News broke towards the end of last week that LeAnn Rimes and Eddie Cibrian have landed their own reality show. With a working title of LeAnn & Eddie (creative!), the show will consist of six half-hour episodes airing on VH1 in 2014. But, according to People, “the show will not be a candid look into the stars’ lives, but a scripted version.” Which begs the question: If a reality show is scripted, is it still reality TV?
The veracity of what’s depicted on most reality programming has been an issue since the genre first came into being, and it’s only intensified with time. Whether the incidents seen on shows like The Real World and Real Housewives are contrived, or whether the footage has been edited in such a way as to spin a narrative that may not actually exist, it’s widely acknowledged that most “reality” shows are anything but. I still can’t really wrap my head around something that’s calling itself “scripted reality,” though, because it just seems so nonsensical—a problem that LeAnn’s explanation about the show fails to address. “For some reason, everyone is so interested in our lives but they don’t actually know about them,” she said back in May. “What they read is what they see. We want to be able to take control of our lives again so we want to do a show about us, about our lives, but scripted.”
I can tell you right now that the reason “everyone” is so interested in their lives is almost certainly because of the scandalous way they came together in the first place. A high-profile affair carried out by two people constantly in the public eye who also already happen to be married to other people? Of COURSE it made the tabloids. Humans love to gossip, and given that celebrity culture exists to give humans something to gossip about… well, you do the math.
But I wonder what LeAnn and Eddie are hoping to accomplish by acting out a scripted version of their lives for all the world to see. I can’t really see it being anything other than an overblown form of navel-gazing, and to be honest, navel-gazing is pretty much never interesting to anyone other than the folks to whom said navels belong. The simple answer, of course, is money; although I suspect it might be the most accurate answer, it’s also pretty unsatisfactory.
I can’t help but wonder why they wouldn’t think to take their somewhat bizarre story and do something more interesting with it. They’re both artists—or at least, as a singer and an actor, they should be—so why wouldn’t they want to use their experiences as fodder for their art? Plenty of comedians have developed sitcoms with their foundations in real life, and the reason they work is because they’re often commenting on the absurdity of their lives. That’s one of the things fiction is for: Commentary on real life situations. A “scripted reality show” (whatever that even is), on the other hand, by nature lacks the sort of raison d’etre that shows like Seinfeld and Louie have; as a result, anything that calls itself as such automatically gets filed in the “trashy TV” category. Why would you want to boil your life down to something as simple and mindless as trashy TV?
Maybe that’s just me, though. I’m also the sort that failed to understand the draw of Laguna Beach and The Hills—both of which are also sort of understood to have been scripted to an extent—so maybe I’m just not the target audience here. What do you think, Bettys? What’s the pointed of a “scripted reality show?”
Lucia Peters is BettyConfidential’s senior editor.