How To Make A Real Reality Show

living room TV reality TV Show

We’ve all had our share of reality TV.

From the pioneering Real World episodes to Survivor and Hogan Knows Best; there are more reality shows than there are hours in the day to keep up with them!  Although the reality TV phenomenon is no longer cutting edge, it still captivates millions of viewers and continues to inform a mass cultural viewpoint of what “normal” behavior is.  With all these years of indoctrination under our belts however, there is one simple lesson that we should be learning from all of these reality shows…they’re not real at all.

That’s right, a reality show by definition is not real.  It’s a show!  So in order to combat this grievous error on our airwaves, I have created the perfect prescription for how to create the first REAL REALITY SHOW.  Here’s what we’ll need to do:

Keep It A Secret

First, no one can know they’re on the show. They can’t even know that they might be on a show or know that there’s a chance they might be on a show.  100% hidden cameras in 100% of the people’s lives are needed.  (This creates some sticky legal issues but if we’re going for true reality then that’s a chance we’ll have to take.)  So let’s put cameras in every conceivable place the people will be and avoid any possibility that they could know about it.  When people know they’re going to be on a reality show, it’s no longer real!  Their actions and attitudes are going to be influenced by the fact that they know what they’re doing will be shown to millions of people.

Don’t Cut The Boring Stuff

Second, we have to show the people’s lives 100% of the time and the people watching the show must watch ALL of it, even when the people on the reality show are asleep, doing nothing, watching TV or ironing (think “Truman Show”).  Our REAL reality show cannot be edited for time, content or anything like that.  No highlights.  No clips.  We’re going to have to watch people groom themselves and mow the lawn, that’s just part of it.  If this is to be a true reality show then we can’t just edit out all the boring stuff. That makes people’s lives look like a non-stop party or chain of successes and meltdowns which is a completely hyperbolic version of real life. We need to see the people on the show fall asleep, drive their cars, eat bagels and be couch potatoes for hours on end.  Without this daily grind content it is not “true time” and time is the main ingredient in reality.

Feel The Pain

The last thing we need to do is find a way to make the audience actually feel the discomfort, hardship, loneliness and pain in the lives of the people on the show.  All the excitement surrounding the free alcohol and surfing must be balanced out with the tears, heartache and depression that so many people are carrying around.  And the audience can’t just see it. They need to FEEL it!  I would suggest inventing some sort of machine that could be hooked up to the TV and to the person at home watching the reality show (Brave New World anyone?).  Depending on which character was being shown, a special “pain or pleasure recipe” would be electronically pulsed into the veins of the viewer, helping them experience the emotions that the person on the reality show was experiencing.  This would take some testing, exorbitant legal fees and a very pricey electroencephalograph machine, but it could be done.  Having a pain framework would help viewers at home understand why the people on TV are doing what they’re doing and making the choices they make.  It’s easy to criticize someone from a cushy sofa but it’s quite different if you’re shadowing their life and feeling the pain that they feel.

Never Stop Watching (Unless You’re Dead)

Lastly, our true reality show can never end.  Anyone who watches it must be hooked up with the feeling machine and must watch the show 24 hours a day, every day until either the characters or the viewer perishes.  Shortcutting any one of these avenues will neutralize our goal of making a real reality show.  If it can’t be done then what we’ll be left with is what we have now.  A bite-sized, edited down snapshot of the best, worst and most dramatic parts of people’s lives.  I challenge a network to take this project on.

Category Smashing: Why Our Culture Hates Labels

Hello My Name is Name Tag RedHave You Noticed That Our Culture Hates Categories?

There is a strong underlying disdain for clear-cut, single-item categories and labels for things.  What used to be “cars” and “trucks” is now “hybrids,” “cross-overs” and “SUV’s”.  Old music genres like “classical” and “rock” have now been outmoded by creative new crossbreeds like “trip-hop” and “acid-jazz.”  I recently shot a music video for a band whose self-described style was “post-melodic death-core!” (i.e. “heavy metal” for the over-40 crowd).

It’s All About The Hyphen

One of the hallmarks of the modernist experience in contrast to the postmodern experience is that modernism embraces clear, rational categories to the exclusion of the mysterious and ambiguous.  Postmoderns can’t stand this seemingly arrogant and corner-on-the-market view of reality so they overreact and avoid all categories like the plague.  Michael Stipe famously summed up this viewpoint when he said in relation to his sexual orientation, “my feeling is that labels are for canned food.”   Labels are out.  Hybrids are in.  We live in a post-categorical climate.

Another nail in the coffin of categories is the modern distrust of words.  Images have kicked words to the curb through the simple dominance of the home television set but also we’ve been trained to distrust words in general thanks to decades of political scandals, corporate double-speak, historical revisionism, and the politically correct trend of re-wording definitions into new “less-offense” versions. “I’m not a janitor, I’m an ‘institutional hygiene consultant.’”  Crimes have become “temporary insanity,” stealing has become “misaligned financial jurisdiction,” and lunch-lady’s everywhere are enjoying their new title of “educational nutrition-systems analyst.”  Some of these efforts are worthwhile and attempt to rightly correct derogatory insinuations but the overall result to grind the meaning of word descriptors into nothingness.  This trend is an over-compensation.

What Does This Mean for Christians and Church Leaders?

