachelor Pad: Although I've seen many seasons of The Bachelor/ette, I preferred Bachelor Pad to either of them. (Let's not talk about Bachelor in Paradise.) Former contestants pair up and compete in challenges each week to win a cash prize was far more exciting to me than watching twenty women proclaim to be in love with a guy they'd just met.
Why I Loved It: You got elements of Paradise Hotel here, from the pairing up and working together to win challenges to deciding at the end whether the winners will share their prize.
Favorite Moment: When the contestants have to reveal whether they’re willing to share the money with their partners or prefer to steal it, it always makes me happy to see them share. And when both decide to screw over the other, it’s nice to see that neither of them gets anything.
What I Learned: People are so interesting. Especially when they’re backstabbing someone they’ve been working with for the past several weeks. But I also got to see some interesting challenges that helped me think about the type of challenges I wanted to include on The Fishbowl.
Honorable Mention to UnREAL: The popular Lifetime series may be scripted, and it started airing after I finished early drafts of AMERICA'S NEXT REALITY STAR. However, the sneak peek behind the scenes (and the evil producers) certainly wormed its way into my heart.
Why I Love It: I'm a huge reality television fan, and I've adored Marti Noxon forever. These are definitely two great tastes that taste great together. UnREAL is my favorite currently airing show, because of the dialogue, the drama, and the characters. I tune in every week because I can't wait to see what the producers will come up with next. At the same time, I love their fake reality show, and it's interesting me to see who gets sent home each week.
Fav moment: When Rachel has a breakdown on the air, screaming to the world that her job is “Satan’s asshole.” It's beautiful.
What I Learned: Of course, by the time UnREAL started to air, reality TV had been around for more than a decade, and no one thought it accurately portrayed anything anymore. But watching the producers play puppet master behind the scene helped me see how far I could push the antics of my own fictional show's producers over the course of the series.
Sweet Reality - Reality Star, #1
SUGAR, SEA SALT, AND SHOW BIZ
Jen Reid's life after walking off a reality show has been great--she's gone from being a broke twenty-four-year-old Seattleite with no love life and no job to the twenty-five-year-old who got the guy, moved to Miami, and is starting a bakery with her best friend. She thinks her showmance love might be about to propose. And with mouthwatering goodies based on everyone's favorite shows, her business, Sweet Reality, is destined for success.
That is, until a killer competitor opens right across the street. If she's going to save Sweet Reality, Jen has to come up with a secret ingredient--like the recipe that won Totally 80s Bake-Off. Jen can get it--if she steps back into the spotlight. Soon she and her boyfriend are out to sea on a cruise ship full of reality stars, including her nemesis, Ariana; her lying, cheating ex; and some wicked producers looking to bring the drama. Separate cabins, "surprises" from her past, and scenarios tailor-made to spark fights are just the beginning. But with her self-respect, her business, and her future on the line, the fallout from this made-for-TV plotline will be all too real . . .
Some of Laura's favorite things include goat cheese, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Battlestar Galactica, the Oxford comma, and ice cream. Not all together. The best place to find her is usually on Twitter, where she spends far too much time tweeting about writing, Canadian chocolate, and reality TV.