Reality television is showing no signs of slowing down and today at the Newsmaker Luncheon Series of the Hollywood Radio and Television Society (HRTS) some of the most successful and innovative producers gathered to talk about the popular genre. Along with moderator Tom Bergeron ("Dancing With The Stars") the panel at the Beverly Hilton Hotel consisted of Mike Fleiss ("The Bachelor"), Conrad Green ("DWTS"), Eli Holzman ("Undercover Boss" & "The Pitch"), Kris Jenner ("Keeping Up With The Kardashians"), Brent Montgomery ("Pawn Stars") and Bertram Van Munster ("The Amazing Race"). Our Jim Halterman was there to listen in on what the group of reality gurus had to say.
12:53 PM - HRTS Executive Director & Executive Producer of Events Dave Ferrara kicks off the program by excusing the absence of traveling HRTS President Sean Perry. Dave introduces an extended clip from each of our panelist's work. Biggest laughs come from an excessive (but entertaining) stream of clips of weeping, heartbroken women from Mike's "The Bachelor."
1:03 PM - Post clips, Dave introduces the now-seated panel as well as Tom, who starts the panel with a complaint. "Mike is smoking what he says is a vapor cigarette. I've got the munchies something fierce... we're shopping for Doritos later." Tom also promises to be as objective as he can despite having his boss on the panel and warns that they will not be discussing any on-going litigation that may be going on with any of the shows from today's panel.
1:09 PM - Tom asks, "What do you think the current lifespan of reality television is?" Bertram replies, "I think we've come a long way and we've tried many, many different things... overall, I think we've set a very high standard." He does admit that, "sometimes you think, 'have you done everything?' But there's always someone that comes up with something better."
1:10 PM - Asked the same question and Conrad mentions the glut of reality programming on the air right now. "It's concerning for people trying to make these [because] they rely to some extent on being special, these shows," he says. "And it feels a lot less special if you're watching 'The Sing Off' followed by 'The Voice' followed by 'Dancing With the Stars' and followed by 'American Idol.'" Eli puts a positive spin on it and feels, "as a business overall, it just seems to grow more robust every day."
1:13 PM - Tom points out that Kris's situation is different since she's the only one whose own life is part of a reality show. She jokes that she's hoping for 23 more seasons of "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" and Tom congratulates her on getting a three season renewal with E!. That said, Tom also points out that Kris recently took a photo of daughter Kim sleeping and posted it on Twitter. So, obviously, the question is is there a line drawn? "We have nothing scripted," Kris explains of her show. "The lines aren't drawn in the sand... but we decided when we first started doing the show that we were going to let it all hang out, basically." She adds that she's learned not to edit what happens. "I've had the opportunity to go back on several occasions and maybe not show something and every time I started to do that I stopped myself because it's those moments that have been iconic on our show... I think that's what makes the show successful."
1:17 PM - Tom asks if there's ever a script with "The Bachelor?" Mike says, "the moment you start doing that is really treacherous." Tom mentions that he read "The Bachelor" has a 25% success rate but Mike says, "the number of people who come off the show heartbroken is incredibly high... that's really what the show is designed to do."
1:18 PM - Do the producers prefer taped vs. live series? Conrad, representing the only live show on the panel, says, "We don't have as much time to consider things so we tend to have to be reactive on the night... what's interesting for us is a lot of other series you'd have to put the whole season in the can [but] we can actually respond to things that have happened that week."
1:21 PM - Kris says with "Keeping Up With The Kardashians, "you're seeing 22 minutes of something we have filmed for 24 hours. It's so condensed down to some really great moments that happen in the lives of 12 people." Kris also says that it feels stranger to her in her home when there are no cameras compared to when there are not.
