updated 6/28/2004 10:55:29 AM ET 2004-06-28T14:55:29

Guests: Joey Carson, Ben Silverman, David Hurwitz, Kay Koplovitz, Joe Blackmon, Richard Hatch, Tammy Faye Messner, Sarah Kozer

ANNOUNCER:  DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT.

DEBORAH NORVILLE, HOST:  Reality check.  Once the cheap and cheesy new kid on the block, reality TV has grown up to be the darling of the industry, from the idyllic get-rich-quick premise of “Survivor” to one of the originals, MTV‘s “Real World.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Can‘t we just talk?  I want to know how you‘re feeling.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  This pop phenomenon has evolved into an appetizing ratings booster for summer reruns doldrums.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  It‘s like being in a movie, and the extras and stand-ins take over the movie and the stars are out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  It‘s turned average Joes into engaging celebrities.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You guys (UNINTELLIGIBLE) made me feel special.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  Wannabes into American idols, couch potatoes into voyeurs...

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  (UNINTELLIGIBLE) I love to look at a pretty girl.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  And changed the complexion of the workplace.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, HOST, “THE APPRENTICE”:  You‘re fired.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  It‘s even spawned its own network and magazine.  Tonight, a dose of reality TV‘s ever-growing success with some of the masterminds behind the scenes and in front of the camera.  Is this reality craze here to stay?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We‘re going to give it our best shot.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ANNOUNCER:  From MSNBC world headquarters, Deborah Norville.

NORVILLE:  And good evening, everybody.  Check this out.  You are looking at a list of every reality show on television, a wave which began in 1992 with MTV‘s “The Real World,” and that paved the way for what‘s become the hottest thing on television, so-called unscripted programming.  It has now developed into quite a list.  These shows are cheap to produce, and apparently, the audience can‘t get enough of them.  Six of the top ten shows this past television season were reality shows.  Thirty-one million people watched the finale of “American Idol,” which was named the program of the year last year by the Television Critics Association.

And there‘s more to come.  From “Survivor‘s” Mark Burnett comes “The Contender,” set in the world of boxing, airline mogul Richard Branson as the next Donald Trump in “The Billionaire,” and even Paris Hilton‘s mother is getting in on the act with “The Good Life,” in which she‘ll teach 10 women how to fight into high society.

I‘m joined now by three reality TV show producers.  Ben Silverman is the CEO of the television and film production company Reveille.  He‘s executive producer and creator of a new reality show on Bravo which takes place in a Beverly Hills hair salon.  It‘s called “Blowout.”  Ben was also one of the executive producers on the first season of “The Restaurant.

Joey Carson is the chief operating officer of for Bunim-Murray Productions.  They produce reality shows like Fox‘s “The Simple Life” starring Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie.  Bunim-Murray also produced “The Real World” for MTV.

And David Hurwitz is with us this evening.  He‘s the executive producer of the hugely successful reality show “Fear Factor,” which airs on NBC.

All right, gentlemen, first up, we know how popular these shows are.  Six out of ten were in the top ten for American television this past season.  The big question, though, is why?  Joey, I‘ll start with you, because your show, “Real World,” was supposedly one of the forerunners in this genre.

JOEY CARSON, COO, BUNIM-MURRAY PRODUCTIONS:  Yes, it was.  And you

know, I think—to answer the question as to why these shows are popular,

you know, I think it just goes back to simple storytelling.  I think that -

·         just speaking from a person level, I know that I can relate to what I see on these shows just because it‘s plain, simple interaction among people with, in some cases, such as “The Real World,” you know, everyday problems.  Oftentimes on some of the other shows, even when the people are put into different situations that might seem a little bit unreal, they still are dealing with real interpersonal relationships in order to solve some of these problems that kind of mirror what happens in our daily lives, as we‘re going to work and just interacting with our friends.  So I think people at home can relate to that.

NORVILLE:  Let‘s take a look at “The Real World.”  This is a show that‘s been on for a number of years on MTV, and it takes young people, ages 18 to 22, puts them into a house, throws them into a situation, and they got to deal.  And here‘s a situation from the confession room, where there‘s a little bit of a twist added to the situation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did you hear what she said?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Obviously, that girl was not into me.  I wish she was into you.  We don‘t need to debate that, all right?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, I thought she was into you!  I still think...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Come on!

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you think that was my intention?  Do you think that was my intention?  Do you think that was my intention, to rub your nose in it?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK, here‘s what I think...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Do you think that I...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I think you value hooking up with a good-looking girl a lot more than you value your friendship with some guy you just met two days ago.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Oh, please!

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  There we have it, two guys fighting over one girl. 

Certainly happens in real life, and I guess it‘s real interesting when it happens on television, right, Joey?

CARSON:  Well, absolutely.  I mean, especially where “The Real World” is the case in point.  I mean, the kids are experiencing things that we can all relate to, that even as some older viewers like myself, or even my peer group, you know, we‘ve all been through these types of things in our lives.  And so—but you know, you never really maybe had the opportunity to look at it, you know, outside the looking glass.  So when it happens to these people, it‘s—you know, we can really relate to it.  And I think that‘s what brings it home.

