In what Spike TV EVP of original series Sharon Levy called the “biggest and coolest all female panel” at the Realscreen Summit, the producers behind Duck Dynasty (pictured), Killer Karaoke and Here Comes Honey Boo Boo discussed the challenges of producing comedic reality.
Lauren Lexton, Authentic Entertainment’s co-founder and executive producer of TLC’s Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, said that one plus for the series’ launch was that it had a built-in fan base because the lead character had already piqued audience interest in Toddlers and Tiaras, and via YouTube.
“For Honey Boo Boo, it would’ve died in regular focus groups, but it had been focus grouped on YouTube.”
The assembled producers also talked about authenticity and manipulation. Deirdre Gurney, owner of Gurney Productions, said that when A&E picked up Duck Dynasty, there were two pilots to start with, one which she said was “overproduced.”
“We realized the characters popped,” she said, adding, “Overproducing wasn’t natural.”
“In terms of shooting, we’re not manipulating anything,” said Lexton of Honey Boo Boo. “Authentic shoots a lot. We don’t script at all.”
And proving the characters pop is most effectively done with tape, according to Marisa Ronca, VP of program development at truTV.
“I would’ve never bought a show of four friends pranking, but the tape was great,” she said of truTV’s show Impractical Jokers. “A lot of stuff on paper doesn’t sound funny.”
The biggest hurdle, according to the assembled panelists, is the fact that what makes people laugh is subjective, and that makes the development process so tricky. But while discussing that it took chemistry, the right editors and showrunners to identify a storyline, it was agreed that transforming a comedy reality show into a hit is the domain of the broadcaster.
“We do our bit, but the rest is marketing, pushing and making it work,” said Natalka Znak, CEO of Zodiak USA, makers of Killer Karaoke.