Unscripted TV Embraces Diversity, Enabled Caitlyn Jenner to Tell Her Story

Caitlyn Jenner reality TV
Courtesy of Vanity Fair

Caitlyn Jenner made her debut as a woman on Monday, the same day unscripted television execs and producers joined at the RealScreen West entertainment conference in Santa Monica, Calif.

“First of all, she looks beautiful,” Jason Sarlanis, VP of alternative series at ABC, said of Jenner, during his panel session today.

“Part of the success of unscripted is that it’s embraced diversity since the beginning. For the most part, diverse talent makes for better TV,” the exec said.

“She has been a part of unscripted, since the beginning,” he added, applauding “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” for giving the former Olympian a platform to speak candidly. “The Kardashians will continue to be a vehicle for her to tell her story.”

“You’ve been living with a secret for your whole life? Well now you get a chance to tell it,” Sarlanis, who previously managed “KUWTK” at E!, before joining ABC, raved of the power of reality television. “Secrets make for great TV. Passionate people make of great TV.”

Also at RealScreen — where conference-goers were buzzing about Jenner’s big reveal — MTV exec Colin Nash spoke of Jenner’s influence on the unscripted landscape.

“We’ve talked about it a lot. Caitlyn is very exciting news,” Nash, SVP of series development of west coast reality programming, said of finding a trans-themed series for MTV. ABC Family, another young-skewing cable net, is exploring the hot topic with the Ryan Seacrest-produced docuseries “Becoming Us,” bowing this month.

“That s a space that for us has to be the right thing. We haven’t really found the right thing for MTV,” Nash said, pointing out that the network’s “True Life” has already explored the transgender community. In fact, he explained that the MTV audience is so forward-thinking, the cabler’s development team is already talking about taking the next step.

“Gender-neutral is kind of the new thing,” Nash said. “For us and our audience, just because people are transitioning, [it] doesn’t mean it’s the right fit. Trans almost feels like a couple years behind for our audience.”

Back in October 2014, MTV was home to transgender actress Laverne Cox’s Emmy-winning documentary “The T Word,” which also aired on Logo. Exposing their millennial audience to characters representative of the entire LGBT community early on, MTV’s scripted comedy “Faking It,” which explores gay and lesbian relationships in high school, was given an early Season 3 renewal and returns with new episodes this summer.

Tuesday, at his RealScreen West keynote discussion, moderated by “The Amazing Rice” host Phil Keoghan, Discovery Channel president Rich Ross brought up Jenner’s Monday news splash, when speaking on the power of Twitter during live unscripted television events.

“That was Twitter at its finest,” Ross said, referring to Jenner’s new social media presence breaking records with the fastest growing Twitter account ever (over 1.6 million followers, and more than President Obama first accumulated, in mere hours). “That was seemingly all promotion to sell more ‘Vanity Fair’ than you’ve ever seen in your life and a show on E!”

Speaking of beating the trend, Sarlanis credits reality TV with scripted programming’s recent push into diverse casting.

“They’re embracing diversity…that’s an unscripted technique. I think that’s why you’re seeing a push back to scripted TV,” the ABC exec said. “We’re not chasing diversity. We were there way ahead of the curve.”

Ross agrees. When asked by an audience-goer if Discovery Channel has a department, specifically working to diversify the cabler’s slate, he responded: “It’s everyone’s job to figure that out and that’s how you have to think. It’s not a department.”

Pointing out Discovery’s casting inclusion of both men and women, plus people of color, at a time when the network is growing, the exec said, “It’s not a coincidence. You have to show people true people.”

Filed Under:

Want to read more articles like this one? SUBSCRIBE TO VARIETY TODAY.
Post A Comment 16

Leave a Reply


Comments are moderated. They may be edited for clarity and reprinting in whole or in part in Variety publications.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

  1. Rena Moretti says:

    To Greg Lisek:

    Your post seems to have vanished, but I’ll still point out that psychiatrists were classifying homosexuality as a mental illness too. Psychiatrists see a person in trouble and they want to treat them in a psychiatrist way, a surgeon may have different ideas…

    More problematic in the article is that the Doctor seemed to think that the suicide rate of post-surgical trangendred individuals not falling back down to the mean was significant when it should have been compared non-post-surgical transgendred individuals.

    While I fail to see how this is the be-all and end-all of deciding to perform elective surgery (!) unless there is convincing evidence of an increase in suicides (and it would need to be based on a sample a lot bigger han 300+ individual cases) there is no reason to deny patients their wishes (not that I’d fore surgeons to operate either if they don’t wish to).

    On Bradley Manning, I do think it’s a travesty if the taxpayers pay for his operation. We’re not paying for people who didn’t betray their oath to the Country, why should we pay or him, but someone like Caitlyn Jenner, as long as they pay for it, what business is it of ours?

  2. Kim Kracher says:

    When I first seen Catlyn picture I seen myself. He looks just like me. I’ve been getting calls and emails since his picture came out. I do look like her. Oh my god

  3. Rena Moretti says:

    What a load of poppycock!!!

    The people bringing us the fakeness and mind-destroying nonsense that is reality TV and the Kardashians telling us how wonderful they are…


  4. Corinne says:

    Wishing you a happy birthday Caitlyn!

  5. Isaac says:

    This man should have gone to a head doctor and not the chop shop! Oy!

  6. Iván el Terrible says:

    And North American people still wonder why Russia and China laugh at them

  7. Stacey says:

    Yes, the reality is, HE is still a man. He can do a hack job on his body and mutilate it, but that does not make him a woman, thank you very much!! Not only is he a man, but he is also a very mentally sick one at that. I am so tired of this garbage being shoved so forcefully at society.

    • Rena Moretti says:

      You’re reacting like transgendered people are doing it just to annoy you, but it’s very far from the truth.

      Transgendered people endure a lifelong mental anguish because of a lack of adequation between their inner and outer selves.

      It is highly unlikely that it is the result of a mental illness (at least as we understand them today) while it may be the result of chimerism (something that is observed more and more today in “normal” individuals due to the generalisation of DNA testing, where some organs in some people have different DNA than the rest of the body (from fertilized eggs in what would have been fraternal twins merging into a single being).

      Think about it: would you like to be insulted because your brain has a different DNA than the rest of your body through no fault of your own?

  8. colig says:


  9. Range Raver says:

    Bruce is still a man. They can change what he looks like on the outside but he is still a man. Do a DNA
    test on him it will still come up he is a man. This whole thing about him is perverse.

    • Rena Moretti says:

      You are actually not necessarily right. more and more people are identified as suffering from Chimerism, which may be a cause of transgender issues (hard to tell because it’s generally considered bad form to drill into somebody’s brain to do DNA typing for no medical gain but more and more people are identified who have certain organs with different DNA.

  10. and PT Barnum knew this years ago…the freak show always sells

  11. fatalreview says:

    actually this was all prophesied in the movie “Idiocracy” it’s a must watch since the Kartrashian Horde have ruined social media and forced their slimey STD trails all over the red carpet

  12. fatalreview says:

    you said it Zubba-ditched cable 4 years ago-I can’t believe the sheep still pay cable $100 a month for commercials, infomercials and Reality TV reruns-oouch! it must hurt being a total lemming

    • Rena Moretti says:

      Interesting how you seem personally offended…

      I can’t help but wonder why.

    • ZubbaBanetti2 says:

      @Fatalreview – they censored my previous comment. Can you believe that? They don’t mind showing a man in a dress, but free thoughts are intolerable apparently. Sick world.

More TV News from Variety