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Thread: Thoughts on Editing (Long Post)

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    Gone. HowardRoark's Avatar
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    Thoughts on Editing (Long Post)

    Note to John:
    This post references a couple RTV shows, but it's "focus" is Survivor. I wasn't sure where it belonged, so I put it here (Survivor Forum). Feel free to move it elsewhere if you believe there is a more appropriate place for it.


    Something had been gnawing at me since I watched The Bachelorette finale on Wednesday evening. I've watched the finales of all Survivors, Bachelors, Temptation Islands, and Joe Millionaire, yet none so far have provided me the same enjoyment both during and afterwards as the one I saw Wednesday night. It's not that I'm a huge fan of the show -- in truth I watched it along with most of the others (Survivor excluded) more for my S.O. than for myself. The question was, why did this particular finale strike a chord with me like none other could?

    Without making this longer than it needs to be (I anticipate it becoming a novella anyhow), I concluded that it was the editing of the show, and in particular the two males that made it so. Bear with me through some analysis for elaboration.

    Charlie was, from the first moment we saw him, edited to be the favourite. However, he was also edited to be the "cool guy". I (as a male) saw him as a guy I'd have a beer with, and get along with just fine. My fiancée referred to him as the man (stereotypically) women go for, because of his confidence, charisma, and overall personality of being a "guy".

    Ryan, from his first words ("You look ravishing") to all his (admittedly cheesy) poems, was edited as the sensitive guy. As a male I liked him in the same way Charlie related: he could date my sister. My fiancée referred to him as the guy (again stereotypically) women feel they should choose, because he was sweet and gentle and romantic.

    The point is, both men were edited completely differently. However, both men's editing was very positive. In the end, had she chosen Charlie, we all would have understood, and felt good about it because Trista was with someone she "belonged" with. When she chose Ryan, her approval rating improved, since she had chosen the "good" one. The editing had set up the finale as a "win-win" for them. The audience was guaranteed to go home happy.

    Of course, the heavily favoured editing Charlie got served to provide the viewer with the most shocking rose ceremony ever (and for once it delivered on the host's promise) when Ryan got the rose.

    So this brings me to Survivor, and a look at the final two for each of the five we have been shown.

    Survivor -- Rich and Kelly
    Rich was edited to be the Machiavellian devil incarnate throughout the show, and Kelly ended up being the underdog we all cheered for, until Sue made the snake speech.

    Survivor: The Australian Outback -- Tina and Colby
    Tina was over-edited to hide much of her personality, so the viewers couldn't really love or hate her; Colby got a hero's editing throughout, until he became "the stooge" for failing to keep Keith.

    Survivor: Africa -- Ethan and Kim
    Ethan was edited primarily as a sidekick to Lex/Tom, with his only positive trait being that he was a "good guy", while Kim was edited to be saved by the switch, and carried along until the final 4, where she got lucky with some questions and Lex's stomach virus. She also got a very negative turn at the end through Tom's comments.

    Survivor: Marquesas -- Vee and Neleh
    Vee was so heavily edited that many people didn't even know who she was (except with her religious commentary, which gave her a more hypocritical and thus negative tone), and Neleh started out sweet but by the end was portrayed quite selfishly.

    Survivor: Thailand -- Brian and Clay
    Brian was edited to be the second coming of Rich Hatch, while Clay was edited as the lazy backwoods hick.

    The bottom line is that while we sometimes got a winner we were satisfied with (Rich, while evil, was respectable; Ethan was a good guy) we were usually left without the main characters that were edited into the show (Lex being the one who stands out in my mind) or with two people we disliked as viewers.

    Here's where I get to my point ("FINALLY", I'm sure some of you are thinking). Had the editing a) made the F2 into the main characters AND b) made them likeable, then the endings for Survivor could have been more satisfying. Also, editing a favourite (i.e. making someone appear more liked or popular amongst the jury members) and having them come in second, would also help!

