When watching a reality competition show do you ever find yourself yelling at the screen, “Have you ever watched the show?” I remember a season of the Amazing Race several years ago in which a couple was eliminated in the first few weeks, and their parting words were, “We just didn’t think there would be so much running involved”. Years later, I am still asking myself what part of “Amazing RACE” did they not quite understand?
While I cannot comment on how people get selected for reality shows, there always seems to be that one competitor or team who does not seem as well-prepared as the others, despite their great spirit and enthusiasm for the show. I guess producers must think that this makes for good TV, especially for the loyal viewers who have watched from the beginning.
The recurring saying on the show Big Brother is “expect the unexpected” and the production team does indeed come up with jaw-dropping twists to keep competitors on their toes. But when it comes to competition shows, if someone was serious about applying to be on the show, why wouldn’t they prepare, practice and rehearse as much as they can?
For example, in 2003, I had made a request for tickets to attend a taping of The Price Is Right and in the months that followed, I recorded every episode, watched each episode attentively, wrote down every product and every price, transcribed them to organized lists, and I studied the lists on my bus rides to and from the office. By the end of the first month, I started noticing trends and products reappearing, so I suspect that studying might have helped, if I had been picked for contestants’ row. Unfortunately, on the appointed date, I did not get there early enough to make it into the studio, so that idea went back on the bucket list. If I was to try again, I would have prepared exactly the same way but would plan to arrive in the wee hours of the morning. Live and learn.
But if I applied to be on a show like Survivor or Big Brother (not likely though), given that both shows have been around for many seasons, viewers know what to expect: physical challenges that test endurance, balance, flexibility, upper body strength, among others, and “thinking skills” challenges for memory, logic, math, attention to detail and resolving puzzles of all kinds. Given that these are recurring themes in the challenges, I would think that it would make sense to build a training plan to prepare mind and body accordingly. Even if the practice exercises are not exactly the challenges on the show, logically, one would hope that a contestant would be better prepared than someone who just decided to wing it.
Personally, I think a reality or competition show requires as much preparation as it would take to train for a half-marathon. While it is true that luck can play a big hand in some the challenges, with some shows, preparation should be able to help in one’s performance… or at a minimum, to not embarrass oneself in front of 10 to 20 million viewers.
If I applied for the Amazing Race, before my application even went in, I would not only be training physically and preparing mentally as I would for Survivor or Big Brother, but also I would be learning phrases from a few foreign languages, learning to drive a stick (manual transmission) and brushing up on my international history, geography and reading up on other traditions, cultures, history and politics.
When it comes to my favourite competition reality show, Project Runway, there is a common thread to their challenges from one season to the next. If I had talent as a designer and the free time to prepare, I would be sketching until the wee hours of the night, mentally preparing and refining every imaginable scenario: women’s wear, men’s wear, children’s wear; in every style: formal, casual, street, business; in every genre: avant-garde, contemporary, classic, bridal, costume; in styles inspired from every decade or even historical eras. Also, there is always a challenge that requires competitors to create a look from non-traditional materials (such as from a hardware store, dollar store, party supply store, grocery store). Challenges like these should not come as a surprise and they are all well documented on the Internet. Why should anyone be caught off guard? Practice, practice, practice.
Even though I don’t think I have a really competitive streak, I just would not want to be the guy that would cause people to yell at the television screen. Maybe it is just me, but I would take every step I can, to be as prepared as I can, to expect the unexpected and face the challenge head-on, with experience and strong ideas already in my back pocket.
The fact is that if I did not train for a show like that, I would probably go down in history as the guy with no upper arm strength who could not complete 3 chin-ups, the rock climbing challenge or hold himself up longer than 10 seconds while suspended… but he was very positive and always smiling. That would be unfortunate.
I would like to think that preparation would not only help in my performance but it would also make the experience that much more fun and memorable, knowing I did everything I could to give it my best shot and not squander the opportunity of a lifetime.
Even if I did not win the top prize, there is definitely a pride factor involved and I would like to have appeared like a strong competitor, a force to be reckoned with, and generally, not looked foolish in front of the other super-fans in the audience.
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