Edgic: Using your detective skills for reality TV

As well as being a murder mystery fan, I’m also a sucker for reality TV. Survivor, The Apprentice, Skin Wars and The Great British Bake Off are a few favourites. You wouldn’t think the two have much in common, but thanks to Edgic, there is a link that can perhaps help explain why I enjoy certain reality shows as much as a good Agatha Christie.

What is Edgic? The word itself is a portmanteau of editing and logic. It was created as a method of analysing the edit of pre-recorded reality shows in an attempt to correctly identify certain resolutions, specifically who will win the show, but also, for example, who is heading for a downfall or who is there for the journey but not the grand prize. Some reality TV shows have already wrapped long before they hit our TV screens. As a result, the editors are able to weave a narrative knowing how the season pans out. They can create a story that highlights important characters and sidelines others who don’t have an overall effect on the season. They must decide how to portray the eventual winner. Did that player win heroically or as a villain? Were they always in control of the game or did they climb their way to the top as a scrappy underdog? Their story, naturally, must be one of the most important aspects of the show, but it shouldn’t be so obvious that we know who it is after episode one. A winner may be an under-the radar-player with a quiet game, triumphing when a more dominant figure falls at the last hurdle. This dominant figure can be used as a red herring. If the season is fairly straightforward with a clear-cut winner, the editors can employ misdirection through various other story lines. A good detective, however, should be able to recognise who the supporting characters are and who is the main star.

Survivor, in my opinion, (slightly biased, it’s my favourite reality show) offers the best opportunities for Edgic. The concept was in fact devised by the show’s fans. A big reason why studying the edit of Survivor may help reveal the outcome is that the show is now in it’s 35th season. There has been plenty of time for particular editing patterns to develop. These days, viewers can pick up on what type of winner’s edit is being portrayed. Perhaps a particular season is telling the story of how an outsider, who seemingly has no chance, goes on to defeat the odds and come out on top. Maybe it’s a tale of how a dominant physical player wins with challenge prowess despite a lack of smart gameplay. It could be that the clues point to a social player winning the game rather than a strategic one, so we should pay attention to the person who is busy making friends with everyone. It’s even possible that the narrative is not about why the winner won, but why the runner-up lost – especially if they are a more entertaining character. There have been examples of all these scenarios in Survivor and they can be used to back up theories during a new season.

Winner’s edits can be built up over time, and it is important to take stock of each player’s edit every episode. Were they a big part of the episode? And if so, were they portrayed positively or negatively? If a player was responsible for a big move, were they given much screen time to explain the move and how it helps them in the game? Perhaps a player tells us their thoughts on how a series of events will transpire. If they end up being completely wrong, what does that say about their game awareness? Edgic has established a set of identifiers for each player’s edit every episode. These are rating, tone, and visibility, and are generally broken down as follows:

Rating

INV (Invisible) UTR (Under the Radar) MOR (Middle of the Road) CP (Complex Personality) OTT (Over the Top)

You would usually expect a winner to receive a fair share of CP edits throughout the season, and very few INV or OTT edits.

Tone

PP (Super Positive) P (Positive) Neutral N (Negative) NN (Super Negative)

A well rounded winner would likely have a mixture of tone, but overall more positive than negative. They would tend not to veer into PP or NN territory.

Visibility

On a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being very little airtime. Rating focuses more on the personality of a player while visibility looks at their overall screen time.

Picking up on carefully selected plot points and why particular information has been shared with us requires the same observation skills as spotting clues in a well put together murder mystery. They are both puzzles that should lead to a satisfying conclusion, and this puzzle aspect of any story where you’re encouraged to guess the ending really appeals to me. Editors usually want their audience to see how and why a winner won. There have been seasons of Survivor where they decided to pull the wool over the audience’s eyes, shocking them at the end with a surprise winner. Occasionally a winner’s journey is so bizarre that it’s difficult to edit it in a way that makes sense. This means we should not always rely on Edgic, but more often than not it can be useful. I will say that this current season (Heroes Vs. Healers Vs Hustlers) is a tricky one to work out. My winner pick keeps changing.

So, next time you decide to binge watch a season of reality TV, try donning your detective cap and see if you can figure out the result ahead of time!