It became one of the most talked about “Jersey Shore” moments: Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi and an unidentified male partygoer sloshed drinks at each other in a berserk bar brawl.
The boozy battle, however, hasn’t aired on MTV. That’s because it was hastily captured on a low-grade camera and posted online months before the cultural phenomenon’s second season is scheduled to debut.
The just-push-upload incident is the latest example of how instantaneous media is simultaneously building buzz and spoiling reality TV.
The intentionally raw medium relies heavily on spontaneity, or at least something resembling spontaneity, and doesn’t pack the same punch without Never Before Seen Footage.
“It’s a blessing and a curse,” says “Jersey Shore” executive producer Sally Ann Salsano. “You’re always grateful when people want to talk about your show, but in the end, those same people are the ones that take things, like what happened with Snooki, out of context.”
The slapping and soaking delivered and received by Snooki – who was infamously punched in the face by a stranger at a bar during the show’s first season – went viral after it was posted on the celebrity news website RadarOnline.com, later popping up on multiple blogs and debated about on HLN.
Reality TV spoilers have been around since CBS first stranded a group of 16 strangers in Borneo for the inaugural season of “Survivor.” Restrictive nondisclosure agreements that threaten legal action, signed by anyone exposed to a reality-TV production, are usually enough to keep the most important plotlines from leaking onto the Internet or elsewhere.
Newer tactics include forbidding the use of social media during filming. For example, the “Jersey Shore” ensemble said ciao to Twitter before they moved down to Miami.
Even if contestants are allowed to post online during production, such as the ninth season “American Idol” finalists sporadically do, the updates are usually overseen by the show’s producers.
However, many amateur sleuths are able to stitch together what’s happening on a reality-TV series simply by searching online, scouring for clues in status updates and photos.
“We glean information from wherever we can – Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, whatever,” says college student Ron Lee, who operates the spoiler website TVFanSpace.com.
RealityFanForum.com members were able to figure out almost the entire course of the 16th season of “The Amazing Race” months before it premiered.
That doesn’t bother “Race” host Phil Keoghan.
“If you’re a fan of the show, you’re not going to go, ‘Oh! I can’t watch the show now because I know where they’re going,’ ” he says. “If anything, you’re going to be more excited because you want to see what happens.”