The reality show formula as told to me by a successful reality show producer is known as "the three C's." What are the three C's you ask? I'll tell you.
Now, if you were of the mind to pitch a reality show based on your amazing workplace, those three elements must be in place for there to be any chance of a tv show. Sure, you might have a lot of great characters down at the post office and yes, there is plenty of chaos in the business of delivering mail, but there are no consequences.
What happens if your mail is late or doesn't get to you on Monday when it was supposed to?
Likewise, if they run out of stamps? Again, nothing.
And this is why you will never see a reality show about mail carriers or the post office. Nothing happens.
If you don't believe me, you can look at any successful reality show and deconstruct it. You can be sure the three C's are in place.
Take the cable hit Gold Rush. This show is a prime example. It has interesting, sometimes maddening, characters. The fact that they don't know what the hell they are doing week to week provides all the chaos you can handle. Finally, every week, the show pounds into our heads that if they don't get "x" amount of gold, they will lose everything. Consequences! Yadda, yadda, yadda.
Take Kitchen Nightmares with Gordon Ramsay. He provides the character, but many times, the horrible restaurant acts as a character along with the horrible owners. Their business is failing so there is chaos galore. As for consequences, if they don't turn this business around, they will lose the business, their houses, their marriages, you name it.
If the show is clever enough, they are able to hide or bury the consequences. If you watch Jersey Shore, there doesn't seem to be much in the way of consequences. These idiots party themselves silly every single episode. Their bad decision making is encouraged. It's chock full of characters like Snooki and the Situation. Their lives are chaotic by design. The consequences are implied. The audience fills in the blanks.
"She's gonna get gang raped." "His liver is gonna implode."
We look down on them and cast our judgments. This secures the show's success as we must play an active part to fulfill the needs of the formula.
Keep that in mind the next time you are watching a reality show. If you're enjoying yourself, you are probably experiencing one of the three C's.