NORVILLE:  Ben, how much of this is the voyeur effect, or the idea that I‘m the fly on the wall and I get to kind of peek in on somebody else‘s life and not have to live it but still get to kind of wallow in it a little bit?

BEN SILVERMAN, REALITY SHOW PRODUCER:  Well, one of the pioneering shows in the reality genre is called “Big Brother,” which, you know, plays on that voyeuristic fascination head on.  I think that there‘s an absolute element for the audience of sitting back, as they do when they watch television passively, and engaging in these other people‘s stories, as Joey said.  But I think the element of voyeurism only works as it relates literally to relatability.  Where is your entre point in the show you‘re watching?  Who is the character that you identify with or who‘s the character you hate or who‘s the character you love?  And it‘s not just pure kind of looking out your window at the neighbors across the way, “Rear Window” style.

NORVILLE:  Because there‘s somebody in there that‘s relatable to your own life.  Your new show that just started on Bravo features Jonathan, the hair stylist, who‘s opening a new salon in Beverly Hills.  And this was—

I actually watched it the other night.  This was on TV, and this was like the boss that everybody‘s had at one point or another, that you really hope something awful happens to.  Take a look.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Here‘s the deal.  The deal is, is that you got to let me build the salon and finish it because it‘s not about you and your client, it‘s about me and the city of Beverly Hills right now.  Otherwise, you‘re not going to do anybody.  And when I say that to you and do you this to me, whatever it is, when you say, Whatever, to me that‘s not cool.  You said that, and that‘s not cool.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Fine, I did say that, but...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  But you can‘t say that to me, whatever.  It‘s not about whatever, Brandon.  We‘re talking about you and your (DELETED) haircut...

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You can relax.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  No, no, no.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Don‘t get in my face, man.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Don‘t tell me to relax because you‘ll be out of here today.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  No matter what that guy does, he‘s not going to make the boss happy.  We‘ve all been there.  And I saw you laughing as that clip played out.  That must have been delicious as that was happening.

SILVERMAN:  Well, I don‘t have the visuals on either of the clips shown, I just have it on audio.  And it‘s a good test because both shows sound highly dramatic and entertaining and interesting.  And both of the situations that you‘ve played so far are ones that would be engaging to an audience.  And yes, when you get an organic fight breaking out between two of your main characters that you‘re following on the reality show, you‘re, as a producer, very happy that there‘s action going on that‘s going to help form great story, great character, and will, hopefully, drive the show.

NORVILLE:  Yes, but how much is organic and how much is a producer or production assistant sort of egging them on a little bit, saying, Come on, go for it, go for it!~  As a viewer, you sit there and you wonder, Did this really just happen?

SILVERMAN:  Well, I can speak to the shows that I make and ones that we put on the air, and you try and be as real as possible.  And you hope that you have found characters who are big and charismatic, and you may cast the deck in your favor.  You know that somebody may not respond to another character as well, and so you might put those two together in a situation, hoping that sparks alight, but you‘re never egging them on kind of the way you were describing it.  There‘s not one person whispering in one of their ears, Hey, you know, Brandon hates you, and not somebody else whispering in Jonathan‘s—in Brandon‘s ear, Oh, Jonathan hates you, and then suddenly, you—they appear together.  You know, we don‘t to any of that.  I think what you find is that the television and the camera do change people‘s behaviors, and that‘s one of the things that definitely is going on in all these shows.

NORVILLE:  Yes.

SILVERMAN:  These are people who want their 15 minutes and are operating differently because they‘re on camera.

NORVILLE:  And talk about changing the situation, you throw slugs, maggots, scorpions and all kinds of things into the situation, you‘re definitely going to affect the way people react.  David, what is the premise behind “Fear Factor,” to gross out the people at home or to see just how far someone can be pushed before they say, That‘s it, I‘m out?

DAVID HURWITZ, EXEC. PRODUCER, “FEAR FACTOR”:  Ultimately, the premise is to entertain.  And we set up (UNINTELLIGIBLE) challenges and stunts that, you know, tell a story.  We start with six contestants, and we end with one person winning, and how we get to the end is through these challenges.  So ultimately, it‘s to entertain.  And different people will react differently.  They‘re going to root for or against somebody or watch through their fingers as  they cover their eyes.

NORVILLE:  Well, we‘re going to roll a tape, and we‘ll then see how our viewers react to this one.  Here‘s a clip from “Fear Factor.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Five, four, three, two, one.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You did it!

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You did it!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  You did it!

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  How are you?  Are you OK?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Oh, man!

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Get ‘em off.  Get ‘em off!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  OK, we‘re going to get them off.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Get them off me!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Joey, you OK?

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  I was one of the behind-the-fingers kind of people.  That was China, the wrestler, enduring, I guess it was maggots and scorpions?

