Pop Culture

‘Jon & Kate Plus 8’ staged? Far from shocking

Before the season premiere of “Jon & Kate Plus 8,” Kate Gosselin’s sister-in-law Julie urged viewers not to watch the episode, which aired May 25. The reason? The Gosselin’s “reality” show is staged.

If that revelation brought on a bout of emotional seasickness, then you probably shouldn’t read on, but try anyway, because Julie goes to great lengths in a post on her blog to describe the breach of trust:

“When the show first started, Kate made a wish list of things that she wanted, and that became the theme of each episode — the carpet, twins’ room, bunk beds, cow, hair plugs, teeth whitening, trips, etc. EVERYTHING that you see them do or buy is completely paid for out of the budget for the show or traded for free advertising … The episodes are also staged. Here’s how it works ... there is a staff of people reading these blogs and they base the shows around what people are talking about.”

I haven’t been this shocked since … oh right, I’m not shocked at all. Since the beginning of reality shows — or let’s just call it “mostly unscripted programming,” producers have been “staging” the shows.

First, there are hours upon hours of footage that need to be culled down into bite-size pieces that have a plot fit to air on television. When you’re working with that much material, the editing process is by nature a manipulative one. A story has to be told, parts will be left out, it is what it is. Move on.

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Second, for a mostly unscripted program to be interesting, there needs to be some sort of action. A person who worked on the set of “Newlyweds,” which turned out to be the best thing that ever happened to Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey, confirms that sometimes events would be cooked up for the sole purpose of giving the couple something to do worth taping.

“Not everyone does something interesting every single week. You’d sit there with the calendar and figure out what to do,” said the source. “One week there might be an anniversary — easy. The next, there might be nothing, so we dream up a scenario where Nick tries to move furniture in without movers. Suddenly you have television.”

Julie also goes on to say in the blog post that Jon and Kate’s “children are being prompted to say or do certain things.” Yes, this happens, too, but there’s not always cause to be cynical about it. In some instances, a character will say something that’s caught by producers, but doesn’t get picked up on tape, and they’re asked to repeat it so that it’s usable. Point being: not everything that doesn’t seem totally organic stems from something sinister or misleading.

There are plenty of painfully obvious reasons for an individual to not want to watch “Jon & Kate,” as is true with just about any show. But the idea that it’s staged should not be one of them.

Paul McCartney angry about digital TV
The recession has hit even celebrity wallets but Paul McCartney, who has a reputation for being overly frugal even in good economic climates, is taking things a bit far according to a source who knows him well.

“He’s furious over this switch to digital cable. He doesn’t think it’s right that you have to either go to the trouble of getting an adapter or you have to buy a new TV, which he should do anyway,” said the source. “You’d think he’d have an apartment full of flat screen TVs but really, he’s got these old clunky sets in this tiny New York apartment.”

Weekend box office This weekend’s box office winner was a surprise. “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” trounced “Terminator Salvation.” “Night” grossed $70 million over four days and “Terminator” grossed $65 million. How did I, the studio gurus and the tracking services all get the weekend winner wrong? For starters, “Terminator” made $3 million just from Wednesday midnight screenings — it seemed safe to say that was a good sign. Also, “Museum” was expected to score huge family audiences, but by the end of the weekend, more than half of moviegoers, according to Sony, were non-family ticket buyers. However, the real takeaway is that right now, more than ever, comedies are going to win at the box office. We all should have known.

Courtney Hazlett delivers the Scoop Monday through Friday on msnbc.com. Follow Scoop on Twitter: @ courtneyatmsnbc.

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