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  • Haley McGee

Season 1: Episode 10 - The Cost of Love and Reality TV with Alice Varma

Updated: Jul 2, 2021

Reality TV Producer Alice Varma (First Dates, First Dates Teens, Flirty Dancing) rips the bandaid off on why we love -- or love to hate -- reality TV.

What are the complexities of 'producing' vulnerability for entertainment? How are some of our favourite reality programmes made? What is the dance between truth and drama? Who has the power, and at what cost?

Episode Summary

This is the tenth (!) episode of The Cost of Love with Haley McGee.

Haley McGee is a love idiot. She’s also an actor and the author of the forthcoming book, The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale. On The Cost of Love Podcast she’s talking to a wide range of experts to try to figure out if the cost of love is worth it.

Each episode features a conversation between Haley and someone in the know, and they dig into that strange juicy place where love and money collide.

This episode is all about the cost of love and reality tv with Alice Varma, a TV Producer and digital content creator whose worked with MTV, Comedy Central, Channel 4 and on some of our favourite shows such as First Dates and Flirty Dancing.

In part 1 ‘Everyone’s a Love Idiot’ Haley grills Alice with a series of questions that attempt to quantify her romantic history. They cover everything from, how many times she's been in love and the difference between true love and high school obsession, to the lessons we learn (or don’t learn) from our parents about money.

Then, in part two, ‘Brains Over Braun’, we apply Alice's expertise to the concept of the cost of love. We cover:

  • How Alice ended up as a TV producer and her skyrocket to success

  • What producing entertainment entails including the ins and outs of casting, story, location planning and more

  • Conceptions and misconceptions of producers; money versus creative control

  • The pressure to get the story you want out of contributors and the prevalence of manipulation in particular TV markets

  • Alice gives us some BTS intel and outlines some of the challenges with working on dating shows

  • How producers get to know their contributors and the relationship between adequate support and entertainment value

  • Haley shares some of her experiences making autobiographical work, and the paradoxical nature of making work about yourself for others to connect to

  • Why we love reality tv or love to hate it -- and of course, Married At First Sight Australia (!)

  • The power of storytelling and creating modern archetypes

  • The danger of viewers focusing on the drama and forgetting to watch with an analytical lens

  • The nitty gritty of renumeration in reality tv and the ethics of payment

  • The dance content creators and producers have to do to stay true to reality and provide a viewers a good story

  • The practice of "frankenbiting" and the ethics of removing words from a context

  • The cost of taking part in reality TV for contributors, and the shocking prevalence of bullying

  • What Alice wishes audiences would take into account before trolling online

  • A cost-benefit analysis of working BTS on reality TV, including taking on the responsibility of others' emotional health and wellbeing

In part 3, 'Free Hugs' Haley and Alice answer a listener question on whether we should allow our partners to manage our investments, and what effect this risk could have on our relationships.

Haley wraps up with a note on her experience of writing The Ex-Boyfriend Yard Sale. Looking at the terror of exposing oneself in a book versus the immediate validation of being on stage, she leaves us to wonder whether giving up some control, might be a good thing.

... Oh, and of course we cover Haley's burgeoning obsession with Bake Off.

We're played out by 'Crying On The Bathroom Floor' by Muna, the song Alice Varma listened to on repeat when going through her biggest heartbreak. Click the link to listen to the whole song.

About Alice Varma

Alice is a tv and digital content producer who has worked on shows such as First Dates and Flirty Dancing for Channel 4, Impossible! for BBC One and That’s What She Said for MTV UK.

Her aim is to produce projects that examine real experiences that people go through, like death and grief, money struggles, debilitating mental health issues, racial micro-aggressions, beauty industry brainwashing and so much more. She is currently in development on a soon-to-be-released podcast based around imposter syndrome, called “Why Are You Asking Me?”, which explores why so many of us feel we don’t belong and aren’t good enough, with a particular focus on how societal barriers have impacted the experience of minority groups and people of colour.

When not producing, Alice performs improv at the FA with a group called Beautiful Gorgeous Creatures where she loves to make a total tit of herself.

Books & Some of the Other Things Mentioned

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Stay in Touch

Follow The Cost of Love on Instagram @thecostof_love, Twitter @thecostof_love and Facebook

Follow Haley McGee on Instagram @yeshaleymcgee, Twitter @yeshaleymcgee and Facebook

Submit a Question about Love & Money

Email and give us some context while you're at it! We'll try to answer it on a future episode.


Writer and Host - Haley McGee

Producer and Editor - Maddie Haynes

Editor - Eva Lunny

Assistant Producer - Eliza Cass

Music and Audio Production - Robert Moutrey

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