HURWITZ:  Yes, there‘s scorpions and millipedes and a whole little insect soup crawling around on her.

NORVILLE:  And this has been a tremendous hit for NBC.  Why does it work?

HURWITZ:  I think it works for a lot of the reasons that the other guys have mentioned.  And I think, you know, one of the reasons, “Real World” needs to take a little more credit because they have been on the air a dozen years, and people have grown up watching this reality television.  Now these people are a key demographic.

But I think as we said already, the viewers identify in some way, and with our show more viscerally and strategically.  Our characters aren‘t people that you need to sit with week after week, our contestants.  Therefore, you know, they wear who they are on their sleeve.  You‘re either rooting for a guy because he‘s from your hometown or you‘re rooting against somebody because you think they‘re a knucklehead, and you‘re strategizing along with them.  So I think a viewer sits down, they know what they‘re going to get within that hour.  They‘re going to see six people.  They‘re going to see three extreme stunts.  And they‘re going to strategize and root for and against people along the way.

NORVILLE:  But you also sit there and wonder, Good grief, what else can you people come up with next?  I mean, at a certain point, you know, you can only see somebody in a tank with snakes so many times.  Oh, fine, we‘ve done that.  That old trick again.  So the bar has to continually be raised a little bit higher, a little bit higher, a little bit higher.  Is there a point to which you won‘t go, David, on “Fear Factor”?  Because these people could get hurt.

HURWITZ:  Well, what everybody has to realize is that everything we do is, you know—and we say it at the top of the show—it is tested and designed by stunt professionals.  It‘s my job, and Mack Kunis (ph), the other executive producer‘s job, and the producers on the show, to think outside the envelope.  And then it‘s one of our senior producer‘s job, who‘s a stunt veteran and designs and executes all these stunts, to put us back in a box.  We do our due diligence as producers, as all responsible shows in these reality shows do, to make sure that everything is done safely.  And you know, it‘s almost like you could pick any other genre—you could take soap operas, you could take sitcoms, you could take police dramas—how many hospital shows can there be?  How many New York cop shows?  You know, so it‘s—it‘s—we do different variations of our stunts.  You know, and we might go a little higher, a little faster, a little further, but they‘re all within the confines of safety...

NORVILLE:  Well, there‘s no question...

HURWITZ:  ... and our job...

NORVILLE:  Yes.  There‘s no question...

HURWITZ:  Yes.

NORVILLE:  ... you guys are the flavor of the moment.

We want to take a quick break and then come right back and talk more about reality TV.  It is what‘s hot on television today, and my three guests are part of the reason why.  Back in a moment.

ANNOUNCER:  Coming up: Richard Hatch, Omarosa, Bill Rancik (ph).  They found fame and fortune on reality TV and, in some cases, got more than they bargained for.  A nation‘s obsession for 15 minutes of fame when DEBORAH NORVILLE TONIGHT returns.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  We‘re steadily making friends.  The people are so nice.  And they just like us because we‘re sweet.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That‘s not even right.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  That‘s a scene from the reality show “The Simple Life.”  “Simple Life 2” just debuted this week.  We‘re talking about reality television, and we‘re back with TV producers Ben Silverman, Joey Carson and David Hurwitz.  All three have had successful shows, and continue to, on television.

You know, I‘ve been in TV for a long time, and TV producers are sort of like lemmings.  They‘re there‘s nothing that breeds imitation like success.  And we‘ve seen it with cop shows.  We‘ve seen it with the cowboy shows, the medical dramas, and then the lawyer shows.  And they come and they go.  Is this a fad, or is it something that you think is more long-lasting?  Joey, I‘ll let you have that one.

CARSON:  You know, I think it‘s got some legs to it.  You know, I think we‘re kind of currently riding reality wave No. 2.  I think a couple of years ago, we got off to a really fast start with—you know, especially “Who Wants To Be a Millionaire,” and that really took off and we couldn‘t get enough of it.  And then some other things came along, and then it kind of died down a little bit.  But then I think most notably, “Survivor” came along, and that really, I think, brought people back in.  And then we‘ve kind of just grown from there.

NORVILLE:  What was it about “Survivor” that made the connection so firm?

CARSON:  You know, speaking just from a personal level, I‘m a really big fan of the show.  I just think it is so well done.  Mark Burnett does a great job over there, and they tell the stories really well.  It‘s beautifully shot.  It‘s fantastically edited.  The casting is great.  I mean, it‘s just a fantastic show.

So I think that even though there‘s a hint of non-reality to it, in that people are put through challenges and things like that, the way they tell the stories of the people and how they go through it really, again, brings it back to just The Simple storytelling that everybody can relate to.

NORVILLE:  You talk about storytelling.  The guys who produce scripted shows, the comedies, the dramas, I mean, they‘re out there losing sleep because of what you all in reality television have done.  But didn‘t they bring this on themselves, to a certain extent?  If their shows had been better, the reality shows wouldn‘t have connected with the audience?

