In the end of the previous interview segment the anonymous TV producer and I were discussing differences between fictional TV shows and "reality" TV. A primary difference is that viewers understand to some degree that actors are not the same person as the role they're playing, while with reality TV there is no separation between the person and the character. We begin here by discussing how participants in reality TV will always be subjected to viewer's perceptions of them, as people, from then on.
This TV producer is not employed by TLC. S/he works at a different network that has at some reality TV shows as well as other forms of programming, and s/he has worked directly on reality TV shows. There is no association between this producer and K+8 or TLC.
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TVP: For a child, like the Gosselins, it's not their decision, and it's going to be hard for them, and it's not something that I would wish on my children. Because they don't have any say in it. They will always be known as the sextuplets, or the Gosselin eight, or whatever, and it doesn't matter where they go or what they do, and people will be talking about it when they're in their twenties, “Oh, I saw you on the potty while you were toilet training.” You lose that privacy. And I don't thing there's been any studies as of yet that have really looked into the long term effects of reality television on the psyche. It would be interesting for something like that to be conducted, because I would bet that there are a lot of negative outcomes. I mean, look at child stars, they get that break. They have the stage mom, but they don't have the cameras on them all the time.
WG: The Gosselins are definitely a prototype, and it's going to be interesting to see what happens. We would never have an experimental situation like this. In the world of psychology and science it would be considered incredibly unethical to put children in a situation that could be potentially dangerous to them and then observe them, and yet that's what's happening with the Gosselin children. They're in a fishbowl that they didn't ask to be put into, and they're stuck there.
TVP: An interesting thing is that in this country you need to have a license to drive a car, but you don't need any certification or training to be a parent. And maybe that's something that in a utopian world we would have.
We can speculate right and left about why Kate does what she does, what she did, and why the show is what it is, but until you get it from her mouth in any honest way, we don't know.
WG: And even if we got it from her mouth, you said the key words, “the honest way.”
TVP: [laughs] I think this whole story could have gone in a very different direction. The inception of it was, this is a very loving family, religious in their nature, with very extraordinary circumstances, and you wanted to see them bond together and grow, and fame has a way of corrupting. I want to believe that at the beginning there was innocence, and their need for help became mutated in some way.
WG: I take a different approach because I've talked to so many people who knew or worked with Kate before she became famous, and from what I've heard, she always had a sense of entitlement and was demanding and particular to the extreme, so I think that she was a sitting duck for reality TV, because it really played into her personality, in making her feel even more special than she already felt.
TVP: All she needed was a vehicle.
WG: And she found it. She was ready-made for reality TV. They couldn't have found a better person to be on reality TV.
TVP: For a short term of time. It seems like that's expiring very quickly. I would be interested to see this “Twist of Kate” show, and just try to get inside the heads of the women who are inviting her into their homes for help. What does that say about them?
WG: It doesn't look like “Twist of Kate” is ever going to happen.
TVP: And that could be because of a couple of different factors. It doesn't have to be because of the way she's viewed by the public or about her own domestic issues. It could be stuck in reality hell, it could be stuck in different forms of development, it could be an issue with casting, who knows for sure what or when or why. If a pilot was done, was it presented well or were there issues with it? It's a long process form a show idea to implementation and then finally to an actual show.
WG: Let me ask about something you said before, about ratings. Most of us “regular viewers” are under the impression that if we take some kind of stand, for example, by not buying products that are advertised on a TV show, we can have the show canceled by doing this as a group, by forcing the decrease in revenue either by lowering ratings or decreasing sales of the products that are sold during commercials. Is that a myth? Cancellation through boycotting?
TVP: There are some things that you can do to effect it, and some things that are out of your control. What people have to understand is how the ratings system works. Your average viewer doesn't dictate what the ratings are. If it's a Nielsen household, people who have the viewer boxes, people who have the viewer cards to fill out, if those people don't watch, that effects ratings. That 1.6 represents the sampling of the overall population. If they don't watch, it reflects others not watching, and therefore not buying the products. The products that are advertised on the show, and sales, unless there's a direct correlation between the two, you're not going to make an impact.
If you go to that supplier or manufacturer, that home company, and say “I will not buy your product because I saw it on this show and I do not believe it's the right thing as a consumer,” that's going to have a much bigger impact than going to the store and not buying the product.
WG: So you're saying writing to the manufacturers is a much more effective way of making your voice heard.
TVP: Yes, making your voice heard. Being an active consumer definitely has an effect. As I said earlier about a show's rating and whether or not it will be taken off the air: You've heard the term “15 minutes of fame,” so every show will have an end, and if you're patient enough you will see Kate Gosselin disappear from television and just be a blip and maybe eventually show up on a “I Love the 2000s” show on VH1 or something like that in the future, because that's all that's going to be left. To be a has-been, or maybe a return to Dancing With The Stars, 2015.
It's the same thing with legislation. If you don't like a law or you have a strong feeling about something , you call your representative and you tell him how you feel about it. In this case, you contact TLC, you contact the advertisers, you make sure people know how you feel about it.
I think what's interesting with her and the show is that because this is an unprecedented situation, there's really no way to predict what the future is going to be. We can all say we have a good idea, but up until this point nobody could possibly fathom the idea of having cameras on children to this degree. My hope is that the children get a voice through the courts, or through a responsible parent. Really, these kids are being set up for failure. Nobody is proud of being expelled from a school or being “pulled out” by your mother, and you don't want that broadcast across the country and, because of the Interne, across the world, You have no idea what kind of shame that's going to put on them going forward. Colleges and everything else, it's going to go back to that. Google them? There you go, [tup's name] Gosselin expelled, forever.
WG: They'll never be able to get away from it.
TVP: It will be with them for the rest of their lives.
The three interview segments I've printed here constitute only about 40% of the total interview. As some of you know, I'm writing a book about reality TV and its impact on the Gosselin family, and the balance of the interview will be available in the book. I'll keep you posted and meanwhile I look forward to your comments on this third installment.