Tuesday, October 11, 2016

The Season Finale of Survivor: Election 2016

In my last post, I argued that this is not a presidential election we are witnessing. Instead, I argued, we are watching an executive producer's wet dream - the perfect reality TV series.

What trips up the lead character of a semi-scripted reality show - whether it be a good Bachelorette or a deceitful, caddish Bachelor - is betrayal. It is the only dramatic "reveal" that can keep viewers watching until the end of the series, as we approach the season finale. Such a reveal has the ability to wrench the audience's pre-conceived notions and emotional bonds. It usually makes for a top-ten rated finale episode.

What political pundits call "the October surprise," TV executives call "the dramatic cliffhanger."

And so the central character of this season's reality extravaganza, the star of two prior reality show stints, is a cad that 40% of the audience is rooting for, and a deplorable man-boy that a bit more than 40% of the audience hates. Cameras have been trained on the central character for years. Secreted away in the treasure trove of outtakes (owned by the very network which propelled the central character into the deplorable cad persona we now all are addicted to) are the indelible moments of betrayal needed to generate a riveting season finale.

And lo and behold, the reveal arrives, and suddenly the last undecided members of the audience can witness in plain view the cad for what he is. The rooting audience is buffeted but blindly holds on to the discredited cad, the undecided audience is prompted to finally take a stand, and the smug detractors are affirmed for their perspicacity.

Producers of reality shows know there is one final ploy to release upon the audience - a dramatic invocation of the rules of the show - a kind of breaking of the fourth wall. Contestants get disqualified, the rules can suddenly be changed. Rumors abound that the call-in vote is somehow "fixed." Part of the drama lies in the capricious rules/no rules that can be invoked by the producers to apply one last shuffle of the deck. As long as the audience keeps watching.

As they say on American Idol, the voting lines are now open.

Note: The reality show analysis continues here.

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