SILVERMAN:  I think there‘s plenty of room for all forms of strong storytelling and good shows in any format or genre.  I mean, I don‘t think the whole news explosion was talked about as much as it related to the launch of all the different news magazines in primetime a number of years ago.  But then it correlated to the fact that there are six news channels now.  So I think as you look at reality, as it may be overpopulates the primetime schedule right now, but you‘re going to see—and I know one of your guests in a later segment is focused 100 percent on this.  You‘re going to see reality channels, and you‘re going to see reality exist well beyond network primetime, but you‘re going to see it all over the airwaves.

And as it relates to scripted programming, I‘m very much involved in scripted programming.  I had a sitcom on NBC last year.  I have another one coming on in the winter called “The Office: An American Workplace,” which is an adaptation of a British show.  But in that show, what we‘ve done is we‘ve utilized a lot of reality storytelling devices and reality form and aesthetic.  And I think what the audience wants is just new things, and whether it‘s written or whether it‘s totally reality-driven, they just want good programming.  And they‘re not turning their back on a good drama, if you look at “The Sopranos” ratings, and they‘re not turning their back on comedies they love, if you look at the CBS Monday night, you know, “Everybody Loves Raymond”-led line-up.

NORVILLE:  Yes, but that‘s got one more season left.

SILVERMAN:  I just think it‘s a matter...

NORVILLE:  You know, when “Everybody Loves Raymond” goes away, a lot of people are saying, What are they going to love after Raymond leaves?  And some people say reality seems to be all there is that‘s new and hot for them to get their arms around.

SILVERMAN:  I think if you deliver a strong new comedy, it will find an audience.  I think you need to do different things within the form, and I think if I turn on the TV one more time and see a couch and two smiling brothers who‘ve just adopted a child together or look at a living room with, you know, a happy family and the dogs, you know, I‘m not watching that show.  I don‘t even give it 13 seconds before I change the channel.  If I turn on David Hurwitz‘s show or Joey‘s shows, I tend to always stop.  I mean, the clips you‘ve shown today would, I think, cause anyone flipping the dial to tune in to these programs.

NORVILLE:  And I want to show another one of those clips, this one from one of Joey Carson‘s productions, from Bunim-Murray.  This is from “Starting Over,” and this is a show that‘s on syndication in daytime television, where we see women who‘ve had various situations in their lives that they‘re trying to deal with, hook up with life coaches.  And here‘s what happens when one life coach thinks that her client isn‘t exactly doing what she‘s been told to do.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Well, there are things about my marriage to Larry that I haven‘t even had the courage to tell him.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  And I‘ve asked you to write down things in your journal that you don‘t want to say out loud.  Have you done that yet?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  No.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  OK.  So, see, you haven‘t quite been doing your homework.  I‘m a little worried about your really willingness to save your marriage and be happy in it, or do you want to just be miserable in it and use it for material?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Or not save it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Or not save it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Three alternatives.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  Yes.  And you‘re not—and you‘re not moving on any of them.  You‘re kind of joust saying you want to save it, but you‘re not really doing anything to show me that you want to save it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  Joey, this is a little different because these are real families.  These are real situations, and there‘s real calamity that could happen if television impacts their lives in the wrong way.

CARSON:  I guess that‘s true, but we‘ve actually found that the opposite has been the case.  We‘re really excited about “Starting Over.”  It‘s a really great show.  And what we‘ve found is, of the women that came on in the first season, all of them have made substantial positive changes in their lives and have gone on to do really neat things.  And it‘s also really resonated with the viewers.  We‘ve gotten just huge amounts of feedback from the people that watch the show.  Lots of people want to come on the show.  You know, everybody—you know, kind of, again, these are problems that a lot of us can relate to.  And what we‘ve found is that people are coming on and they—the show seems to be—it‘s given them hope.

NORVILLE:  Yes.

CARSON:  You know, they‘ve seen it as a vehicle to maybe achieve a goal that maybe they couldn‘t find another avenue to achieve it.

NORVILLE:  And reality television applies to people‘s lives in one way or another.  Ben Silverman, Joey Carson, David Hurwitz, thanks so much.  This is a fascinating topic.  We all love our television, and we love the shows you guys are putting out there.  Thanks for being with us.

When we come back, as you heard, there is about to be an all reality all the time television network.  You thought “Animal Planet” was going wild.  Wait until you see this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

NORVILLE:  We know people love watching reality TV, but how about watching it 24/7?  My next guest is about to launch an all reality television cable channel called Reality Central.  Kay Koplovitz was the founder of USA Networks, the first woman television network executive, and she‘s now the chairman of Reality Central.

Nice to see you.

KAY KOPLOVITZ, CHAIRMAN, “REALITY CENTRAL”:  Good to see you, Deborah.

NORVILLE:  How much of this really just plays to that old adage that truth is stranger than fiction?

KOPLOVITZ:  Well, I think some of it does.  I think that‘s what captures people‘s imagination on reality programming because, first of all, I think everyone thinks they could be there, that could be them, they could compete on these shows.  And some of the things that happen, you just couldn‘t script..

