The Caucus Review - Reality Bites

CBS Fairfax was the host for the recent offering of the Caucus, a group dedicated to preserving creative writers for television.  Members of the group include produces, directors, writers, congressman and senators.

This evening’s event, geared toward the reality phenomena in television, discussed the future of reality and what it takes to make a good reality show.  On the panel were Todd Christopher, (agent from Gersh Agency) who says that 90% of his clients are doing reality these days; Jeff Bader (Executive VP, ABC Entertainment),  Vin DiBona (Execcutive Producer -America's Funniest Home Videos), Peter Engle (Executive Producer - Last Comic Standing),  David Lyle (President Fox reality), and Eugene Young (Chief Creative Officer- FreemantleMedia).  The moderator was Michael Schneider (Daily Variety).

While it costs less to produce a reality show, there are many drawbacks in that it is difficult to sell to syndication and there are just so many reality ideas that can be pushed or copied from.  Many reality shows now are take offs of others formerly (or currently) in production either from the United States or from other countries.   On the plus side, cost is a major factor as the average reality program’s budget is under two million whereas the average hour long drama can be as much as 10 million a show, depending on star quality, special effects, etc.  

“In addition, there are more than just the three major networks now, so there are more slots that need filling,” the panelists said.  Pitching a reality show is also a lot easier, apparently.  One only has to have a few pages of concept and a format where as in a scripted drama, one must have a bible and possibly a first episode.  The lack of major talent is another plus for the cost of reality but it also means that the show must be fresh and original since the viewers want to see their favorite stars.  

The Caucus: Todd Christopher, the Gersh Agency and actress Valbona Coba

How does one protect their reality idea?  It was stressed that many ideas are similar and it is harder to copyright a reality show idea.  It’s the format of the idea that is the key here.  Two people can come up with a singing competition but only one is going to be in the format of American Idol.  

Live shows, which garners the most interest (since many people secretly believe that even the reality shows such as Survivor are somewhat scripted), are the only ones that are truly original but they are also the ones

However, scripted television is not yet dead.  Passion for the story or concept is the most important thing in pushing a show forward.  

Television, as we have seen, has a powerful impact upon people and educates as well as entertains.  It reflects not only the morals and problems of the day but teaches us about the past and the future.

The Caucus represents writers, directors and producers from all walks of the television industry and presents frequent forums on various aspects of entertainment with panelists from all over the industry.  Opposing the growing concentration of ownership of development and television production into fewer and fewer hands, they joined forces with those in Washington and the state capitol to work for more creative rights for professionals in our field and communicate concerns to those outside the field.  Intrusion into television by special interest groups is highly discouraged. 

The Caucus: Michael Schneider, moderator

Members include Chuck Fries, Patricia Heaton, Robb Weller, Norman Powell and many other influential participants in the world of the box.  

In an effort to encourage up and coming writers and producers, the Caucus provides $23,000 in grants to aid student filmmakers.  

There are two types of memberships for the Caucus – associate and regular. The type of member you are depends on how much work in television you have done over the past years.  

For further information about the Caucus and its programs call 818 843 7572 or go to

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