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Anyone else notice the disclaimer run at the end of Top Chef?

  • b

Very interesting...it states that some of the judge's elimination decisions may be discussed with the producers AND also that Bravo Network may be consulted as well.

So much for "reality" TV!

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    1. re: MMRuth

      Thanks, I missed that thread somehow.

      1. re: bogie

        No prob ... and didn't mean to be short ... just in the midst of doing something else!

    2. I think this disclaimer is standard for all the "reality" shows.

      1. Surely you don't think there's much reality in this show to begin with. The selection of contestants, the challenges they're given, the spats they get into with each other and the comments they make -- all are carefully mapped out by the producers/directors and doctored by a handful of writers, supposedly to make the show more interesting. I mean, the fact that a "reality" show has writers in the first place tells you all you need to know.

        The height of this, to me, was the episode last night where Otto supposedly "stole" a case of lychees. It made no sense at all. Why would he do that 1) with the cameras running, 2) when the show is paying for the groceries? Answer: It was contrived to get rid of him and maybe add some texture to the show. It was also an insult to the intelligence of anyone watching.

        7 Replies
        1. re: Mr. Cookie

          The cooking challenges are real enough.

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            Sorry, meant to post my comment below here in reply:

            In terms of one team matching its cooking skills with another, agreed. But I think they're probably told what to prepare. And I think certain chefs are told to botch certain things, too, to create "drama." It's really impossible to know -- and therefore impossible to trust the show -- but the recent drive by reality show writers in Hollywood for better pay and benefits revealed a lot of inside stuff about these shows. And none of it pointed toward them having any integrity

            1. re: Mr. Cookie

              Other reality shows, the contestants are mostly wannabe actors and/or models.

              I'm deeply skeptical that any Top Chef contestant would throw a challenge at the producers' request. These are highly competitive individuals whose careers could get a big boost from the prize money and publicity that come with winning.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                Well, I think it's possible. I do think that the contestants on Top Chef are actual cooks, but it wouldn't surprise me if some had leanings toward acting, too. Another poster noted that there are gradations in the reality shows, with some having more reality and less manipulation than others, and I think that's true, too. Top Chef may have less than some, but it's there, and because it's there, one can't know quite where it stops.

          2. re: Mr. Cookie

            The 'writers' on reality shows are really more along the lines of editors - they take the footage they've got and massage it into a story line, which is only fractionally less dishonest than telling people what to say in the first place. There's been a lot of coverage of this since the Top Model writers went on strike.

            1. re: Mr. Cookie

              and add "heavily and carefully edited" to the mix. Viewers are lulled into thinking they're seeing live action when these shows are as strongly script-driven as your favorite sitcom.

              1. re: toodie jane


                I'm not sure what you mean. Do you really think these reality shows are scripted in the way that sitcoms are? Edited, yes; scripted, no way.

            2. All Reality shows are "gamed". Producers angle things, prod or handicap contestants for faux drama, the best antipiated storyline and result. Not very real except the contestants aren't professionals.

              2 Replies
              1. re: ML8000

                Exactly, I couldn't agree more. Many -- perhaps most -- of the contestants on these shows are would-be full-time actors, too. There's actually a bar in Hollywood where many former reality show contestants hang out and give each other moral support for trying to find another acting gig.

                1. re: Mr. Cookie

                  Hahaha, the reality show contestant's bar would make a really good little and weird documentary.

                  1. re: chowcito

                    great interview! and a good perspective on the whole top chef reality show...

                  2. I think there's a tendency to lump all reality shows together when they often have little in common.

                    The writers on reality shows do not write dialogue for contestants. They write the script for hosts and depending upon the show, may or may not come up with all the scenarios for contests. Few elements, other than casting, are as important as what challenges the contestants must tackle.

                    Most of the manipulation referred to occurs in editing (writers are also involved with editing decisions on most shows -- on some, it's their single most important function). Think of a show like Real World with tons of raw footage -- it is the writers and producers who have to decide what narrative threads to construct after the fact, even if they don't write a word of dialog.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Dave Feldman

                      Exactly. Producers and writers can mold a story without having to cross the line between filming the goofy ways that people act and editing in the best stuff versus instructing them to engage in specific fights or throw cooking challenges.