    Let me make one final comment with an analogy from another genre: pro wrestling (OK, OK, quit with the groaning -- this will make sense). About 20 years ago, the tried and tested formula was always good guy (face) against bad guy (heel). Then, between 10 and 15 years ago, they tried something new: face vs. face, and it was a success. The modern viewer does not need good versus evil to be compelled into a story. They need interesting characters, contrasting characters. It is my belief that if Survivor editors, and Mark Burnett in particular, abandon this whole "there has to be a bad guy to make everyone feel good about the winner" idea, that the stories will excel.

    Thank you to all who made it to the end of this. I apologise for being so verbose, but it is something I wanted to share. Please comment and criticise my ideas. I love a good debate!
    Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.

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    your ad here jodaar's Avatar
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    Nice post, HowardRoark. We've talked about editing a lot in the past but never really dedicated a thread to it. Thanks for starting one.

    I think the reason Survivor in particular has suffered the last few years is becaue of the poor editing. They're so focused on trying to surprise us & keep everything secret that they seem to leave out all the good stuff. All the personal interactions were gone. They would just walk around, glare at each other & plot. And like you said, we hardly got to know anybody. With all the spoilers & leaks, most internet sites seem to know what's going to happen in advance anyway. So in each episode, we'd get 50 minutes of filler, then go to TC for the big surprise. Guess what? We weren't surprised. So that pretty much made the whole show a disappointment.

    Neleh & Vecepia were both slaughtered in the editing. It almost seemed like they wanted us to hate both of them. An incident or two taken out of context was enough to villify them for most people. But I think after the show, they both had really good explanations for their actions. I still like both of them, though I'm probably in the minority.

    On the flip side, I also think we can tend to blame too much on editing. Clay was a lazy backward hick. You can edit stuff out, but you can't edit stuff in. What I saw of him was enough to convince me that I'd want to stay far, far away from that man. I'm sure he's not a total baboon, but I don't think we were misled very much.

  3. #3
    eny
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    I think I've referenced the Mark Brunette "how to edit a reality show" a few times on other shows.
    He is the master, so of course all of the others copy.
    Great post !

    They haven't gone as far as color manipulation on the other shows, but its only a matter of time.

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    FORT Fan Tuluminous's Avatar
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    HR,
    I have offered several times my thoughts on editing, particularly the editing of The Amazing Race 3. [Do a search and see the variety and intensity of the responses to the whole editing controversy.] It is so funny that you would post your power of editing post, as I shared a link to an article on the "Freudian" editing of Joe Millionaire, here. It is my impression that some posters and bb monitors here do not believe that selective editing influences viewer impressions of the characters on these reality tv shows, i.e., stuff can't be edited in to reality tv.
    While it's obvious that producers would have a time editing in a contestant standing on his/her head atop the Eiffel Tower if the event didn't occur, the type of editing-in I have suggested exists is less overt, more Freudian, edit in by ommission, if you will. Glad to see that there is at least one other person out in cyberspace that at least partly concurs. HowardRoark, Atlas Shrugged or The Fountainhead? I must confess that I didn't read my way out of the railway station [100+ pages?] in Atlas Shrugged. I have seen 30 mins an old movie based on "The Fountainhead". No insult intended: I'm more for pre-radio era writers and thinkers.
    Last edited by Tuluminous; 02-22-2003 at 03:43 PM.

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    COMBAT MISSIONS junkie! BravoFan's Avatar
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    Howard, interesting stuff.

    There are definitely shows that have more editing than others because of the type of show they are. Fortunately, many shows with real quality require little editing, such as the Amazing Race.

    I think everyone here is intelligent enough to know the difference.
    "They can only edit what you give them. They cannot manufacture a fictional character out of thin air." (Bill Rancic - 4/04)
    Regarding editing reality TV: "You can't edit IN a bad personality." ("Cali"-11/02)
    BB8 - A "conveyor belt of human garbage." ("Pono" - 9/07)

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    Gone. HowardRoark's Avatar
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    Tuluminous -

    I enjoyed the story of Atlas Shrugged more than The Foutainhead, but I identified more with Roark, so I chose him as a source for my pseudonym. (In truth I could have chosen Galt, since he and I also share many attributes.)

