HOLLLYWOOD—Anybody out there sick of "reality shows" that really aren't? We mean, does anyone seriously think that the "real people" who appear in "reality shows" aren't influenced at least by the ubiquitous presence of cameras, much less by suggestions from the shows' writers and producers?
But most importantly, isn't it about time that someone with both humor and insight satirized the "reality show" concept for a major cable network?
Meet Adam Rifkin, the award-winning writer/director of such outré classics as The Dark Backward and Detroit Rock City—and a forward thinker who's never shied away from using adult performers in his various projects, the latest being his new series, Reality Show, which will debut on the Showtime networks on November 1.
"Reality Show is a very dark satire on the world of reality television, and I'm very excited about it," Rifkin told AVN.
"The show is about a reality show producer who is sick of reality shows being so fake, and he knows about how fake they are because he's produced hundreds of them. So what he wants to do is, he wants to reboot reality by doing a reality show that actually reflects real life, which is unheard-of in the world of reality TV, so his idea is, he's going to put a family that he randomly selects under complete surveillance without them knowing, and he feels that real people, unaware that they are being photographed without a camera in their face, will be the most interesting type of reality show there is. Real life will elicit real drama.
"He picks an all-American family; he hides cameras all over their house, puts cameras in their cars and at their work and follows them everywhere they go with cameras—but what he doesn't realize is that real people are boring," Rifkin continued. "So he realizes that in order to keep the network happy, he's got to step up the show, so he starts injecting conflict into their lives to create a bit more drama, and little by little, it's working. The more he interferes, the better the show gets, so he's completely betraying his own conceit. Now, the family has no idea why all this bad luck is befalling them, and it starts to get darker and darker as their family starts to unravel, and he doesn't care. He's totally amoral about it; he just feels that it's making the show better and that all will be forgiven at the end once the shows start airing and they become famous and—'Fame heals all wounds,' is basically his philosophy."
And two of the primary "troublemakers" in the series are adult stars Jesse Jane and Ami Emerson, who's now outed herself as mainstream actress Joanna Mahaffy.
"Because our main character, Mickey Wagner, is a reality show producer, we show lots of clips of other fake reality shows that he's produced in the past," Rifkin, who plays Wagner, explained. "One of them is 'Hobover,' which is a hobo makeover show, and the hobo was played by Kyle Stone, who did a great job. Of course, Ron Jeremy is in it; Ron is ubiquitous. Jesse Jane gives a really great performance as one of the producer's operatives, because one of the ways he's trying to get drama is to try to get the husband to have an affair, so he hires Jesse Jane to be his operative, to try to lure the husband into cheating, and she is funny in it, she's like a young Goldie Hawn; she's great.
"One of the fake reality shows is called 'Real Stripper Moms of South Beach,' and one of the stripper moms is played by Sophie Dee," he added. "There's also a woman who used to go by the name of Ami Emerson, who is a former AVN Award nominee—her real name is Joanna Mahaffy, and she's in almost all of the fake reality shows; she was fabulous, really funny, really game for anything. She's in one of the reality shows called 'Autopsy-Turvy,' which is an autopsy reality show. She's in a reality show called 'Blue Balls,' which is like a 'Cops' rip-off. She also plays a news reporter in one of the episodes. She's all over this show; she's great."
And it's not just in front of the camera that Rifkin has employed adult personalities.
"There's a couple of adult people who helped out behind the scenes," he said. "One of our key set PAs, who worked super-hard, was a young man by the professional name of Dane Cross; he did a great job helping out; and also, one of our PAs goes by the name of Riley Shy; she helped out behind the scenes in the art department and everybody really liked her; did a great job."
AVN also spoke with Kyle Stone, who said that he got the part almost by accident.
"I was driving Sophie Dee to the set, and I dropped her off, made sure she was in the right place, and I left," Stone recounted. "Not too long after that, I got a phone call from Adam Rifkin saying he needed to find somebody who could play a homeless person, and Sophie had told him, 'My driver could probably play a homeless guy for you, and he just lives around the corner.'"
"So I show up with my own homeless outfit that I kept because I've played a homeless person in adult movies so often, and Adam goes, 'Wow! That's perfect! Do you happen to have a suit?' So I went and got that too, and after they took photos of me in both outfits, I thought I was done, but a couple of days later, they contacted me again and asked if I wanted to come and play a homeless person for the series? I said, 'Sure, why not?' And Adam is one of the nicest guys you'll ever meet; I just loved working for him!"
We won't spoil the fun by describing what 'Hobover' is all about, but the accompanying photo shows what Stone looks like in costume. However, if the concept of fake reality shows rings a bell, that simply shows that Rifkin, in creating Reality Show, has done his homework.
"Here are the films I took inspiration from: One of them is Network, which is one of my favorite movies of all time, and Albert Brooks' Real Life, which is exactly where I took inspiration from as well; I love that movie," Rifkin revealed.
Reality Show most closely resembles Brooks' Real Life, right down to the fact that the producer who convinces (in this case) a Phoenix, Ariz., family to allow him to film their every activity is played by Brooks himself—but of course, Rifkin takes the conceit several steps further. And of course, Network was the grandfather of the "reality show" concept, with producer Faye Dunaway delivering high ratings when one of her on-air hosts (Peter Finch) is assassinated in full view of his prime-time audience.
"You look at Network, and you may remember that when Network came out, it was seen as outrageous, and now, you show it to an audience and they're like, 'What's the big deal?'" Rifkin explained. "So I needed to push things far, and the show gets very dark. I mean, there's a lot of humor in the show—don't get me wrong—and especially in the first handful of episodes, they're really funny, but little by little, as the family's starting to unravel, it gets super-dark."
Reality Show will debut on Showtime at 11:30 p.m. Pacific time November 1, and it probably can't hurt that its lead-in is the popular series Gigolos. And for those who'd like a foretaste of what Reality Show will look like, its promotional trailer can be found here.