AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
ABC may never air the next season of its "Bachelor in Paradise," a fizzy spinoff of the network's reality romance show, "The Bachelor." Warner Bros. has suspended production following allegations that the show may have filmed one cast member sexually assaulting another. And the show's producers have been tight-lipped about what happened on the set in a Mexican resort. Now, it's not the first time that a reality show has filmed cast members in dangerous or questionable situations. Here to talk more about all this is writer and TV critic Andy Dehnart. Welcome to the program.
ANDY DEHNART: Thanks, Audie.
CORNISH: So far, what is known about what the actual allegations are here about what went on?
DEHNART: So production on Bachelor in Paradise was suspended. And all the contestants were sent home. And that was because there was some kind of incident between two of the contestants where one or both of them may have been too drunk to consent to sexual activity. That happened just yesterday. Corinne Olympios identified herself as the female contestant involved in that and said that she is a victim. She is pursuing both therapy and legal action to deal with the fallout from what happened.
And the other person involved, DeMario Jackson has identified himself and said that the allegations and all the reports that have sort of come out, mostly anonymously, are inaccurate and false and that he intends to pursue legal action, as well. So right now we're really unclear exactly what happened between them or whether or not it was filmed by crew members. But there's definitely a lot of questions.
CORNISH: From your position as a watcher of this world, were you surprised by this?
DEHNART: You know, unfortunately, no. I think, on some level, it's surprising maybe that something like this didn't happen earlier just because that volatile combination of alcohol and, also, the desire to essentially perform for the cameras is such a potent combination.
CORNISH: When it comes to the reality genre as we know it - and I'm going to go back to, say, like, the early '90s kind of MTV "Real World" time. There are certain things we expect - that there's going to be these, like, beautiful, young people sequestered with a lot of alcohol, getting kind of goosing from producers - right? - towards various storylines. Is there some code about, like, when they draw the line or take action when a situation is becoming a bad one?
DEHNART: There is not. And I think "Real World" in those early seasons really was pretty much a pure documentary. Yeah, they put some people in a house together who otherwise wouldn't have lived there. And, sure, they paid their rent. But, otherwise, they were just kind of filming for months and months and watching what happened.
But, over the years, as reality got more popular and as budget started to shrink and producers were under pressure from networks to deliver clearly defined storylines even sometimes before filming began, I think that line kept getting moved further and further, until, eventually, no one knew where the line was anymore. And so what happens is completely up to everybody, from the individual producers on the ground all the way up to network executives.
CORNISH: So where does that leave the cast members, right? I mean, are they essentially responsible for their own actions? Are they protected legally in any way when they sign up to do a reality show?
DEHNART: Cast members, at least from our perspective as audience members, seem like they are completely in control. But, of course, we're only seeing what has been edited into a broadcast. We're not seeing any of the interaction with producers. And so I think, a lot of times, they are basically pawns being moved around on a chessboard by producers in a worst-case scenario. I think some unscripted reality shows do an excellent job of just showing up and filming and doing that in a very ethical and responsible way.
CORNISH: What should we expect next? As we know, production has stopped. You now have these people involved making some statements in the press. Do we know what the next move is here?
DEHNART: Warner Bros., which produces the show, is doing an investigation. The information we have right now is that should take a week or two. And then it's a good question after that. I doubt we'll ever see that show again. And I hope that this would be a great moment for not only the Bachelor franchise but for reality TV in general to kind of reckon with what it has become and how it treats the human beings that become entertainment for us.
And I really would hope that we would be able to look at it critically and say, this isn't OK anymore, and we really do need to draw some clear boundaries and guidelines to make sure that those people are - sure - having fun, challenging themselves, providing entertainment but also being protected by the people who are making television.
CORNISH: Andy Dehnart is editor of Reality Blurred, a blog that covers reality television. Thank you so much for speaking with us.
DEHNART: Thank you so much. I appreciate it. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.