For THR's reality roundtable, a supergroup of personalities -- from left, The Real World's co-creator JonathanMurray, 59; The Voice'sCarsonDaly, 40; Pawn Stars' producer BrentMontgomery, 39; Survivor'sJeffProbst, 52; and Duck Dynasty'sDeirdre Gurney; Project Runway'sTimGunn, 60 -- spoke freelyabout the bizarre scheduling demands that come with hot talent (nap time, for some, is crucial), the fearful moments when a contestant is rushed to the hospital and the bizarre lifelong connections that are formed when six strangers are picked to live in a house -- and our living rooms -- for more than two decades.
Say the ProjectRunway mentor: "I have the greatest respect for not managing people or meddling in the creative of the show. Just let things happen. I'm speaking for ProjectRunway, in this case. I have the greatest respect for the integrity of what the show is about. And there is integrity."
"When you ask about a worrisome trend, I do think it's interesting that reality is slowly taking itself right back into scripted, and audiences know it. I think shows that are really good at it pull it off, but others aren't as well done," says the Survivor host and executive producer. "The thing that nobody's really talking about is, 12 or 15 years ago, writers were saying: 'Oh, I hate reality TV. It doesn't use any writers.' Then slowly it became, 'We're going to help the storyline a little bit, and if it's done well, the audience doesn't seem to mind.' But if you don't do it well, the viewer smells it."
Says TheVoice host: "Forgetting that cameras are there is the best thing you can do. On The Voice, we put up four walls that look like a little viewing room. And in come 100-plus families from all over the country to watch our 'blind auditions,' where the chairs turn around [or they don't]. I'm with the families watching their loved ones. I feel like a priest! I was actually a theology major in college, and people ask me, 'How hard is it when chairs don't turn around?' Very! To us, it's a day at work. To them, it was a Southwest flight, a hotel, a shuttle ride. I get very caught up trying so hard to make sure that these families feel comfortable."
Says the Pawn Stars producer: "I once dragged a camera operator up these train tracks to get a shot of a show participant. But he was shooting out of the wrong eye -- most guys would shoot with their right and hold their left eye open to see what's ahead -- and a train was coming. At the very last second, I pulled him over. It missed us by a few inches. Now as a father, I'm very sensitive about the kind of shows we produce and not putting people [in harm's way]."
"The best reality characters are people who have flaws," says Murray. "If they're perfect, they're probably boring. Part of why we select these people is because there are layers to them. When you've been working for talent for years, they're evolving. They may not be the same person you started to work with. It's not a science. They have rights to express themselves outside the show like anybody else does. And they ultimately have to decide whether that expression is going to hurt them or not, and the network has every right to say, 'This is who we are, this is what we believe, and this person has the right to say what they believe.'"
Says the DuckDynasty producer of PhilRobertson's anti-gay remarks: "I don't know what the network thought. But you asked me how I felt at the time, and how I felt was, I wish I could have explained to people the person I know. When someone comments to the press, things are taken out of context. Reporters are dealing with people who don't have media training."