Unscripted TV fare balances real with "reality"

Fri Jul 3, 2009 12:10am EDT
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By Daniel Frankel

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - When the Oxygen network green-lighted the reality series "Addicted to Beauty," the idea was to chronicle the day-to-day workings of a trendy California medical spa via the lives of its married co-owners, a socialite and a doctor.

That was the plan, anyway.

"Before we even got into production, they got divorced," Oxygen general manager Jason Klarman says. So when "Beauty" premieres next month, it will focus on socialite Dianne York-Goldman's attempt to start a med-spa at a different location, as well as her re-entry into single life.

"You've got to roll with the punches when you're doing these shows," Klarman says. "These aren't characters; these are real people, and you always run the risk of them having lives."

Indeed, as TLC has learned with its breakout hit "Jon & Kate Plus 8," the unanticipated real-life travails of reality personalities can prove both a boon and a bust to the network that's following their every move.

In TLC's case, a record 10.6 million viewers watched Jon and Kate Gosselin announce their marital breakup during the June 22 episode. But the show -- only six installments in a 40-episode order have aired -- has since gone on hiatus until August 3 to figure out how to move forward.

The "Jon & Kate" phenomenon has sent shock waves through Hollywood's unscripted TV community.