                      But I do think that the disclaimer tells us that in any subjectively judged reality show, the producers will consider entertainment value when they're making close calls. For instance, I think that it would have been reasonable for Top Chef judges to have eliminated the slob with the bad manners last night based on his dish and kept the girl with the salty surf and turf based on her results thus far, but the girl is boring and the slob is a spectacle. They wouldn't toss of the best performer and keep the worst based on entertainment value, but if you're in the bottom three expect to go home if you're a bit dull!

                    2. Hee, I knew Emily was going to lose during the Quickfire challenge when she announced she hated children and made some snide comment regarding a woman's suggestion her ice-cream needed more sugar.

                      Here was a contestant who hadn't stood out in any way before who was now being made a character. It suggested something was up-- either she was going to get into it with another contestant (not likely) or she was getting knifed.

                      As for the "how real is Reality TV?" oh please don't start. The contestants are real because it would cost too much to pay actors, when, ironically, fame whores will do it for free. Producers prod the interpersonal drama (and push to keep the more dramatic characters and trainwrecks) and editors create narratives for each show and a narrative arc for the much of the season. But such framing mechanisms are hardly unique to Reality TV when all non-fiction forms are equally subject. (I go elsewhere for my discussions on media-- here I want snark and food! Mock the contestants! Point at Wolverine's laughable attempts to distinguish himself. Wonder if the producers give people a dollar to say, "I didn't come here to make friends!"

                      I'll add, though, that producers probably direct final voting only in the bottom three, say, and not in the overall competition. After all, everyone has been selected for their dramatic potential.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Lizard

                        Is it me or is he looking more and more like Eddie Munster??

                      2. Just for the record, on the podcast, Colicchio claims the producers have never talked to the judges about who they are voting in or out.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: Dave Feldman

                          In fact, Harold the winner of season one who was a guest judge for the first episode of season two, said in his blog that the producers were not happy about the judges' decision to boot Suyai -- a lively, attractive blonde -- in the first episode, but obviously that didn't make a difference. My understanding is that, for this production company at least, they keep the interference to a minimum. I think that according to Tim Gunn on Top Chef's sister show, Project Runway, over three seasons they have involved the producers in a couple of situations where the judges' decision was very close.

                          Basically, the disclaimer is there to cover their asses legally. Although Mark Burnett (producer of Survivor) has tried to claim otherwise and I don't think it's actually been tested in court, competitive reality shows (i.e. those with monetary prizes) are presumptively governed by the same laws as game shows, which means that anything that might affect the outcome of the competition has to be fully disclosed. The producers might, at some point, have a direct or indirect effect on the outcome, so the disclaimer prevents a contestant from suing them and claiming that they were eliminated because of a secret production conspiracy.

                          Besides, what exactly is the point of a show like Top Chef? It's not like any kind of competition can definitely or obejctively "prove" that someone is the "top chef." It's an entertainment show. Period. They choose contestants that they think will make for entertaining television and they let them do their thing.

                          As for "lychee gate" for what it's worth, according to what I've read elsewhere, in Marissa'a blog (which has apparently been disappearing and then reappearing on the Bravo site), she says that she and Elia approached the producers at the store and told them that Otto said they'd gotten the lychees without paying for them (although the show pays for the groceries, they have a specified budget for each challenge, and the lychees would have put them over). This was apparently an accident -- the lychees were on the shelf under the cart and the clerk didn't see them to ring them up. They wanted to return them on the spot, but the producers told them to wait until they got back to the kitchen so they could do the whole "we need to return the ill-gotten lychees" debate on camera. So yes, what was seen on camera was definitely a manipulated situation, although the not-paying for the lychees was real. In fact, I think that's probably the commonest example of things that happen in "reality TV" that are fake, which is that producers will occasionally ask the participants to repeat for the cameras something that happened that they can't show for some reason or another (often because, like participants talking to the producers, it broke the "fourth wall").

                          1. re: Ruth Lafler

                            If that's all true, that makes Marissa's ridiculous tantrum all the more out of place.

                            1. re: Atomica

                              Well, literally it *was* out of place. I can't blame her for being put in an awkward situation by the producers, and it's clear that Otto was being dishonest by hoping that they could get away with using the freebie lychees.

                              However, even though she was mostly right, Marissa is still a nasty piece of work, and I can't wait for her to be off the show.

                            2. re: Ruth Lafler

                              Marisa's blog was on her own site, marisachurchill.com.