1:24 PM - When the show is not at its best, the audience knows it as Mike explains about the season of "The Bachelor" featuring a "drunk off his ass" Charlie O'Donnell (Jerry's brother, who Mike mentions is now four years sober). He says the producers had gotten complacent with that season. So what did he learn from that season? Tom asks. "If the producers aren't excited to tell the story, that comes across," Mike explains. "We started traveling more [and] did a better job with casting." He also said they made sure the audience got to know the characters on the earlier so they care about them sooner.
1:27 PM - Casting on "DWTS": "It's a constant process," says Conrad. "We've asked some people and some people think there's no way on earth but eventually come on." He says they'd been after Kirstie Alley for years and she finally came on (and did very well) in season 10. One plus for the show, Conrad shares, is they are lucky to have the opportunity to change 12 faces on our show every season.
1:29 PM - How do the producers keep their long running shows fresh? Bertram said, in terms of "The Amazing Race," a lot of the ideas they use on the show come from his life on the road. "I've been on the road practically my whole life and all these ingredients stem from there." He also credits his relationship with CBS. "They have faith that this is going to come out good. I think the relationship with the network has been really helpful with me."
1:32 PM - What kind of jobs did the panelists have before they hit it big in reality TV? Mike was a journalist and wanted to be a sitcom writer but says he longs for the early days producing reality TV. "I think it was more fun back then," he says. "People were taking chances... .[the genre] used to be the most innovative but now is the most bland and derivative." Conrad started as a runner in the U.K. and was one of the first executives who started to merge reality with entertainment like "Big Brother."
1:34 PM - A fire alarm in the hotel slows things down for a few minutes but Tom carries on until he's told to rush out of the building. (No worries, it ends up being a false alarm.)
1:36 PM - Eli on "The Pitch" (which premieres next Monday on AMC): "The advertising world was a world that was interesting to us. 'Undercover Boss' has shown us how interesting the workplace is. So much of our lives take place in the work place but yet it's mined relatively rarely compared to the home in the genre." [EDITOR'S NOTE: We'll actually have a full interview with Eli and AMC's head of original programming, Joel Stillerman, on Monday.]
1:39 PM - Bertram talks about one of his favorite moments from "The Amazing Race" when they were in Switzerland and contestants had to roll huge wheels of cheese down a hill and everything went wrong.
1:43 PM - Kris says, "The biggest spontaneous thing we did in season one [was] when the FBI showed up... that was crazy. That was one of those where this table [she points to network execs from her show] was going 'this is the best day of our lives.' They were so excited. My favorite still has to be Khloe and Lamar's wedding, which," she jokes, "we turned into a 27-hour special."
1:48 PM - What shows do the panelists watch? Conrad watches "Breaking Bad" and other dramas. Brent watches "Eastbound and Down" and loves "Storage Wars." Kris loves to watch "The Bachelor" and "The Bachelorette" as well as "DWTS" (where her son, Rob, participated in last fall).
1:51 PM - Tom mentions that "Mad Men" actor Jon Hamm recently knocked Kris's daughter, Kim, (and gossiper Perez Hilton) in the press by saying that "stupidity is certainly celebrated." Kris responds by saying, "There's definitely a misconception out there that just because you do a reality show that means that maybe you don't work as hard. I think people have to remember that it's a business." She also adds, "every single person in my family has the most amazing work ethic and they work really hard and they're not trained actors. We don't have a lot of talent. I can cook but that's about it. But my kids are definitely motivated to do a really good job so I think what you have to remember is it takes a lot of work." She also says her show employs "hundreds and hundreds of people."
1:55 PM - Any advice for upcoming people wanting to break into the reality producing business? Mike warns, "It's long hours, you live on the road, you shoot all day long, there's no set calendar... there's a lot of sacrifice when you strap on this job. It's very rewarding, too, but like Kris was saying, it's a ton of work." Eli says merely to go for it and adds that it's a great place to learn all the facets of the business. Kris says follow your heart and your instinct. Brent advises, "I would say take the four-to-five years to [work] your way up [because] you have to get a solid foundation."
For more on the HRTS events, visit www.HRTS.org.