NORVILLE:  And how much of—obviously, you think this is a long-time phenomenon, not just a quick flash in the pan.  How much of what‘s going to be on Reality Central will be shows that the audience has already seen and grown to love, like “Survivor” and “American Idol,” and so on?

KOPLOVITZ:  Well, it‘s kind of interesting.  About half the programming actually will be E-like in its characteristics.  It‘ll be about the news, views, gossip behind the scenes, and really, the stories behind the stories of reality programming because people really have an insatiable appetite for the people who appear on reality shows, where they come from, where they‘re going, where are they now?  There‘s a lot for us to do right there.

About 25 percent of the shows will actually be first-time-seen-in-the-United-States shows.  We‘ve licensed programming from overseas.  And, as you may know, most of the formats for reality shows come from outside the United States.  This is one category where the United States isn‘t leading, but following a trend from the rest of the world, which has really been hot and growing for the last 12 or 15 years in other countries around the world.  So...

NORVILLE:  Why was it so big in Europe and overseas and not here in America? 

KOPLOVITZ:  Well, fruitfully, Deborah, I really think coming from the

scripted side of the product myself with USA Networks and Sci-Fi, I really

·         I believe that the European producers went into this reality genre because it‘s someplace where they could compete easily and they didn‘t have to compete with American shows that were strongly distributed around the world, the dramas and the comedies that did go overseas.

So this is an area where I think they excelled and they developed the formats, and they‘re actually a little bit ahead of us, so what we see at Reality Central, the programs that we‘re bringing in, we‘re kind of ahead of the curve and we‘re looking at shows.  So about 25 percent of our shows will be that.  And there are some great ones we‘re bringing in.

And then the remaining 25 percent or so will be shows that have been seen here in the United States, but not the same exact showing.  We‘re going to do more or less the DVD model of those shows, meaning, we have over 150 reality stars already contracted with us to do not only marketing and promotion of our network and our programming, but some of them will be on the air and they‘ll be coming back.  So Richard Hatch will be coming back to say... 

NORVILLE:  Behind the scenes kind of stuff. 

KOPLOVITZ:  Exactly, and all the way back to “Survivor,” and the first season, and what he was really thinking.

NORVILLE:  I‘m curious about this whole reality phenomenon.  And I wonder if one of the reasons that it‘s working now is, all of these shows have an emotional component somewhere or another.  Either you‘re scared out of your wits because it‘s a horrible endurance thing that they‘re having to go through or you‘re cheering for the underdog who‘s going to win.

But we live kind of in a society where it‘s actually possible to have no human interaction.  You can do your banking with a machine.  You can have your groceries delivered over the Internet.  You can get your lunch by talking to a box at the drive-in window.  Is this a way for people to reconnect that is safe without any risk to them? 

KOPLOVITZ:  Well, I also think it‘s not only that. 

I think people, it‘s a lean-forward type of television.  This is not sit back, couch potato television, because people are engaged in it.  And I think that‘s one of the reasons it‘s so popular with the 18-to-34-year-old audience that grew up on some of the “Real World” programming from MTV, for example.  They are kind of leaning forward into—and it‘s a little bit analogous to a sporting event. 

People get their favorites.  They want to root for them.  They talk.  They call their friends.  They text-message to each other.  It‘s a very interesting phenomenon, and people are truly engaged in it. 

NORVILLE:  There is also the aspect of fantasy.  You can imagine, gee, what if I?

And there‘s a new show that‘s just coming out on American Movie Classics called—oh, gosh, what‘s it called?  You get to be the star that you want to be.  It‘s called “Into Character.”  Thank you.  The people in my ear told me this.

Let‘s take a look at that and then I want to get your reaction to that, because that‘s a little different from what we‘re seeing.  This is “Into Character.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “INTO CHARACTER”)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Good afternoon. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Good afternoon. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  We have decided to turn your film fantasy into reality.  In exactly two weeks, you will box in Rocky‘s hometown at the legendary Blue Horizon Arena in Philadelphia in front of hundreds of boxing fans.  Your vehicle will arrive to your left now.  Please follow our escorts into the limousine at this time.  Thank you. 

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Alrighty. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  And that guy goes on and actually reenacts all the cool Sylvester Stallone stunts from the “Rocky” movie. 

KOPLOVITZ:  It‘s a fantasy.  You get a chance to get to live your fantasy.  Who wouldn‘t want to do that?  “Field of Dreams,” whatever.  People enjoy that aspect of this programming.

And reality programming does span a lot of different genres within self—subgenres.  There‘s sort of the competitions and they eat as many worms as possible type—“Fear Factor”-type shows.  And then there are “Bachelor,” which is a love and romantic interest.  There‘s the competition of “Survivor,” which is really plotting and strategy, as is “The Apprentice.” 

There are such a wide variety of shows, “American Shopper,” people that love motorcycles and so forth.

NORVILLE:  Motorcycles. 

KOPLOVITZ:  It‘s really an amazing array of programming. 

