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Duggar Hell: Why Reality Television Needs To Grow Up


Given the recent Duggar fiasco, are networks going to have to begin treating reality programming like paid programming?

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I have to wonder if The Learning Channel (TLC) or Figure 8 Productions has the right to sue Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar for grand misrepresentation given current circumstances.

Surely, an expunged record provides both the network and production company with solid alibis of which to explain away their parts in the recent Duggar scandal. To that same point, people "do make" mistakes - even horrendous and disgusting ones - especially in their youth of which Josh Duggar obviously was. But as the latter reality is just as true as the former, does reality television need to become more realistic and mature in protecting themselves against the failings of the stars that they create?

Josh Duggar (Image Source: Twitter) 

It seems so given the latest controversy besieging TLC and Figure 8 Productions, whose cash cow by the name of "Duggar" has just dried up. As there is no doubt that reality television isn't what it use to be - cheap television right for the country's tough economic times - so might the way networks protect themselves from meltdowns just like the one TLC is presently managing. With many of these productions costing just as much to produce as long-form series, currently, networks and production companies need to begin to apply a uniformed "check-list" when determining who will be the next Michelle and Jim Bob Duggar and who will not.

There is no doubt that many highly reputable production companies have enacted there own gold standards when moving throught the process of casting their shows. I know of a number of multi-award winning groups who spend countless hours and dollars to ensure the validity and credibility of their participants.

For example, Kinectic Content, (producers of "Married At First Sight," "Off Their Rockers," and "The Taste") puts hundreds of hours alongside numerous dollars spent with professionals and companies like Edward Myers & Associates Inc. to vet, research, and assess the backgrounds of the participants on their shows. The task is enormous.

That said, as Dr. Joseph Cilona (one of the four psychologists dedicated to this process for "Married At First Sight") will attest to, "Short of using a polygraph on these people, there is not much else we can do to mitigate against this challenge."

It just goes to show you how tough this process can be under normal conditions even for the best of them.

Unlike traditional talent and celebrities who craft both a history and a reputation in the art of their choosing, reality stars do not emerge in the same fashion. This factor makes it that much harder to predict what might come out from under the rug or how the fortunate few will handle themselves and their very public presences going forward.

As Figure 8 Productions' entire show was based upon a family whose unified persona could not have been tighter or more believable (Christianity aside), I can see how Josh Duggar's infraction could have been missed. Up to this point, the children lacked maturity and real voices coupled by Josh Duggar's expunged record. Combine that with the very real possibility that an unofficial "don't ask, don't tell" policy might have been enacted by members of the production team who may have heard prior murmurings of Josh Duggar's behavior from the younger kids and you have yourself the makings of a perfect masquerade.

Even Megyn Kelly, herself, would have had a difficult time cracking that nut short of imposing a polygraph on the entire Duggar clan.

That said, TLC is now left holding the bag.

Photo credit: Shutterstock Photo credit: Shutterstock 

Not only must they decide the future of "19 Kids And Counting" but what they will do to protect themselves from similar surprises going forward. Such is the case, I would not be shocked to see these networks begin cherry-picking particular production companies to work with, allowing for tighter bonds to be established and eliminating the opportunity for competative firms to infiltrate those networks.

I would also not be surprised to see networks begin handling their reality programming similar in manner to how they handle their paid programming - running a clear message prior to each and every episode noting that these shows do not reflect the thinking or believability of the network and that they are not responsible for the claims made. Production companies may also separate themselves from their talent in like manners.

Given that networks and production companies begin to do this, they may just disentangle themselves, upfront, from the enormous backlash the Josh Duggar's of the reality world cause. It is an action that would certainly help to mitigate a bit of the disappointment and questioning foisted upon these networks and productions companies by their audiences similar to what TLC and Figure 8 Productions are contending with today.

Suffice-it-to-say, "lesson learned" for everyone but the five innocent victims whose lives Josh Duggar has irrevocably changed. Their lesson in all of this will never be so "cut and dry." Nor will it separate themselves out from the scars that they must now live with. The reruns that will play in these young girls' heads will do so for a lifetime.

That's a reality no network, no production company, and no Josh, Michelle or Jim Bob Duggar can turn the channel on.

TheBlaze contributor channel supports an open discourse on a range of views. The opinions expressed in this channel are solely those of each individual author.

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