Emmy Round Table: The secret to good reality TV? Finding the moments that matter

Phil Keoghan of “The Amazing Race,” Padma Lakshmi of “Top Chef,” RuPaul of “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” Jane Lynch of “Hollywood Game Night” discuss reality TV with Times staff writer Scott Collins.

We all have reality TV shows that we love, that we program into the DVR to make sure we don’t miss a single moment of. And we have the ones that, to our minds, are meh. So, what’s the key to the ones that seem to hit the mark?

The Envelope invited four hosts of top reality competition shows — Phil Keoghan (“The Amazing Race”), Jane Lynch (“Hollywood Game Night”), RuPaul (“RuPaul’s Drag Race”) and Padma Lakshmi (“Top Chef”) — to chat about the reality TV landscape and address the question of what makes one work.

The answer, it would seem, is preparation — preparing a situation with careful planning and careful casting and seeing what happens.

“When you throw interesting people into an interesting situation,” says Keoghan, “out of that can come great moments.  And when you cut those great moments together, we call it reality.”


“You have to look for a natural narrative in the behavior that you tape and find,” Lakshmi agrees. “You don’t know who’s going to freak out at the challenge, you don’t know who’s going to shine, you don’t know who’s going to get into a fight.  So you have to be able to find and follow the drama, as Phil said, you have to create an opportunity for it to flourish and blossom.”

But is it manipulated? Do they use “frankenbiting,” which is taking a sound bite and using it out of context to create a drama that wasn’t there?

See what the panelists had to say about that and more in the video above, and check out The Envelope’s other Round Table videos as well.

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