People often ask, "Is reality television just a fad. "My response would be, "reality television is now a part of television's DNA." Now Biopics, which have been around for a long time, are becoming more mainstream. Take, for instance, Aaliyah, The Princess of R&B movie, and The Wendy Williams Story; these projects allowed us to quickly discover that reality television matters, but it is also now dictating what viewers expect from a film about a person they feel they knew.
Although social media was not prevalent when Aaliyah was alive, her fans still feel that they have read enough about her in other forms and watched enough interviews to critique this film effectively. They also definitely expected that this film would feel REAL to them. The characters would look like the people being portrayed, and the music would be songs of the artist that they so fondly remembered - not covers and an Oscar performance of a song from a Disney film.
Now to have two seconds of sympathy for Wendy Williams, an Executive Producer on the film, who stated in numerous interviews that she became a part of the film to ensure that it remained authentic. In another interview, she states that the casting was "spot on." I say, "Wendy - unfortunately, social media responded that none of your intentions were present in the film we watched. "Unfortunately, none of the actors cast looked liked the REAL individuals they were portraying, except the lead, which I believe was the primary reason it did not feel REAL and ultimately sent the viewers and Twitter into a tailspin. I've seen better casting on Celebrity Ghost Stories.
I get all the production reasons why there were misses with the cast and the music--the family and her producers didn't sanction the project, so you couldn't license the music, nor could you obtain more authentic information; you shot in Canada, so a certain percentage of the talent has to be Canadian, and so on. However, none of that matters to viewers who have been in Toni Braxton's home, hung out with Mark and Donnie Wahlberg and their momma, been in the man cage with Pastors of mega-churches and all the other REAL levels of access granted to them. CrazySexyCool: The TLC story did a decent job of touching on the real things that mattered to the fans and sharing what people already felt they knew. Now Pebbles and her team may disagree, but because the REAL artists were heavily involved in the project and had REAL music and even REAL recreations of their biggest music videos - the reality generation tuned in and felt complete. Even as far back as Biggie's "Notorious" film, you sense that 'real' is essential. Real-meaning characters resemble real people and hear the artist's real music, which ultimately plays as a character.
The bottom line is that viewers now expect things to come across as authentic and feel real at the "same damn time." And I've been on the other end of this, when people don't want to believe that it's real, like Whitney Houston in Being Bobby Brown. The reality is simple - we as producers work to entertain a "live life out loud" generation of viewers, and they want REAL on all fronts. Rather it's a reality show, a scripted series, or a made for television movie. So here's to "Keeping it Real."