Covid and Reality TV’s Fake Audience

I have a secret vice, I love reality TV. I know there is little real about it, but whether watching the Real Housewives‘ gorgeous houses, or the elegant ballgowns on Dancing with the Stars, or guessing the camouflaged celebrity on Masked Singer, I find these silly shows fun.

woman and man dancing under light
Photo by Marko Zirdum on

Lately, however, I am finding these shows anxiety-producing.

Whether it is the couples dancing cheek-to-cheek on Dancing, or the cheek-by-jowl crowded audience in Masked, I find myself upset rather than relaxed.

Granted, the judges and other contestants are socially distanced on Dancing, and it is hard, if not impossible, to dance ballroom without close contact, still, more protocols should be in place. Masked Singer is the worse offender, with judges too close together, people all over the stage, and an audience showing no protocols in place at all.

In a time when we chide the President of the United States to wear a mask, shouldn’t Hollywood be setting a better example? (Note after the time of this posting, President and Mrs. Trump both fell ill due to Covid-19. All of us at Book Smart TV wish them well).

Look, I’m not in favor of using a stun gun on a woman (who was seated more than twenty feet from the nearest person), and taking her away in handcuffs at her son’s outdoor football game, merely because she wasn’t wearing a mask. Yes, that did happen recently, and it really went too far when a big ticket fine would have done a more effective job. Still, these other transgressions from Hollywood make me queasy.

It doesn’t matter that the audience is fake.

For Masked Singer, there is no mention of Covid at all. No explanation. If you search the net, you find that the audience is at least partly generated from old shows. But this is supposed to be LIVE, in the moment, reflecting today. Covid and REALITY TV. I can live with some canned applause, but generating a fake audience — at least in part, makes me ask, how much in part? What precautions are being taken? And is this a good example for all the younger people watching this show and idolizing these celebrities — including the unapologetic racist-remark-making host — and follows their cues on how to act and behave? See this post from reality blurred.

Look at this photo from the September 30th episode of Masked Singer. This part of the show is supposedly live, and the host, Nick Cannon, and the unmasked star, Mickey Rourke, are not following any kind of Covid distancing rules at all. Are they above it? Immune to it? Certainly they aren’t thinking about sending any kind of appropriate message to their audience at home. Further, singing is supposed to be so dangerous at propelling the virus that members of a church group, singing on the street, were lead away in handcuffs one by one. Does Rock and Roll somehow obliterate the virus, or is this just another example of Hollywood getting a pass?

Hollywood stars are certainly vocal enough with their views, but it’s now time to put a mask where their mouths are.

Where’s your mask now? Mickey Rourke and Nick Cannon are much too close, especially when singing.

Every Breath You Take

Dancing with the Stars is by far the lessor transgressor. First, Tyra Banks is a wonderful addition. I’ve missed her on reality TV ever since Top Model went off the air. She maintains her distance from everyone, smizing as she does it, and acknowledges adjustments they’ve had to make due to covid. The various sets of paired contestants are as far from each other as possible, as are the judges and even the orchestra members. Good examples all around. The last episode which featured songs from Disney movies had so much sparkle in the audience’s empty seats, you didn’t notice those seats were empty.

So what is the problem?

Two people breathing on each other then going home to their loved ones is the problem. When I saw Anne Heche interacting with her adorable sons, I literally cringed. She’s not the only one. Backstreet Boys’ AJ McLean did exactly the same thing with his two little girls. They are all doing it. In fact, when Tiger King star Carole Baskin and her partner Pasha Kovalev lost this week, both said their families were relieved they’d be leaving. After all, you practice all day in contact with an individual, then go home to others, as well as the people who intersect in your daily lives, and that is supposed to be fine?

Dancing With The Stars Tyra Banks Credit: ABC

Why couldn’t they have established a dorm for these people so they didn’t contact the outside world while in the DWTS bubble? If you have young sons like Heche, well, then plan to be on the show after a vaccine is out. Until then, either you spend the time in isolation, or you don’t play the game. Other reality TV shows have been doing this for years — whether it’s Project Runway, Top Chef, Big Brother, The Bachelor, Below Deck, or Survivor, cast members being isolated from home with only an occasional phone call, is pretty much the norm.

What is real and what isn’t?

Andy Cohen’s Watch What Happens Live uses a delightfully cheesy audience in a Zoom-like format as he interviews celebrities distantly through cameras placed at their homes. Instead of being off-putting, it’s fun. His campy approach is as real as it is welcome.

It’s about time Hollywood practiced what it preaches … and preaches and preaches. You do not get a pass because you are stars. No we don’t want “forget” there is Covid out there. What we want is for you to entertain as one of us, with the same problems and the same integrity we all have to show in our own private lives. Either wear the mask, or isolate, or come up with some other means of showing responsible behavior. Do not fabricate audiences and rub salt in our wounds while our cinemas and theaters and arenas are closed. Don’t make us feel we are missing out, and there is somewhere out there where life is going on as before, because it isn’t.

Above all, stop thinking you are above the plight of the average American. Watch your words and your actions. Have pity on those without jobs and schools right now. Remember, we’re the ones who made you stars in the first place.

2 thoughts on “Covid and Reality TV’s Fake Audience

  1. I agree, Diana. The networks are making a piecemeal effort at Covid restrictions, but anyone with two eyes can see the issues. Would we really suffer that badly with rerun shows for a while? Or failing that, do as you suggest and make sure these people are quarantined until it’s deemed safe.
    What kind of example are they setting with these quasi-steps they’re using?

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