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Networks are making it real

Laura Sturza

Whether reality is all it’s cracked up to be is not in dispute for

networks that offer reality shows to viewers who want to see them.

But the advent of programs like NBC’s “Fear Factor” or ABC’s “I’m

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a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here!” have not meant that new staffing

opportunities have opened up, since the same skills used in creating

scripted shows are needed for unscripted programs.

“You have to have basic storytelling skills,” WB Network spokesman

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Keith Marder said. “Keith Cox, who runs the Alternative Department

[which includes reality shows], comes from scripted background.”

Marilyn Wilson is co-executive producer for ABC’s “All American

Girl,” premiering at 9 p.m. Wednesday on KABC-TV Channel 7. The show

offers a behind-the-scenes view of a beauty pageant in which the

women are “charming and pretty, but not like beautiful models,”

Wilson said.

“I think people can more easily see themselves up there,” Wilson

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said.

Because reality TV is a hot commodity, many producers from

television and film are moving toward reality programming, said

independent casting director and producer Katy Wallin of

Burbank-based MysticArt Pictures. Wallin is casting for the new Fox

show “Mr. Personality,” which has a woman date men whose appearances

are not revealed to her.

The cost of producing reality shows is less expensive, in part

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because there are no actors or writers hired, Marder said. But

scripted shows can have an afterlife with reruns, whereas the shelf

life of a reality show is brief because, typically, each episode can

air only once, Marder said.

The WB’s research department tracked February percentages of

scripted shows including dramas and comedies, versus unscripted shows

including reality, news, sports and game shows. The network featured

25% unscripted programming, FOX 55%, ABC 69%, CBS 39% and NBC 31%,

Marder said.

“We still rely primarily on scripted programming [because] it’s

what our audience expects,” Marder said. “With the scripted shows,

viewers have long-term emotional attachment.”


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