From concept to final edit, there are hundreds—thousands, even—of choices that have to be made that affect how closely the final product matches reality. People have to be cast, story producers have to find narratives in raw footage, time has to be compressed. Only the most compelling footage and dialogue will survive. Even the best documentary film is heavily crafted—manipulated?—with footage carefully selected and ordered to make the best story or argument possible.
The problem comes when this process changes the reality of the situation, whether that manipulation is happening in real time—producers coaching cast members, reshooting scenes over and over again—or occurs during editing. To observe the heavy hand of producers and networks at work, watch an episode of the U.K. version of Ramsay’s Kitchen Nightmares followed by an episode of the Fox adaptation, Kitchen Nightmares. Both capture a reality: Gordon Ramsay helping troubled restaurant owners, yelling at them, and fixing their problems. But on the Fox edition, Ramsay works much harder to create conflict, and so do the editors; the show’s credits note that footage may appear out of order, and that’s often used to construct reactions or moments that may never have occurred.
The problem comes when viewers perceive they have been lied to by the producers of the programs, which the author says is pointless when the goal is merely entertainment. Read more about the different ways reality TV may or may not be real at The Daily Beast. Link