Siesta Key is an American reality television series that airs on Tuesdays at 8:00 p.m. EST on MTV. The show started in 2017 and is currently in its third season, which premiered on January 7, 2020. Siesta Key follows a small group of well-to-do friends as they… date, fight, make up with each other, and otherwise live their lives. If you think Siesta Key sounds familiar, that’s probably because Siesta Key was inspired by a previous show, Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, a reality television series that ran in the early 2000s. Siesta Key is a sequel to Laguna Beach in spirit if not in name. While characters, plot events, and running dates of both shows are different, the two shows are very similar in format and content.
But is ‘Siesta Key’ actually real? Like many other reality TV series, the reality of Siesta Key is constantly up for debate. Fans and critics alike suspected that the original Laguna Beach was at least partially scripted. Siesta Key not only has a different cast than Laguna Beach, but also comes with a fresh look. The show is shot and edited using different methods than a traditional reality TV series. Close-up cameras help scenes move and breathe a little bit more, and a cinematic style makes episodes feel more like indie films than well-worn reality TV. Like Laguna Beach, Siesta Key is rumored to be manipulated by producers, but Siesta Key falls into a gray area between contrived and authentic more than anything else.
Many important elements of Siesta Key are certainly real. You simply can’t write some of the situations in which characters find themselves in Siesta Key. (And if you’re not especially familiar with the scintillating drama that is the Siesta Key family, just take a look at Alex Kompothecras. The dilemmas that Alex finds himself in are simply too convoluted and unexpected to be realistically contrived by TV script writers.). That sense of natural and exciting drama is part of the appeal of the show.
Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County co-creator Mark Ford spoke about the filming process of Siesta Key to Reality Blurred in 2017 upon the premiere of the first season of Siesta Key, explaining that the cast of Siesta Key is naturally engaging and dramatic. The fact that the show began with a love triangle, for example, was “a really good coincidence,” according to show producers. The cameras capture real, natural truths; cast members act the same on camera as they do off camera. Filming for Siesta Key takes place five days a week, and sometimes more. Although the film crew can not work 24 hours a day, show producers make an effort to capture everything interesting and dramatic about cast members lives within a reasonable time-frame each day.
Unlike other reality TV shows suspected of being fake, no cast or crew members have ever claimed that Siesta Key is scripted or fake. Take it as you will, but it’s certainly a point in favor of Siesta Key. Given the natural drama that surrounds reality TV, if Siesta Key were totally scripted, someone would have said so by now. The Laguna Beach spin-off, The Hills, for example, did everything from faking entire scenes to inventing dialogue to writing up entire storylines; we know this because cast members eventually revealed the truth.
But if nothing is planned in advance, how are the finished episodes that air on MTV each week so very nearly perfect? Real life just isn’t that neat. It’s messy and complicated. It’s very likely that some of the scenes on Siesta Key need to be re-shot and conversations need to be re-enacted in order for the film crew to catch everything that happens. Without a few re-enactments here and there, it would be impossible to complete a logical storyline without substantial holes.
That’s why Siesta Key falls into the gray zone between completely authentic and completely fake.
The show might not be one-hundred percent authentic, but it’s certainly not entirely scripted either. The majority of the sequence of the show follows real, unaltered life while some scenes simply are altered or adjusted by show producers in order to make better television. As all of the cast members were well acquainted with each other long before the show ever started, there’s no reason that the complicated relationships and related drama that form the basis of the show could not be entirely real. Producers ask cast to make an effort to have serious conversations in the presence of cameras. If certain scenes feel a little stilted, it’s probably because they did have to be re-created. The fact that there is a clear distinction between the occasional stilted narration and normal-sounding dialogue indicates that the majority of the show is based on conversations as they occur in real-time.
Each individual episode is also narrated by a different cast member to create the appearance of cohesion and smooth over the rugged nature of every-day life. This helps create better TV without actually creating any additional storyline content for the TV show. The natural events in episodes are drawn together through a combination of good editing and polished narration. A good reality show presents the appearance of documenting real life while also providing entertainment for viewers. In the end, Siesta Key is still a reality TV show, which means, it can show reality, and it is also a TV show. Those two concepts, while often separated, are blurred together in Siesta Key. Waiting for powerful truths to be revealed in a natural, emotional progression requires a lot of patience, but it’s worth it in the end. Just as Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County was centered around the ideas of authenticity and reality, Siesta Key works to capture the magic of real life.