Meet The Woman Behind Reality TV's Biggest Hits

The Insider
Meet The Woman Behind Reality TV's Biggest Hits
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Meet The Woman Behind Reality TV's Biggest Hits

Love them or hate them, it's quite clear that reality television is not going anywhere. Now, one of the creators leading the unscripted charge is opening up about what it takes to make -- and keep -- a show successful.

SallyAnn Salsano is responsible for bringing Jersey Shore (and all their various spin-offs), Tool Academy, The Bachelor, A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila and many more guilty pleasures to life and now she's hoping to replicate their success with Tanisha Gets Married -- a wedding-themed reality series focusing on The Bad Girls Club alum. I caught up with SallyAnn to find out the secret to her success, what the future of Jersey Shore looks like and which show she regrets not creating.

Insider.com: I was a huge fan of Tanisha on Bad Girls Club. Clearly you were too.
SallyAnn Salsano: Bad Girls Club is one of those "G-d damn it, why isn't that my show?” shows. That said, I never missed an episode. When I first met Tanisha, I was meeting her as some psychotic fan. But I quickly learned there are so many sides to Tanisha – she's not just a hothead. I mean, she absolutely is, but Tanisha is also a really nice girl who was raised well, loves her family and aspires to have a better life. That said, during the course of trying to make that happen, she could take two or three people out. But her heart is in the right place. And don't forget, there are a bunch of her former cast members (Natalie) who are bridesmaids. And it's not always a happy reunion.

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Insider: That makes me terrified to see the Bachelorette party.
SallyAnn: I've never seen anything like these Bachelor/Bachelorette parties. I was there and terrified. I will promise you the police come, I will promise you plates fly in the restaurant and I promise you someone gets hit in the head with a glass. But in the end, everyone has a great time – it's just a rollercoaster ride from start to finish and you will fall more in love with Tanisha through this process.

Insider: When you seek out a personality to build a show around, what is it you're looking for?
SallyAnn: First and foremost, they have to be honest. I don't care who they want to be, I'm 100 percent not interested in what they want to look like. I'm only interested in what it is. The best reality characters are ones who say, "This is who I am and I'm not going to change for anyone." I have to trust that my cast is being honest with me, but they have to trust I'm going to tell the true story of what happened.

Insider: For you, does a show start with the star or the idea?
SallyAnn: It changes depending on what we find. I have the best team in the world but I think the best stuff comes from life experience. I'm not different than any cast member I put on a new show – no matter how insane my shows are, I can tell you how I directly relate to that show and that's the thing: you have to connect. If you gave the top 6 producers the same footage, they'd all make a really great show, but they would all have a different voice. In a reality show, the most important thing is a point of view and you can’t be afraid of it.

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Insider: After doing this for as long as you have, can you smell a hit or are you still surprised -- like when The Jersey Shore exploded?
SallyAnn: You don't know sometimes until you're in it. Jersey Shore was a show we knew from the beginning would make noise, but I didn't think it would be this big. When you're working on a reality show, you see so much footage that it almost becomes second nature. When you're on a set and the cameramen stay after their shift to sit in the control room or come in early to find out what happened the night before, that's when you know s*it is off the rails.

Insider: With Jersey Shore, you plucked these kids from obscurity -- has their subsequent fame and all the things that come along with that (publicists, egos, book deals, appearances) made it harder to produce your show?
SallyAnn: It hasn't. They're the same kids. Every once in a while they'll say something crazy and I'll call them out on their B.S. I'm like their crazy aunt, but we are truly a family. Recently I lost both my parents within a month and they all showed up for me like they were my friends in life. It's odd. People ask if it's an exploitative relationship, but I think we all signed on to a project not knowing what it would be. The fame always goes away but the bond never does -- there will always be this small number of people that shared this experience. No matter what people say about that show, no one can take away the experience we had with one another.

Insider: You've been thrown a lot of curveballs for the upcoming season -- from Snooki's pregnancy to Mike's sober lifestyle. Does that worry you?
SallyAnn: I f*cking love it. I gotta tell you, if I go out of my office with a plan and come back with footage of that plan, I failed as a producer. When I have 8 people going in different directions and no cameras to catch it, that's when I'm excited – the thing about reality TV is, if I don't know what's going on, that keeps it entertaining. If I can plan every second of every day, no one is going along for the ride. I love it when it goes off the rails. Throw it at me, I'm in.

Tanisha Gets Married premieres tonight at 11 p.m. on Oxygen.


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