    As for classical literature, I understand where you are coming from. My problem is that I am not fluent in classical languages sufficiently to appreciate them. Unfortunately, when I was younger I studied Latin and read Vergil's Aeneid in its original tongue. When I was contrasting its portrayal of post-Trojan War with Homer's Odyssey, I used a translation and found the story to be quite different in subtle yet significant ways. Since then I have stayed with english books.

    OK, enough literary analysis! This is a forum for reality television.

    jodaar -

    I agree with the sentiment that one cannot edit in characteristics. (Clay was a redneck.) However, considering all the commercial time, stock footage from helicopters used to introduce each segment, and actual "event" time (challenges, fishing, etc.) that leaves a limited amount of time for character development. When we further realise that there are 3 days of footage where the characters are active for at least 16-18 hours per day, that leaves limited time for actual character development.

    I think about it like this: if I were to take five total minutes of my actions and thoughts (equating confessional time with thought) over the past three days, I could be portrayed as a jerk, a devil, a sweetheart, a schmuck, an idiot, or any combination thereof.

    Of course, the out of context angle completely contributes to this, as does the fact that Burnett has not three days to choose from, but however many a character was in the game -- there is no rule that the information shown in episode 2 comes from the aftermath of TC#1 to the final words of the victim of TC#2.

    Bravofan -

    I don't believe any reality show is invulnerable to editing. While some may be more susceptible than others, I believe each one's story is a function of the way the characters are edited.
    Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.

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    JR.
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    Great thread, good stuff here guys.

    I think that some producers try way too hard for that "mystery novel" type feel. They try to lead us in one direction and then go for the "oh my god I didn't see that coming" twist at the end, which only works if there are clues and/or a believable setup for the characters. It doesn't work if they pull something or someone from nowhere.

    They are pushing too hard for the shock and surprise when they should just be letting things happen.

  8. #8
    COMBAT MISSIONS junkie! BravoFan's Avatar
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    I don't believe any reality show is invulnerable to editing. While some may be more susceptible than others, I believe each one's story is a function of the way the characters are edited
    To an extent of course. But you can't edit IN something without the material. Ref my favorite quote of all time, "You can't edit in a bad personality."

    Trust me, no one here is stupid enough to believe everything they see on TV...this issue has been beaten more than a dead horse since the FORT inception.
    "They can only edit what you give them. They cannot manufacture a fictional character out of thin air." (Bill Rancic - 4/04)
    Regarding editing reality TV: "You can't edit IN a bad personality." ("Cali"-11/02)
    BB8 - A "conveyor belt of human garbage." ("Pono" - 9/07)

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    Gone. HowardRoark's Avatar
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    Originally posted by BravoFan
    Trust me, no one here is stupid enough to believe everything they see on TV...this issue has been beaten more than a dead horse since the FORT inception.
    I do not believe I implied that anyone reading was stupid. I apologise for attempting to resurrect an already beaten to death horse.

    The point I was trying to make (which I obviously failed at) is that the editing of the Bachelorette made the ending more satisfying than previous reality shows I had watched, and if Survivor's editing could attempt to follow a similar pattern, then a more satisfying ending would theoretically result.

    Again, I apologise for raising this issue.
    Civilization is the progress toward a society of privacy. The savage's whole existence is public, ruled by the laws of his tribe. Civilization is the process of setting man free from men.

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    The race is back! John's Avatar
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    Howard, we don't mind discussing the issue at all. But, like BF said, you can edit to put someone into a "role", but only as long as they're somewhat willing accomplices. For example, I don't think they could have made Zora from Joe Millionaire look like she went off in the woods and did whatever with Evan, because she wouldn't have gone for it.

    And regardless, you can't put words or televised actions into effect that didn't happen. If you want to go off-camera, you takes yer chances

    But I will wholeheartedly agree, that producers look for a "type" and then try to edit that person they've chosen into a mold. Erin last season on Survivor was pre-cast to be the big-boobed bimbo, but you notice her screen-time was greatly reduced when Mark figured out she wasn't going to fit that role...

    Some networks edit more than others, for various reasons. Fox, I've maintained, is the worst of the bunch. ABC's not far behind.

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