Question: A couple of years ago you addressed a complaint of mine about Survivor, although I felt that you misunderstood what I was upset about. I was upset that the editing had led the public to believe that one of the finalists was a shoo-in to win the prize. The reality was that the other finalist won by a landslide. Based on what was shown to the public via CBS, this should not have been the case and I was upset. You interpreted my discontent as sour grapes over who actually won. Even though I swore I would not watch any more of Survivor, I got over it (quickly) and have continued to watch. I still think that creative editing can be misleading, but my family and I now try to figure out when we are being punked by the editor. If someone was seeing Survivor for the first time, they would have been convinced (in the Nov. 3 episode) that Jamie was history. Seasoned veterans would still believe that Brandon was doomed, as he was. I still dislike the misleading editing, but have accepted it. Am I the only one to complain about this or is it a common bone of contention?
Answer: I hope I'm addressing your point better this time, because you make a good one. The reason we classify this genre as "reality TV" and not documentary TV (since it is chronicling something that's actually happening and not, in most regards, scripted) is because of the creative issues involved in sculpting a compelling weekly narrative out of these games, contests, stunts, whatever you call them. It may not be real, but it is reality TV. The suspense in many episodes of Survivor (including the one in which Brandon was evicted) comes from manipulating us into believing the tribe could go one way (the way we'd like, with a jerk like Jamie expelled), though we know the likelihood is that team strategy will win out and good-guy Brandon would be sent home. Without at least teasing us, the show would likely be a lot more boring. And I was gratified to learn that even while you are not a fan of this often-deceptive storytelling practice, you have come to peace with it because you like the show. I'm pretty much the same way, and I imagine fans of far-lesser reality shows have also made their deals with the devil (although what compels anyone to watch hideous junk like Breaking Bonaduce or My Fair Brady is beyond me).