There are certainly some opportunities and challenges for us living in the post-categorical age.  There has been wide-sweeping acceptance of swapping the label of “Christian” for “Christ-follower” (ironically that’s still a label).  Denominations are still going strong but in the younger generation there is more fluidity and temporal irony when you hear them talk about their church affiliation.  It’s like when a first-year college student tells you what school he or she is going to and it’s a community college; “I’m going to XYZ Community College this year but after that I’m transferring to ___ University.”  Permanence, classification and exclusivity are soooo 1980s!

The benefit of loose-category affiliation is that it does make it more difficult to hide behind a label as a safety umbrella.  When you can’t stand being labeled as anything so outdated as “Lutheran” or “evangelical,” you are forced to think through your most cherished beliefs a little farther than someone who is just looking to coast and use their denomination as a way out of thinking for themselves.  The flip side however is that if you never join a category or label you might never actually have to decide about anything!  In “Bobos In Paradise” David Brooks calls this the “ever-widening spectrum of possibilities”.  When your buffet of spiritual options widens endlessly before you it ultimately flattens and cheapens any beliefs that require an exclusion of their opposites.  For instance, you can’t be a “Christian-Buddhist-Agnostic” because each component of those three beliefs requires disbelieving a core component of the other!  It’s ultimately not a hybrid-belief system it’s a stillborn-belief system.  This obvious paradox doesn’t seem to matter in today’s world however.  Making your own hybrid un-category is really popular.

For church leaders it’s hard to get commitment from a generation that distrusts institutions and never commits to anything except the priority of being uncommitted!  There are certainly exceptions but the bottom line is that if you never risk being “labeled” then you will only invest your energy in yourself. As church leaders we have to help the technological/online/spiritually-homeless generation understand the beauty of believing exclusive claims, making commitments outside themselves and sticking with the hard truths instead of disposing of them when things get uncomfortable.

Jesus Was a Category-Smasher.

By the way, Jesus loved turning labels upside down and disrupting the institutional status-quo.  He upturned the day’s categories and stood concepts like “the Sabbath” on their heads!  What do we learn from Jesus about choosing labels and categories?

Future-church demands as few labels as possible. As church leaders we wield extraordinary power about choosing which labels and categories are Biblical and indispensible and which labels are superfluous, counter-productive or extra-Biblical.  It may be exciting or risky at times but we can certainly assume that it will be a messy but worthwhile adventure.

5 Common Weaknesses of Creative People

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Do you consider yourself to be a creative person?

If you’re reading this blog, have an interest in technology or stumbled across this post because of some creative and witty tweet then chances are that you’re a very creative person/thinker. For those of us who create, be it in visual media, drama, music, writing or anything else, there are certain modes of living that bind us all together. I suspect that you are very in touch with your creative side at least to the degree that you know when you’re “in the groove” and doing what you love to do. Unfortunately there is a downside to being a creative person. There are traps and mistakes that we are more prone to make and weaknesses that we tend to struggle with that are unique to our breed. Let’s take a look at 5 of the most common weaknesses that creative people face.

Time and Deadlines

Creative people often feel restricted or constrained by having to fit their artistic project into someone else’s deadline. Part of that comes from an “it will come to me” way of thinking where we believe we can’t force our art to materialize; it simply has a schedule of its own. The other side of the coin is that creative people often are just not good managers of their time, struggle to plan ahead and tend to orient their lives based more on feelings than facts.

Releasing Creative Control

Creative people often have a vision in their minds for what a project should look like yet react defensively and protect it when others want to enter the process, contribute or recommend changes. Creators guard their intellectual property like investors guard their stock investments. Creative people are often wary of allowing well-intentioned assistance because we secretly fear others derailing our artistic vision, holding up the process, “not getting it” or just plain hijacking the project to make it their own. Most times if we would just let others help and communicated the goal up front we’d be less stressed out and things would get accomplished faster!


Perfectionism is a distortion of excellence. Excellence is the true goal of creating. Perfectionism is the idolization of a project and assimilation of the creator with the created. If you can never finish a project because of a constant fear that it won’t be “perfect” then chances are that the issue is not with the actual task but with your self-identity as a creator. Perfectionism often rears its head in the lives of creative people, turning what could be an extraordinary  and powerful artistic vision into a joy-less never-ending nightmare.

Inability to Communicate

Creators and artists often have trouble communicating what’s going on inside their heads. We know when something is artistically compelling or when we’re having “writer’s block” but often can’t get the words out when we try to talk about our work with others (especially others who are not right-brainers). We are used to “just feeling it” and “being in the groove” but have difficulty telling non-artists why we don’t have something finished or why a certain idea just wouldn’t work. We are oriented towards our work emotionally which is often tough for us to communicate verbally.

Distrust of Goals and Organization

We all know the stereotype: Creative people, while profoundly talented, are sloppy and unorganized, living a life of total chaos and disarray. They make great art but don’t know what month they’re living in. This stereotype is partly true although often exaggerated. Creators often distrust linking time and art because we feel that you can’t put limits and deadlines on our creations.  Somehow we feel that it cheapens the mystery of the creative process.  We also have difficulty getting organized simply because order and linear thinking resides in the left side of the brain and artists are driven by the creative right-side.

Take it from G.I. Joe: “Knowing is half the battle.” Be aware of your weaknesses and pick a couple of these areas to work on in 2011.  Take a deep breath, see where your weaknesses are and make a commitment to stay one step ahead of your most nefarious weakness.  You’ll be glad you did (and so will your clients).