NORVILLE:  And because there‘s so much to talk about, we‘re going to take a short break. 

When we come back, we‘re going to talk more with Kay Koplovitz, the chairman of Reality Central.  We‘ll also be joined by the chief of a magazine that‘s also all about reality TV. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “FEAR FACTOR”)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re going to have to lie there for four minutes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  I cannot do this.  I just can‘t.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  You‘re going to quit?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, I‘m out.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  Still ahead, why do everyday people put their reputations on the line to become rich contestants on reality TV?  We‘ll ask in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE APPRENTICE”) 

DONALD TRUMP, DEVELOPER/BUSINESSMAN:  The reality is, Troy, we‘re dealing with multibillion dollar businesses here.  The consequences of hiring a live wire like you could be costly and devastating.

And I have to say, you‘re fired.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  We‘re talking reality TV. 

Back with Kay Koplovitz, chairman of the soon-to-be-launched cable network called Reality Central.  And we‘re also joined by Joe Blackmon, the editor in chief of “Reality TV,” magazine, which is all things to fans of reality TV. 

Joe, I‘m sure probably the No. 1 reader question you get is, how do people get on these shows?  How do they get on? 

JOE BLACKMON, EDITOR IN CHIEF, “REALITY TV”:  Well, it‘s about having a personality, about putting yourself out there, about gaining somebody‘s attention, and basically the opportunity is out there for people who are very savvy and put themselves forth and get on the shows. 

NORVILLE:  And when they get on the shows, amazing things can happen to their lives.  The show called “The Swan,” which is one of the makeover shows that‘s out there, takes women, puts them through an extraordinary amount of plastic surgery.

And then, weeks after they haven‘t seen themselves in a mirror, gives them a chance to check out their new look.  Let‘s check out “The Swan.”

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “THE SWAN”)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE:  That‘s me?  I look beautiful.  It‘s not like one of those fake mirrors that make you look skinnier or prettier.  I cannot believe this is me. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  And then that contestant or another one will be told you may be pretty, but not pretty enough to continue on in the competition. 

Kay, do those kinds of shows work? 

KOPLOVITZ:  They are working.  And I think, again, it‘s part of the fantasy. 

But I also think that in the case of the makeover shows, I think people‘s own personalities and self-perception actually changes, and many of the shows have psychologists that work with the contestants in order to bring them through a process.  It‘s amazing.  We were talking about, how do people get on these shows? 

The qualifications for a lot of people to get on these shows, they have to go through a whole battery of psychological testing.  And it‘s sometimes a two- and three- and four-week process for screening, and reality shows almost always are in the choice of contestants on them, especially the ones that are competitions, less so for the makeover shows. 

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  Meaning the person chose to be on that show. 

KOPLOVITZ:  The casting of the show, the people that are chosen—you had a little clip of “The Apprentice.” 

NORVILLE:  Right. 

KOPLOVITZ:  People on “The Apprentice” went through several weeks of psychological testing in order to be on that show, and it‘s really about the personalities, how they‘re different, how they withstand pressure, how they take criticism, how they‘re going to react, because, of course, they don‘t want people to be damaged coming off the show. 

They want them to benefit from it in some way or at least have fun being a contestant. 

NORVILLE:  But there‘s also some question as to how far reality television will go.  The Television Council has been looking at reality TV and they did a survey.

They looked at all the first four episodes of shows from 2002 in June to 2003 in August. And they found 1,100 instances of foul language, almost 500 instances of sexual content, 30 instances of violence, which was a 52 percent increase.  You know, critics of television will say that it always finds the lowest level. 

Joe Blackmon, as you look at the genre, are you seeing it devolve in some ways? 

BLACKMON:  No, I don‘t think it‘s a lot different than what you could see on any other network show. 

Think of the controversy surrounding the Super Bowl.  I do see—I‘m actually a father myself and I have a 2 ½-year-old little girl.  And she‘s growing up on reality TV.  I call her America‘s youngest reality TV fan.  And we kind of let her watch “American Idol” a lot because it‘s singing and dancing, and she really enjoys that and gets into it.

But we also had “The Simple Life” on last night and she calls Paris and Nicole the Barbies and we kind of had to turn the volume down on that show. 

NORVILLE:  I can understand why.  We‘ll let that be the last word.                 

Kay Koplovitz from Reality Central, Joe Blackmon, thank you both very much for being with us. 

When we come back, we‘ll talk with some people who have actually been on reality TV.  Our turn to ask the question, what were they thinking?  Richard Hatch, the winner of the first “Survivor,” Tammy Faye Messner, who appeared on “The Surreal Life,” and Sarah Kozer, who was runner-up on the dating show “Joe Millionaire,” all join me next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “SURVIVOR”)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  The winner of the first “Survivor” competition is Rich. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  That was Richard Hatch winning the first “Survivor” series.

