The Lies They Weave on Reality TV

I’ve always been a bit of a know-it-all — a statement which comes of no surprise to anyone who knows me. But behind the need to show everyone how smart I am is a need to actually be smart. I like to collect weird information.

So tonight I went to a special presentation at CBC about the Dragon’s Den television show — not so much to learn about business, but instead to sate my curiosity about how the show works. It was sponsored by Enterprise Toronto, and as such David Miller showed up to talk about all the great things the City is doing for entrepreneurs and how great Toronto is. It was super positive.

Then some former contestants, Mark of Ecotraction and the women of Dig It Gardening Gloves, spoke about their success, a bit about how the deals, and answered some questions on strategy. Mostly it was pretty vague.

When I first saw the Dig It women in the lobby I was disappointed. I had seen their episode, and remembered the deal they got on the show: for $50,000, Kevin O’Leary got 10% of their company, plus 3% of future sales in perpetuity. The other dragons tried to warn the women against the deal because it was such a crap deal. Basically, I thought these women were idiots.

But then the news broke: The deal we saw the Dig It girls take on TV was not the deal they actually ended up with.

In reality, the women left with a deal from Kevin that was exactly what they asked for: $50, 000 for 10% of their company. There were no royalties and they reserved the right to buy that 10% back at the same rate if Kevin failed to get them into the US Market.

That’s a huge difference! Not only did they turn down Jim for a good deal (despite the way it looks in the episode) but they made a very good deal.

Reality TV is a big, fat, fucking liar!

I know that this isn’t exactly news– afterall, most people know that shows have producers, and some (like The Hills and Jon and Kate) are much more scripted than others. Even on the Biggest Loser I realize that clever editing is often to blame for making some characters heroes while others are vilified.

But this isn’t just any reality TV, this is the CBC. And more than that, it is business TV.

It blew my mind. And kind of pissed me off that it was that far off what had actually happened.

But then the producers of the show, Lisa Gabriele and Tracie Tighe, came on they totally restored my faith.

It wasn’t just that they were total bitches (in the BEST possible way!), and it wasn’t just because the face off between the producers and the moronic audience members asking stupid questions felt like live reality tv, it was because they were honest.

These women wanted to make the best possible TV they could. Sure, some of the editing is sneaky, but the end result is not meant to be misleading. It is crafted to be really good TV. And if you’ve watched the show, you know it is, in fact, good TV. These women just won a Gemini award for Dragon’s Den, they know what they’re doing.

No one was hiding the fact that there is creative editing. They were proud of it. And it was that honesty, combined with the passion for their work (ok, and the snarky responses) that made me fall in love with them.

All and all, for a free event it was rather fabulous. It left me seriously amused, and a tiny bit better informed. I’ll be sure that you know that last part any chance I get.


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