Being a contestant on a reality show seems like the most glamorous job* in all the world. In exchange for a temporary assault on your privacy, you get to live in a fabulous apartment/manse rent-free, there’s always a never-ending supply of booze on hand, and if you play your cards right, there’s a pretty good chance that you can hook up with a fellow cast member in a hot tub. And you get paid, too! However, according to an article in this weekend’s New York Times, there is a dark side to the seemingly fabulous life led by reality-show contestants. No, don’t get it twisted, reality stars aren’t alleging that evil producers slap their hands with rulers or make them wear the same pair of underwear two days in a row. It’s something far, far darker: They don’t get enough sleep!
While most reality-show contestants sign nondisclosure agreements that forbid them from revealing details about the reality-show creative process, Edward Wyatt of the New York Times managed to locate and interview nearly two dozen former reality-show participants whose pesky contracts had expired. It seems that the No. 1 complaint of the contestants from these shows, which run the gamut from Project Runway to Hell’s Kitchen, is that they don’t get enough sleep. On Hell’s Kitchen, for example, each day begins at 6 a.m. and wraps at 2 a.m., leaving contestants who survive early rounds of elimination particularly weary and groggy. And on one season of The Bachelor, heartless producers forced the groups of lovesick women to sit in vans for hours on end without access to food before expecting them to stay awake for a twelve-hour “arrival” party (whatever that means). “If you combine no sleep with alcohol and no food, emotions are going to run high and people are going to be acting crazy,” said Erica Rose, one of the members of the sleepy harem requisitioned by ABC for Prince Lorenzo Borghese in the show’s ninth season.
Pardon us for being callous or insensitive but, um, duh? With the possible exception of American Idol, people don’t really watch reality-television programs in order to get a glimpse of world-class competition. They’re generally watching them to vicariously experience the thrill of conflict without any of the consequences. Even though most reality-television-show producers we’ve met over the years have a definite evil streak in them, ultimately their job is to make their shows as watchable as possible. And last time we checked, people are generally less interesting when they are asleep as compared to when they are awake. So in conclusion, if you’re an aspiring reality-show contestant who also really likes to sleep, looks like you have a tough decision to make: Do you want to get eight hours a night or do you want to be the 9,000th girl to French Bret Michaels? You make the call!
*We’re playing fast and loose with the definition of the word job here. Just go with it.