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.Last Friday we indeed were subjected to just such a "unseen hand" changing the rules of the show's arc with the announcement that there might be a "foul" on the part of the lesser "Contestant B," the last contestant standing in the way of the far more controversial "Contestant A" winning the show. We've also seen charges that the national preferential vote is rigged, or that members of the audience who support "Contestant B" are not being able to register their vote.
Everything is playing out true-to-script for a reality show producer's wet dream - the highest-rated reality show final episode, the episode usually known as the "results show." Typically the "results show" is a reminiscence - the former contestants make brief appearances, the last standing contestants are trotted onstage, and the results are announced. Tears for one, joy for the other, and then a triumphant final ritual crowning of the victor. Catharsis.
So here it is the Friday before the results show finale. Fridays have become the day of dramatic shifts in the show's narrative (Friday October 7 - the "pussygrab" tape is revealed by the Washington Post; Friday, October 28 - FBI director Comey's letter to Congress). Are there any tricks left in the producer's bag to keep the audience riveted to the screen? Is there some unpredictable wild-card event that might be introduced into the narrative arc that is even beyond the grasp of the contestants and the producers? Have the producers created a behemoth of a mega-hit that even they cannot control?
So the final bit of drama could be a further breaking of the "fourth wall" - this time throwing not only the contestants but also the producers for a loop. On Survivor, it could be a medical episode hitting one of the contestants; on Big Brother, it could be unwanted interference from outside the hermetically sealed guest house. In our context, this could be a DDoS attack, a terrorist event, or a riveting act of violence.
There is certainly enough already in the narrative pipeline to keep the audience riveted. Already a full fifth of the total audience has already registered its preference. The online fanboy prediction sites have already issued their final prognostications. The consensus of all the prediction sites has the main character losing, but warn the audience that "anything can happen."
All of which makes for an unprecedented series finale - a results show that might either be a drawn-out bit of contrived drama, or a shocker that ends before midnight eastern time. Either way, the producers have delivered to their corporate owners a fantastic juggernaut. The audience is ready for one last orgiastic event - must see TV.
Note: The reality show analysis continues here.