UNITED STATES—I’ll be the first to admit it, I love a good reality show, but more importantly reality-competition shows. It’s like the goal of the show is to get into the psyche of the viewer so they question what they WOULD DO if they were placed in a particular situation. The thing about a riveting reality-competition series is to allow things to play out without much influence from the producer’s end. Now, let me be clear I’m not referring to shows like “The Bachelor,” “Dancing With the Stars,” “The Voice,” “American Idol” and so many others.
Yes those shows can be entertaining and in most situations they have a twist or two so often to keep things fresh. However, we’ve seen such drastic changes on series like “Big Brother,” “Survivor” and “RuPaul’s Drag Race” to where the show might actually be alienating its audience and not fully aware of it. “Big Brother’ is known for its motif, ‘Expect the Unexpected’ which I absolutely love, but only and only when the twist is not so grand that it totally gives one person a ton of power and prevents others from having an outlet to lessen the impact of the twist. “Big Brother 19” delivered a few twists that allowed for audience involvement where a few powers were questionable if you ask me. “Survivor” recently implemented the same thing with its latest season, turning the final four into a fire-making challenge. Which I wasn’t that upset with because each competitor has the opportunity to further their game, but I will admit the twist does halt a bit of strategy when it comes to the social aspect.
Then the conversation has to turn to the most recent season of “RuPaul’s Drag Race All-Stars 3.” The twist was so gargantuan that it led to epic out roar on social media by fans. The show decided for some unbelievable reason to deliver a game-changing twist. Instead of RuPaul determining who the final 3 queens would be, the eliminated contestants would serve as a jury and eliminate not ONE, but TWO finalists, leaving the final two to Lip Sync for Your Legacy. The twist was awful because a clear front-runner wasn’t even given the chance to compete in the final challenge, even though Shangela absolutely deserved the crown.
It seems when fans or viewers voice their animosity about something they feel unfair about it opens the eyes to the masses. Hmm, I have a good feeling that RuPaul and company won’t be utilizing that stupid twist in the near future, on top of that, I don’t think viewers will be treated to another All-Star season for a few years. So it begs the larger question at hand: when is a twist a good idea and when is it a bad idea? A twist is a good idea when the contestants are aware that an impending twist could be in play, more importantly the twist cannot be so grand that it gives one contestant so much power, while another is so far backed into a corner there is no way for him or her to go any further in the game.
Reality-competition shows are just like life in some instances. We know things will not always go as planned, but we’d at least like to have the opportunity to think there is a way for an out. When a show implements so many twists or surprises that it ‘appears’ one character or a group of characters benefit a lot more than others, its starts to lose your interest. It’s no longer fun to watch, and as a result loyal viewers start to turn their TV channels to something they find more affable.
This kind of goes with what someone once told me: the best reality-competition shows rely on three things: 1) a great cast of characters/contestants 2) a brilliant and original concept 3) limited twists/surprises that don’t impact the quality of the game too much. While so many shows nail the second component, they tend to have trouble with the first element at times, but it’s the third element that is the most problematic, because the more you poke and twist things the worse the outcome becomes in the long run.
I like my reality shows to have a bit of loyalty to their viewers and a bit of compassion for the contestants invested in the game. When the viewer feels they’ve been hoodwinked that is never a good sign for a series, I’d even argue it could be the death of some TV shows as we know it.
Written By Kelsey Thomas