And now we want to bring in some of the stars of reality television, contestants who participated in the shows, beginning with Richard Hatch himself.  He was the winner of the first “Survivor” and a contestant on “Survivor All-Stars.”  Also joining us tonight, Tammy Faye Messner.  She was part of “The Surreal Life,” a show which chronicled what it was like as Tammy and other celebrities shared a mansion in the Hollywood Hills.

And also with us, Sarah Kozer.  She runner-up on the first dating show, “Joe Millionaire.” 

It‘s nice to see all you guys. 

I want to ask you all the same question.  Do you regret having been a part of reality TV? 

Sarah, we‘ll start with you first and then just work across. 

SARAH KOZER, REALITY TV SHOW STAR:  I don‘t, mostly because I think that all life experience is good.  I wouldn‘t say that I had the most fun in my life on that show.  But it‘s certainly been an interesting experience, and I‘ve gotten to see an avenue that I never would have had access to before, had I not done the show. 

NORVILLE:  Tammy, what about you?  Are you glad you did it? 

TAMMY FAYE MESSNER, REALITY TV SHOW STAR:  I‘m really glad I did.  I had a wonderful experience, met some wonderful people that we‘re still all friends and in contact with.  And I have a whole new audience as a result of it, which I greatly appreciate.  I love the young people. 

NORVILLE:  And, Richard Hatch, how about you?  You were sort of the first of this bunch to get in there. 

RICHARD HATCH, REALITY TV SHOW STAR:  Yes, people do it for different reasons, Deborah.  And I‘ve enjoyed the process and I‘ve enjoyed doing it, and the time since. 

NORVILLE:  How has your life changed, Richard, because you won the million dollars.  You became a well known personality as a result of it.  How is life different than it was before? 

HATCH:  Well, don‘t get me wrong, but it hasn‘t, really.  I mean, I think the reason I won the show is because I knew who I was, and I think I still do.  So I think I‘ve kept it in perspective, and although superficially I have a lot more opportunities that are really great, I‘m still me and loving life. 

NORVILLE:  Are you surprised to see how reality television, Richard, has turned into such a monolith on the airwaves? 

HATCH:  Well, not really, but I have a problem with the characterization, reality television.  I don‘t think the shows are even similar, never mind the same.

Just like scripted television, reality is a genre that contains all kinds of different shows, very, very different from one another. 

NORVILLE:  Sarah, you saw the publicity that came after “Survivor” and the “Joe Millionaire” show was one that no one really knew exactly how it was going to play out.  Why did you get involved? 

KOZER:  I think probably a combination of naivete and perhaps stupidity, and I had never watched a single episode of reality TV at all before “Joe Millionaire.” 

When it was becoming popular, I was in law school and not watching any television.  So I really bought it hook, line and sinker.  The way the show was presented to you was very innocuous and it sounded like a lot of fun, go to France.  We didn‘t know it was a dating show.  And not being privy to the reality genre, I didn‘t realize that, you know, it would be kind of manipulated. 

(CROSSTALK)

NORVILLE:  Did they come to you or did a girlfriend say, hey, Sarah, you ought to do this, could be a blast? 

(CROSSTALK)

KOZER:  I had a girlfriend refer them to me, so they did call me, and, come in for an interview.  I remember thinking I didn‘t want to do it and had to take a day off work to do it.

But, you know, they called a few times and I thought, oh, why not?  You know, I‘ll go on my lunch hour.  And from there, it just kind of progressed very quickly.  And they make it sound very appealing.  You get to spend a month in France.  And I‘m sitting in my office job, thinking, you know, this might be the last time or the only time somebody asks me to drop out of my life for a month and go on an exciting vacation. 

NORVILLE:  So you go on this exciting vacation.  They fly you over to France.  The next thing, you know you and a bunch of girls are coming up the very long driveway of this incredible chateau.  And they tell you the guy that lives there is wealthier than all get-out and is looking for love, and you meet the guy we now know as Evan Marriott. 

Let‘s take a look at you from the show. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, “JOE MILLIONAIRE”)

KOZER:  I was comforted by his answer.  Like, it hasn‘t changed him too much.  It doesn‘t seem like he‘s really lost his mind with it. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

NORVILLE:  That was a short clip, but did you start thinking, Gosh, this is a nice guy, maybe he‘s somebody for me?  You looked like you were getting smitten. 

KOZER:  I think it‘s in that situation, you know, your world becomes a microcosm.

And you know, my experience is so different than how the show was edited.  You know, my experience, the girls all got along and nobody really fell in love with Evan.  And then you watch the show and it‘s such a different perspective.  So that‘s kind of shocking.

But, at the time, I remember not taking it too seriously because you don‘t really think anybody is going to go on television with only the agenda of finding romance, you know?  I think that nobody was really on that show looking for a boyfriend or a girlfriend, and I certainly wasn‘t, not even knowing in the beginning that there would be one man on the show. 

NORVILLE:  Tammy Faye, when you were on “The Surreal Life” with a bunch of other who were well known people, obviously, you weren‘t looking to become well known.  You already were.  Was this an opportunity to enhance your career in a different way?  What was the motivation for you? 

