For better or worse reality shows have become a mainstay of current entertainment. Who knew that watching completely incompatible people living in one house or in a remote location could be so fascinating? Yet reality shows can sometimes feel anything but real with manufactured drama and conflicts, creative editing and multiple takes. ControlTV looks to change all that and deliver as much of the fishbowl experience as possible without violating good taste. An average guy will subject himself to being on camera for 6 weeks for anywhere between 16 to 24 hours a day. There are no alternate takes, because all of the footage is streamed in real-time over the Internet. The kicker is that viewers are in control of this guy’s actions, including what he wears, eats and does throughout the day. This brave individual is Tristan Couvares and he spoke with Working Author to shed some light on how the show works and share his thoughts on the upcoming weeks.
ControlTV comes from the mind of Seth Green who is also the show’s executive producer along with several top names, like Robot Chicken co-creator Matthew Senreich, former Dimension Films president Richard Saperstein, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette director Ken Fuchs and more. Audiences are virtually ensured a quality product and not simply some haphazard online experiment. While Tristan Couvares won’t always do something exciting – hours may go by where he’s stuck in traffic, playing video games or cleaning his bathroom – it’s completely authentic and imperfect just like the rest of the world and everyone in it.
A show like this requires an everyman – someone that people can relate to and a person who is a work in progress. As such, ControlTV found an excellent candidate. Tristan Couvares is going through what many have experienced as a quarter-life crisis. He’s a single 25-year-old, having recently worked a job that wasn’t a career, with his family back east and living in a city that hasn’t been his home for very long. The future is still uncertain for him and now the entire world can help shape his life.
Couvares has previously made comments about the loss of privacy in modern society, but to subject oneself so nakedly and without objection to the strangers of the world seems to go beyond privacy issues and stopping somewhere in the realm of masochism. Couvares laughs in agreement. “Good point,” he says, “I guess the answer is that I hope [the show] opens up some doors for me. It’s not as shallow as it is to say that I hope it leads me to fame. It’s more of like I hope it helps me figure out some things in my life that I’m trying to figure out. At the end of the day, having a team of people assisting me to do that…most people have to do that on their own. So there’s a lot of benefit for me in that aspect.” Conversely, Couvares also understands the questions viewers will have. “There’s a masochistic aspect in the sense that this guy is kind of harming himself. ‘Does he like this? Does he enjoy this? Does he want to get poked and prodded all day long?’”
Thankfully, as Couvares points out, the producers have structured the show to make him feel comfortable enough to sign up and come this far. So it is highly unlikely that viewers will be able to make Couvares do idiotic things, like punch a police officer or go swimming fully clothed. “Will I have to do some silly embarrassing things?” Couvares asks, “Absolutely, but it’s not like I’m going to be harming myself or be put in harm’s way.”
The logistics of the show seem almost unmanageable as Couvares will have to wait on viewers’ persuasions before he can act on specific things and not even he knows exactly how everything will play out in practice. “I’ve been kept in the dark a lot – I’ll be completely honest,” he says candidly, “So if I give you an answer that may seem a little vague it’s not because I’m being evasive. It’s actually because I don’t know. My understanding of it – we test-ran through it last week – I’m going to get a text message on my phone, like ‘What should Tristan have for breakfast?’ Then letting me know what the choices are. Then I’ll get a few minutes to maybe address the camera, maybe tip my hand to which way I’m leaning. Maybe not. Who knows? And then the audience will get five minutes to vote. And then I get the results as well as the percentage breakdown in another text message.” Given the real-time format of ControlTV, the process Couvares describes seems to be a practical way to handle communication between the audience and him.
Thankfully, daily decisions won’t be limited to mundane situations. The point of ControlTV is to really make an impact on the subject’s life. “One of the things [the producers] focus on is a career path for me. I have a feeling that I’ll be checking out some companies or maybe going on some interviews – something like that. So there will be serious, important decisions the viewers will get to make, but I’ve been instructed to just live my day to day life.” In addition to a career Couvares may also find himself in a new relationship. “Ken [Fuchs] is the guy who created The Bachelor and The Bachelorette so I can’t imagine he would ever let this thing go by without that being an element of the show. Which is going to be an interesting experience because I’m not going to be picking [the women]. They’re going to be presented…by the producers of the show and they’re going to be selected by the audience members. It’s like an arranged marriage.”
Aside from his above-average good looks that will no doubt be a hit with the female audience, Tristan Couvares genuinely wants people to know that he really is just an average guy who is walking into extraordinary circumstances. “I’m just an ordinary guy. I’m not an actor. I’m not some guy who moved to LA – believe it or not – to chase some pipe dream of being famous. I kind of just tripped and fell…exploded backwards into this thing. And I would just ask that people have their fun, but take it easy on me.”
ControlTV airs on October 6 at 8 a.m. Pacific Time.