Did you know that I was once in the pilot for a reality TV show?
It’s true! About 2-3 years ago, I got cast as one of the leads for a “limo adventures” show based in Las Vegas on a popular cable network, but the show never aired past an initial promo clip (long since removed). I was one of a group of guys (all local hires) that were cast as a bunch of tourist/convention goers that was visiting the Strip and looking for a fun and crazy night on the town that only Las Vegas can provide.
There is no “reality” in reality TV. At least, not in the way you may think. It’s not a “one take and go” in some Ed Wood-style brush of spontaneity. There are characters. There are settings. While largely unscripted (think something akin to doing improv), there is a purpose to the scene and motivation. Even American Idol, with its seemingly “live” feel was the result of multiple takes and multiple “TBD” winner announcements during rehearsal. The winners are selected even before the show has started (the aired show, however, is one run through where said winners are actually revealed).
Each actor in our group were no different than the other, all on the same hierarchy level and chosen from a list of selected casting submissions. While we had just met and were getting to know each other, one guy was chosen as our “leader”. I was chosen as the “wing man”. The other two guys were there and contributed commentary, but weren’t as focal as the leader and I were.
At one point, we had a selection of limo drivers that we were to choose from for our night out. Even though we went through the same “What can you do for us” spiel with each one, the actual limo driver we’d use was already chosen for us: This very pretty, buxom blonde driver. While we could relatively say whatever we wanted to during the course of the conversation, there were a few key lines that we had to recite to move the plot along. We did multiple takes, trying to get the best and most dramatic delivery of our lines, but as much as it would have been televised that we were deliberating our best options, our female driver choice was already pre-selected.
The did “B roll” of our time at an arcade. They focused on me here due to how well I played video games. Later that night, the leader was to get a tattoo at a popular Vegas tattoo shop, which was really a professional quality “peel and stick” that he could remove later after we wrapped. During the drive around, they filmed us and our conversations the entire time to get the best sound bites and catch phrases. At one point, production admonished the other two guys for breaking character and talking about when the show was going to air, and how it compared to other shows. We were suggested by production to flirt with our driver, which the latter took to going into great detail as to how they’d like to spread her legs and bend her over. They were definitely unscripted here. During one break, I apologized to her for their behavior, as you could tell it was going above her level of patience, and her cheerful smile was becoming more forced as those comments continued. She appreciated me saying something, and said she was used to guys like that. I was embarrassed that they thought this was appropriate behavior, even for “acting”.
We later made our way downtown, where we met and picked up a selection of attractive “party girls” from a bar (also local hire actresses). Production supplied us with drinks in our limo to loosen us up as we drove multiple times around the block for the best takes of driving past some of the iconic casinos. After a while, we pulled over, did our “final thoughts” of our completely spontaneous and crazy night that definitely only happened one time, then went home back to our normal day jobs and to wash off tattoos. The hangover that I had the next morning, however, was real.
The characters that we portrayed on TV were not a real representation of our actual personalities. They were characters open to our interpretation, yet driven by several scripted key moments, dramatic deliveries, bold camera angles and cuts, and I’d assume equally powerful music to enhance the scene. To the viewer, you’d think this was an actual night. For us, it was a lot of takes and multiple hours on the editing floor to create the personas that you would see (and hopefully enjoy) on television.
I’m not a party guy visiting Las Vegas while attending a tech convention. I only play one on TV.
Last night, a friend texted me that my Dad is currently rolling in his grave. I’d have to believe that he absolutely is.