Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Reality TV and Other Oxymorons

Disclaimer: as always, the opinions expressed on this blog are mine, all mine, I tell you, and do not necessarily represent those of any particular organization I might be associated with at any point in time. Or anybody else. So there.

That concert version of My Fair Lady that I discussed in my 1/29/07 blog entry (a co-production of Stray Dog Theatre and the Clayton Symphony Orchestra) opens in two days, which means we've had some decent coverage in the local press. That includes a very nice spot on the February 13th edition of Show Me St. Louis (the title is a gloss on Missouri's self-assigned reputation as "the show me state"), a TV show produced by local NBC affiliate KSDK that focuses on sports, entertainment and other "soft news" items.

The video, which runs around 5 minutes, is available at the KSDK web site. When you view it, you'll see what appears to be coverage of a typical rehearsal, complete with actors and orchestra. We're seen and heard rehearsing bits of "I'm an Ordinary Man", "I Could Have Danced All Night" and "Get Me to the Church on Time" (in which the more musically astute among you will hear me blowing part of the lyric) and there are interviews with our leading lady, director, and the orchestra's conductor/director.

As with much of TeeVee, however, "things are seldom what they seem" (to lift a W.S. Gilbert lyric).

The fact is that KSDK records spots like this on its schedule, not yours. So instead of bringing the host and camera tech out to one of our evening rehearsals, we were asked to stage a rehearsal just for them on a Monday morning. Which we did. The songs chosen were based on who among us principals was able to make it to a 9 AM Monday rehearsal. That turned out to be Jennifer (Eliza), Michael (Higgins) and me (Doolittle), hence the songs listed above.

So what you really see in the video is a staged-for-TV rehearsal.

In many ways, this is a difference that makes no difference. We did do each one of those songs in its entirety on the actual stage with most of the actual orchestra, which was actually useful for those of us who could be there. But it strikes me that this could, in a very different set of circumstances, be the first step on what could be a slippery slope. At what point does the made-for-TV version of an event stop being merely a variation of the real thing and turn into an outright fabrication? Our rehearsal clearly stops short of that line, but how would you, as a viewer, know that it did unless you read it here? How many other supposedly "real" things on TV are nothing of the sort?

Hey, don't get me wrong. I really appreciate the fact that KSDK gave us the coverage, and I'm sure their viewers are happy to have the information. One this one, everybody wins. It's just that it does raise those nagging questions about the other things you see on the Tube.

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