Friday, April 25, 2014

Scripting A Reality Series

Closer to "Chicago Fire" than "Chicago, City of the Century"
How real is real? In the case of the average television reality program, not real at all.

Look at your own life. Pretty dull, isn't it? Not much happening from day to day. But throw in a scripted argument, one that involves a tremendous amount of shouting and potential violence, and maybe some people would want to watch events unfold.

Not that anyone is watching CNN these days, but producers did try to create an engaging series when they filmed CHICAGOLAND. The series was sold as in inside look at the way that the City that Works works, a reality show that is not actually as real as advertised.

The reporters at the Chicago Tribune got their ink-stained fingers on some e-mails that were sent between the documentary producers and the staff minding the Mayor's office. The bon mots reflect connections that show more about how Chicago works than anything that made it to the small screen, interpersonal connections that go beyond the most obvious. Sure the CHICAGOLAND producers are repped by Ari Emanuel's firm, and sure the Mayor is Ari Emanuel's brother. There are far more interesting ties that lie below the surface, commonalities that demonstrate how much influence Rahm Emanuel had on the creation of this so-called documentary that is more fiction than non-fiction.

Scenes were essentially scripted, as much as any spat between the Mafia princesses or the Real Housewives. The purpose of the documentary, apparently, was more to sell Rahm Emanuel as the hard-fisted leader of a tough town than to show how far Chicago has sunk under the weight of patronage, politics and cronyism.

With gangs at war and murder a common occurrence, it is little wonder that the Mayor would do what he could to paper over the unpleasant aspects of city life, especially when he's trying to woo industry and commerce to set up shop in his town, instead of discovering the joys of Milwaukee or Indianapolis.

The same newspaper that uncovered the e-mails is also reporting on the failing health of the Illinois economy. Problems in Chicago, like crime and massive unfunded pension liabilities are damaging the city's ability to attract and then keep businesses. But show a mayor in charge, a man tackling the issues and getting things done, on the right track, might help skew perception.

Deliver that message with something called a reality show, implying that it's real, and you're on your way to re-election.

What brother wouldn't want to help out a sibling in any way he can? Even if it takes a scripted show disguised as reality? It's someone perception of reality, isn't it?

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