That other skewed view of reality

So does anyone really believe that the sixteen people who forget the lyrics to “Build Me Up Buttercup” at the American Idol auditions really were making a serious attempt with that song?

Remember, you saw all of them earlier in the show? All right, so they didn’t do very well… they were awful in most cases. But, they were prepared. And they thought they were good.

Now all of a sudden, they are singing a second song and blatantly unprepared. They get the words wrong, they ask the camera for a second chance, they admit their general unpreparedness, etc., .

This is the power of editing. We don’t see the shows producers telling them to just go ahead and give it a shot. They are being set up and exploited, and it’s just tough to watch.

Not all the editing tricks are that obvious. But, think of how many times we see Simon rip someone or Randy roll his eyes only to get a very polite “thank you” from the bashed singer. Everyone realizes that full days’ worth of audition footage is compacted into an hour long show, but I’ve met many people who fail to recognize the effect that has on how the auditions come across. Similarly, it’s often forgotten that the sequence can be altered – producing equally misleading portrayals.

 I may be in the minority, but I think that the most powerful person in video production is the one who makes the editing choices.

Cliff over at found this video, which illustrates the type of manipulating I’m suggesting goes on.


I once saw a US produced show which did something similar. It featured the “evil Dr. Will” from Big Brother fame. They illustrated how the same “raw footage” could be used to make it appear that a TV show pitch had gone over very well or very poorly, all through editing.

Tonight, on American Idol’s San Francisco show, we saw “the last audition of the night.” We met his family, watched his mother go on about what a fine young man he’s grown up to be, and saw her wish him luck at his audition: she would be unable to attend, after all.

Hmmm… so they met him at the audition, went out an interviewed his family and all in his home town, got video footage of his mother wishing him luck before his trip to San Francisco, and then let him audition and got footage of him calling his mother to say he’d made it to Hollywood.  Really?!?  I think not. Clearly, this was all staged after the fact. But, it was presented as if it had happened in just that way.

Now, granted, no one was hurt… in fact, in this case, not even “feelings” were hurt. But very often that is not the case.

And it’s not just American Idol, Big Brother, and the other reality TV shows.

It happens regularly on the Daily Show as well. The other day they showed Vice-President Biden’s farewall adress to the US Senate as he vacated his senate seat and made it appear as if Biden had spoke for hours. A careful eye could catch the CSPAN clock in the corner and recognize the clips had actually happened in a different sequence and within a far more compact span of time. They do it all the time on the Daily Show, and I have to admit, they make no pretense of delivering “real news” – they are a comedy show.

But a “reality” TV show is often taken as reality by its viewers. It’s scary how many people take what they see as the unedited truth.

I suppose that’s where my real gripe lies… with the folks who can’t see through the editing – not the editing itself. But I’ll lash out at them another day.

Contributed by: Scott Copperman (Guest Author)


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