From an objective standpoint, it's pretty easy to see why reality TV appeals to so many people. Although it doesn't represent real life in the way I'm used to seeing it, it's a lot closer to reality than most other kinds of programming. And hey, if you're someone that enjoys watching other people, it's no wonder that this particular brand of TV would be right up your alley. Personally, I don't tend to enjoy these kinds of shows (as if the miniature rant above wasn't enough proof), but I can still see why some people like them: week after week, month after month, these shows allow viewers to get to know the participants on a near-personal level. While most of these chaps are usually slathered in waay too much lip gloss, body glitter, and hair gel to be labeled as "the girl/guy next door", they're still much closer to the label than your typical big-name celebrity.
I'd go more into the history of reality TV, but most followers of the genre are familiar with shows like The Real World, Survivor, Big Brother, and countless others. Keep in mind, this represents only the more modern form of reality shows---although there are plenty more throughout television's long history, the not-so-recent explosion of the genre is what Reality Unleashed is all about. It's basically a sorta-behind-the-scenes
look festival of gossip that goes a little further than most of the previously mentioned shows---and many more---normally allow.
From the very beginning, the general atmosphere of Reality Unleashed is energetic, but still relaxed and casual. Set in a Los Angeles pub, Reality Unleashed depicts cast members sharing personal experiences from their respective shows, and also how their TV roles have affected their lives. And of course, some of them even battle raging hormones (in most cases, the hormones win). In all honesty, the cast is extensive, including such young personalities as Trishelle Cannatella, Irulan Wilson and Alton Williams from The Real World; Marcellas Reynolds, Josh Souza, Erika Landin, and Nathan Marlow from Big Brother; and Kim Powers, Shawna Mitchell, and Lex van den Berghe from Surivivor. There's also Valerie Penso and Kaya Wittenburg from Temptation Island; Sarah Kozer from Joe Millionaire; and Derek Riker from Amazing Race. It's a nice cross-section of current and past shows---and while I'm admittedly not a regular follower of any, it's pretty entertaining to see these people compare their personal experiences with one another. In short: while I really wasn't expecting much overall (and that's putting it mildly!), Reality Unleashed proved to be a pleasant surprise.
It's obvious that if you're a fan of at least two or more of the shows involved, Reality Unleashed will be of much interest to you. Hey, even if you aren't (like me), you might find yourself actually enjoying yourself. While it's not something that belongs in every DVD library, there's a pretty devoted fan following out there for this stuff. Even though the bulk of the main show contains tons of fluff, gossip, and that annoying squeal that girls do when they haven't seen each other in a long time, it's still a decent "tribute" to the genre it pays homage to. While reality TV may be something I might never fully appreciate, those that do will definitely enjoy what Reality Unleashed has to offer.
The DVD itself was produced in conjuction with TheFishbowl.com, a site devoted to reality TV in its many forms. In short, it provides a surprisingly nice technical presentation with a good handful of bonus features...and hey, the dirt-cheap price tag is a pleasant surprise as well. While I'm fairly certain that most lovers of reality TV have already made up their minds about this release by now, it never hurts to preach to the choir. With that said, let's see how this set stacks up, shall we?
Quality Control Department
Video & Audio Quality:
I wasn't expecting much in the visual department, but I must say that Reality Unleashed actually boasted a nice presentation overall. The 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer was certainly a surprise, as most domestic TV lovers have undoubtedly become accustomed to a standard 1.33:1 aspect ratio. While I can't say that the overall image quality was superior (it's obvious that this production didn't have a huge budget), most casual viewers will have no complaints whatsoever. In short, the colors were accurate, black levels were fine (if not slightly murky), and the image detail was above broadcast quality.
Another pleasant surprise was the Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation, which would normally seem about as necessary as a colorized version of Mickey Mouse in Black and White. Still, this mix proved to be more than adequate, as the rear speakers occasionally provided a nice sense of ambience and atmosphere. It's not meant to be a home theater demonstration, but it gets the job done nicely. You know, it's a rare case where both the video and audio surprise me on a DVD, but I dare say that Reality Unleashed did just that. Hey, I'm as shocked as you are.
Menu Design, Presentation & Packaging:
And the winner for the ugliest DVD menu is....
Hey, I'm not saying the menu designs are necessarily bad, but the vomit-inducing color scheme seen above could have been much improved. Still, I'm picky...the navigation is good, and that's what really counts from a practical standpoint. The 85-minute feature is divided neatly into 10 chapters, and no layer change was detected. Bonus features were presented in a mix of fullscreen, anamorphic and non-anamorphic widescreen formats. The packaging also shares the same basic design as the menus, although the color scheme is substantially less repugnant. A chapter insert and advertising sheet have also been included for your reading (and buying) convenience.
Along with the technical presentation, the batch of extras included here were another highlight of this release. First off, there's a feature-length Audio Commentary with director Scott Zakarin and producer Rich Tackenberg. In all honesty, it was pretty unusual to hear a commentary playing over this feature, as it truly added to the whole "voyeur" feel. People talking about people talking about people (note to self: take aspirin break). Anyway, these two offer a nice contrast to the bubbly feel of the evening's events, as their laid-back style and insight made for an entertaining listen. Also here, we've got a short Behind-the-Scenes Featurette (10 minutes) that has a surprisingly non-fluffy feel to it, as well as a look at several Reality Stars in Movies. The latter section contains three clips from actors appearing in films by Creative Light (the company led by Zakarin and Tackenberg), but they seemed to be more like shameless plugs than anything else.
There's also the fun When Editors Go Wild, a short bit that splices a few conversations together to create much different end products. Next, up there's a short segment called Tips To Get On Reality Shows, which offers profound advice with these final words: "...and above all that, get naked." Surprisingly, the words "big boobs" and "six-pack" weren't mentioned, though. Moving on, there's also a series of three Deleted Scenes, which (as mentioned in the commentary) were cut for running time, not content. Winding down, we're given a series of text Bios for the entire featured cast, a Plug for the Fishbowl website, and a series of Previews for other Creative Light releases. All in all, a pretty nice mix of bonus features that fans will enjoy.
Sound the trumpets and cue the dramatic music, because an admitted hater of reality TV actually gave Reality Unleashed a passing grade. While it's not something I'd have hunted down otherwise, it packed a nice amount of entertainment on a disc that streets for under $20. With a great technical presentation and a nice mix of extras, there's a lot for fans of reality TV to enjoy. Don't get me wrong: it still hasn't turned me on to reality shows in general, but it has given me a touch more appreciation for their social and cultural impact. And hey, if a cynical guy like me can get some enjoyment out of this one, reality TV lovers are sure to get a kick out of Reality Unleashed. Recommended.
Randy Miller III is a real, live art instructor hailing from Harrisburg, PA. To fund his DVD viewing habits, he also works on freelance graphic design and illustration projects. In his free time, Randy enjoys slacking off, general debauchery, and writing things in third person.