In today’s television landscape there really is not any content that is not scripted in some way. When reality shows first started to appear on television there was hope that they would provide an unaltered look into someone’s life in order to provide the audience with some sort of commentary on a situation. Unfortunately, this hope quickly dissipated as producers realized their ratings would soar if they scripted moments in the show to allow for a more narrative based program. The Reality show saw ratings soar at the cost of devolving into a fictional account of events padded mostly with useless fluff. While the original documentary genre that provided substance struggled to find any airtime as viewers were more enticed with the fake drama of reality shows. In order for documentaries to even survive on television today many had to revert to some level of fabrication or audiences would lose interest. For a while it seemed as if the completely unaltered documentary series may have ran its course. However, the genre had a small resurgence this last year when he show 60 Days In finally gave audiences what they hoped the reality genre would have.
The concept of 60 Days In is to put seven individuals who have never gone to jail before into a county jail for sixty days in order for them to better understand the prison system and for the heads of the jail to get an inside look of issues that exist inside their jail. The reason that 60 Days In is less fabricated than your average television documentary is because the producers of the show have less control over the filming environment than normal. Since most of the shows filming takes place within a cellblock at a county prison, the producers are limited in their ability of how to film an event, as they are often restricted to security camera footage. In addition, since only a handful of individuals on screen know the intentions of the documentary, the producers are unable to script any of the subjects’ actions or words. While the common argument against reality shows is the audience cannot really tell if an event is scripted or not, in 60 Days In all doubt is removed because the before mentioned limitations make it literally impossible to script any of the footage.
Even though 60 Days In provides such an unaltered view, that does not mean it is completely devoid of the problems other reality shows face. A common issue with reality shows is the large amounts of time that is devoted to rehashing footage from either a previous episode or earlier in the episode. More often than not, a majority of an episode is spent showing the audience the same ten second clip over and over again during the episode in order to continually build anticipation or make an episode a certain length. As a result an episode that is forty-two minutes long may actually only have twenty minutes of new footage. While I would like to say 60 Days In is also able to stray away from this problem it is not. While the over show itself does provide the audience with much insight into the US prison system, half of the show is just filler and would make a much better documentary if it was four to five episodes instead of thirteen. But because of the way television networks work, it seems unlikely that they would ever pick up a documentary that provides so few episodes and as a result the audience will most likely remain subject to these elongated series.
If you feel television is lacking in providing unadulterated reality shows, give 60 Days In a try. Due to the environment of the show’s subject matter any doubts you have about the legitimacy of the show are able to vanish. Many times throughout the show there are many organic moments that showcase the benefits that an unscripted show can have on its audience. While it would benefit from a severe trimming of unneeded fluff, it is an issue that one can ignore due to the amount of insight the show does provide. If sitting through filler sounds like too much of a task, waiting until the shows season is over and binge watching it does help alleviate the issue as it allows the opportunity to watch several episodes in a burst in order to get the feeling that the show is progressing. While it is not the most entertaining show on television there is not much else like it, therefore Celluloid Cinema awards 60 Days In 3 out of 5 Reels.
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