Why does reality TV need celebrities?

Steve Blears PItch a TV Show Podcast - Season 1

Why does reality TV need celebrities?

Pitch a TV Show Podcast
Why does reality TV need celebrities?

Season 1: Episode 2

Helen's idea for a reality TV show about sailing gets feedback from award-winning TV executive Cat Lewis. She doesn't think the idea can work without celebrities.

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Why does reality TV need celebrities? - Transcript

So you've heard the pitch for launch, if not head back to episode one.

"A boat, the wind, the water. The one stipulation is that none of the contestants should be a celebrity."

"I would make it a celebrity competition."

I'm Steve Blears. This time, will Helen aye-aye to celebs on her boat? She's coming up, but first on award-winning TV executive with her advice on getting the show ship shape and ready for TV.


"Hi Helen, It's Cat Lewis here. I'm an executive producer at an independent production company called Nine Lives Media. I love your idea about sailing. I've always wanted to learn to sail myself.

I still remember that I was once doing a feature about people who buy boats and I was surprised to learn from the Coast Guard down in Bristol that actually very few of them learn how to sail first.

So they've got the money to buy a yacht, they buy it, and just sail on out there without actually knowing what they're doing. Which obviously leads to lots of problems for the Coast Guard's I'm sure.

Anyway, in terms of the idea I think the reason why we end up introducing celebrities into ideas like this, and I know you've specifically said you don't want to, but the reason why we do is to bring more viewers in.

I think that Who Do You Think You Are (TV Show) is a really good example to consider. That programme about genealogy combined celebrity stories with the subject matter that we all knew is incredibly popular in the country.

But we couldn't engage viewers because they didn't know who ordinary people were and therefore they didn't care about their ancestors. Whereas with Who Do You Think You Are, It just worked brilliantly because we all feel that we know celebrities and therefore we're more engaged and interested in their stories. The storeys of their families in the past.

So that's why we often bring in celebrities to immediately kind of draw an audience because it's such a competitive market out there. We're competing against every film that's ever been made, every other TV programme that's being made all around the world and the streaming services Disney, Netflix etc.et are incredibly competitive.

So, it's hard to bring an audience unless you're offering something really special, and the other thing about the sailing idea is to me, it feels as if there's not quite enough happening in each episode. We need quite a lot of drama because we're competing against drama. So, in each episode of these kind of programmes, we need to make sure that people are really going to be going through a lot and we can capture that journey.

So it feels to me as if it's a little bit a thin in terms of the action and that you need to kind of introduce much more happening in each episode.

So that would be my advice. I know you're probably not gonna want to take it but I would make it a celebrity competition and I would have much more action within each individual episode. Apart from that it's honestly it's a good idea. Well done."

"Hi, Helen. How are you?"

"Yeah, absolutely fantastic."

"So you need celebrities. You need drama. You need action."

"The minute you launch. If you don't immediately ensure you're sitting on the right sound the right side of the boat, you're in the water within seconds. There are arguments and tears. That would be from the off."

"What about the issue of celebrities? There are reality TV shows without celebrities. Are you willing to compromise?"

"If it gets sailing out there then obviously it would be a compromise. I just think it's such a shame because celebrities have enjoyed so much in their lives. And let's face it, they weren't always celebrities. Somebody had to give them a chance. For example, look at Eddie the Eagle now. I'd turn up somewhere to see him. He's inspirational. He wasn't a celebrity when he went to the Olympics. Everybody said who's that geyser? He didn't come back A loser."

Quick footnote for you, Eddie the Eagle was a British ski-jumper who rose to notoriety after the 1988 Olympics. Google it.

"So maybe some celebrities, like with the judging panel."

"Just on that point Helen of the judging panel, you suggested some respected people from the sailing community. That's a sensible idea but is a bit worthy."

"Yeah. Obviously, you would have to choose charismatic instructors. Yeah. I mean, that would be funny as well, because they don't necessarily know have to all look like George Clooney or the female equivalent. I think that would be OK as long as they've got big personalities, like with Shirley on Strictly (Come Dancing). I mean, she's got a personality. My idea was that you'd have to sailing icons. Obviously, Ben Ainslie is quite busy, but I'm in touch with the Olympic instructor of the Olympic youth team. Now he's handsome!"

He'll do. So, Helen's had her first taste of professional advice and the celebrity ban has walked the plank. Behind the scenes, any TV idea will go through rounds of reviews and tweaking just like this, so it's encouraging that she's taken it on board. And let's not forget, Cat says she loves the idea.

Coming up next time, "what I think needs to be worked on is the title."

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