MESSNER:  Absolutely not. 

My motivation was to show that a Christian could go on a reality show and not compromise my testimony.  And I think that I achieved that. 

NORVILLE:  And, as you said, your life is different.  You got a new fan base.  Has it opened doors for you that would have probably stayed closed? 

MESSNER:  I think young people have seen me in a different light, realized that I‘m someone who loves to have fun, that I enjoy life, but I enjoy life as a Christian. 

You know, it seems like this world that we‘re living in has no boundaries and has no stoplights anymore, and I wanted to show young people in this day and age that we are living in that there are still boundaries, there are still stoplights, and you can stand up for what you believe.  This is reality. 

NORVILLE:  Well, we know you are dealing with cancer.  And you‘re fighting it tooth and nail.  And we know you‘ve been fighting the brave fight.  You were kind enough to be on our show a couple months ago and talk about it.  You‘re looking good.  I hope you‘re doing well. 

MESSNER:  Thank you.  I feel well. 

NORVILLE:  You look wonderful. 

Richard, let me get to you.  Talking about the boundaries and the strategy of these shows, you clearly knew that this was a game that had to be played.  You couldn‘t just react to it.  Talk to me a little bit about strategy. 

HATCH:  Well, absolutely.

And going in, when they described the show, I decided early that I was going to try and figure out what was needed to get to the end.  And I knew it had not been done before, so I had to just be willing to do what it took.  I have no regrets.

NORVILLE:  Was being naked part of it?  Was being naked part of it just to get you noticed? 

HATCH:  No, no, being naked became part of it, because actually the opposite.  Being naked was in order to not get noticed.  I figured CBS would never film it and they certainly wouldn‘t show it.  And it worked.  It wasn‘t until almost halfway through that they started filming me. 

NORVILLE:  And, Sarah, after the show, a lot of opportunities came to you and one of them also involved nakedness.  You did choose to accept the opportunity to pose in “Playboy.”  Why? 

KOZER:  You know what, I turned it down several times.  And I‘m so pleased that I did it.  And for me, it was just making a positive out of a negative,.  At that time, I felt really betrayed by how I was presented on the show, and it wasn‘t an ultimately positive experience even being on the show.  We really didn‘t have that much fun locked in the chateau in France.

So for me, it just seemed like a nice way to turn it into a positive

experience for me.  And, you know, it was a lot of fun.  It‘s funny,

because my perceptions, I went on the show completely believing everything

and thinking we were really going to be treated well and had kind of a bad

experience and let my guard down.  And I went into “Playboy” the opposite,

all defensive.  And they treated me

(CROSSTALK)  

NORVILLE:  So let me ask you this question.  I‘ll ask each of you just to give me a yes-or-no answer, because we‘re running out of time. 

If you were advising someone to be on a reality show, would you say yes or no? 

Sarah, yes or no, go on the show?

KOZER:  I say no. 

NORVILLE:  Tammy, yes or no? 

MESSNER:  No. 

NORVILLE:  No. 

Richard. 

HATCH:  Know yourself and yes. 

NORVILLE:  Aha, OK, two no‘s and a yes.  Well, we hear it from people who know where of they speak. 

Richard Hatch, Tammy Faye Messner, Sarah Kozer, thank you very much for coming on tonight. 

MESSNER:  Thank you. 

NORVILLE:  When we come back, this week‘s “American Moment” proves two cliches have never been more true.  It is better to give than receive and what goes around comes around.  We‘ll explain next. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

NORVILLE:  You have heard the old saying, give and you shall receive. 

Well, a Virginia woman who gave a lot, received a lot back, is responsible for this week‘s American moment.  What 44-year-old Mitzi Nichols gave cannot be measured in dollars and sense, because what she gave saved a life.  After working as a kidney dialysis technician at a hospital in the 1980s, she decided that one day she would donate a kidney after seeing how kidney patients suffered. 

And three years ago, she anonymously donated that kidney and it went to a 54-year-old man.  One year later, she and that man, the man who received her kidney, Mitzi Nichols, met.  And they have been friends ever since.  But the story doesn‘t end there.  Mitzi recently won a half a million when she scratched off a Virginia instant lottery ticket.  She is now going to buy a house, a truck for her husband and pay off her college loans. 

And if a kidney wasn‘t enough, she‘s also coming to Calvin Saunders‘ rescue yet again, paying to fix his broken-down car.  Calvin says he is simply overwhelmed Mitzi‘s continuing generosity.  We are, too.  And that‘s why that is this week‘s “American Moment.” 

That‘s our program tonight.  Thanks for watching.  Coming up on Monday, celibacy and the Catholic Church.  For centuries, sex has been forbidden for the clergy.  On Monday, we will take an in-depth look at this topic.

Thanks for watching.  Have a great weekend.

END   

Copy: Content and programming copyright 2004 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2004 FDCH e-Media, Inc. (f/k/a/ Federal Document Clearing House Inc., eMediaMillWorks, Inc.), ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and FDCH e-Media, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,