Book Review: The Show Starter Reality TV Made Simple System

The Show Starter Reality TV Made Simple System

The Show Starter Reality TV Made Simple System

The Show Starter Reality TV Made Simple System by Donna Michelle Anderson

So you’ve got an idea for a reality show—did you know there would most likely be $1000-$3000 of out-of-pocket expenses (as in, “yours”) to get it set up to even pitch? (And these fees would be absolutely necessary so that your idea would not be stolen, because “you cannot copyright or sell an idea for a reality show.”) This is just one of the many startling, sobering facts available in Donna Michelle Anderson’s book The Show Starter Reality TV Made Simple System which is the prose-form of/addendum to Anderson’s Show Starter seminar/consulting services readily available via

Anderson, known as DMA, has decades of experience in the field, working most notably on Queer Eye for the Straight Girl and multiple seasons of Big Brother as a supervising producer, so she’s got credibility. She knows what she’s talking about, and it seems like “reality shepherding” is her primary career, her main area of expertise. At 154 pages, DMA certainly has a lot more to say in this book than she did in The 1-3-5 Story Structure Made Simple System, but that’s just because navigating the choppy waters of reality TV conception and production is so psychotically intricate and precarious, especially for a novice swimmer.

One of the most significant myths DMA seeks to dispel in the book is that selling a reality show is not a “get rich quick” strategy (sort of comparable to how people used to think “writing a movie” was a couple decades ago—wait, I mean still). In fact, DMA prophesies, one won’t earn more than $5000 “from selling [one’s] first reality show.” And remember that chunk of change above? Putting those numbers together, one sort of breaks even the first go-around, now doesn’t one? The logical conclusion here, garnered from DMA’s facts, figures, and counsel, is that if one wants to “do” reality, doing so would have to be the career path, to which one commits whole-heartedly… and whole-pocketly. Worth it?

As opposed to doing it for the money, DMA sagely counters, “You make reality TV because you want access to an international platform to reach real people and change their lives. You make it because you have very strong opinions on how people should dress, date, live, cook, decorate, work, and behave. You make it because you are incredibly curious about human behavior and how it can be altered, improved, or debased. You make it because it is an incredible challenge to develop a show, get it through production and make it to air, and you are a glutton for punishment and sleep-deprivation. You make it because it is both creative and logistical, hilarious and distressing, rewarding and confounding.” So…is it worth it for you to make it?

The introduction, twelve chapters, and three appendices that DMA offers shall certainly lead you to your answer. As in her other book, the writing is crisp, clear, and easy to understand, often jazzed with dark wit, as DMA outlines the process, considerations, and essential pragmatisms that go into crafting, step by step, a saleable reality pitch package. But you can’t accomplish this from a place of delusion. You have to be real with yourself and your motivations before your “reality” can make it to TV.