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Confession Cam

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"Ahem. Um, my hair's not really blue. [beat] I need that tape!"
Marge Simpson, The Simpsons

In Reality Shows, a camera which is set up in an isolated location (a small room or, in outdoor environs, a secluded area), where the show's participants appear individually to speak candidly about tactics, motivations, the other players, etc. A common feature of the Reality TV Show Mansion. In many cases, Confession Cam interviews are produced in such a way that they can be spliced into the regular footage at any point with Manipulative Editing, and may be used several episodes away from when they actually took place. A few clever participants (most of them female) have circumvented this by noticeably changing their hairstyles and/or make-up each day, very effectively limiting how much the footage can be misplaced.note 

The modern concept, similar in execution to documentary interviews, hearkens back to the granddaddy of the reality show, MTV's The Real World along with its younger sister series Road Rules. Episodes were spliced with clips of the castmates talking directly to the camera, sharing their thoughts on the other castmates and whatever drama was at hand. Initially, it was made to look like the speaker was alone in a room with the camera. However, there was always an unseen producer behind the camera asking questions, and they'd splice together the best soundbites for the episode. Nowadays, it's usually much more clear that the speaker is talking to someone offscreen, and you might even hear the producer respond during particularly emotional or unusual moments.

Speaking to the Confession Cam can be quite hazardous to the speaker's personal reputation — it's important to not only watch what you're saying, but also how you say it, so that it's harder to twist around via clever editing. The above-mentioned hair-change trick is one method; another is to pay careful attention to what you're saying and deliberately 'bust the take' so that you can mentally compose a better response.

Not to be confused with the confessional at your local Catholic church. If you do mix them up, prepare to be Convicted by Public Opinion sooner or later. Compare Engineered Public Confession and Accidental Public Confession for when the speaker isn't aware he or she is being overheard.


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    Reality Programs 
  • The 1900 House documentary had one of these in each bedroom hidden in a corner cupboard. The family would confess when they did something not of the period (such as the women buying modern shampoo), or just to air their frustrations as a sort of personal diary.
  • The Amazing Race does a variant, as teammates almost always do them together.
  • America's Next Top Model has interviews filmed after the events of the episodes interspersed with the action.
  • The Apprentice puts a Confession Cam with the eliminated contestant in the taxi ride to the airport, along with more standard invocations of the trope.
  • Golf Channel's Big Break has one. It almost always telegraphs the confessor's next shot: If they're boasting about their skills, it'll be a terrible shot; if they're admitting they're scared, it'll be a great shot. It doesn't matter whether it's a drive or a 4-foot putt.
  • The diary room in Big Brother would be the second most common form.
    • Additionally, both Survivor and Big Brother use confessionals of the actual voting, with both apologies to the person being voted for and the vitriolic rants against them.
  • The Colony uses the confession room regularly to get more insight into what's going the subjects' minds after noteworthy events. The first season makes a point that the colonists film it themselves in a back room, but no explanation is given in the second season.
  • The Dead Files has two particular instances:
    • Steve Di Schavi is often filmed talking about aspects of the cases and what he's going to be doing via a camera in his car.
    • Amy Allen does this at times during her psychic reading (talking about her experiences), during the sketch sequence (talking about what she's describing to the sketch artist), and at the end of the episode (making a brief commentary about the overall experience and her recommendations for how to deal with the episode's haunting(s)).
  • Destination Fear: Used by whoever picks the location they are traveling to, to give a small exposition to the viewers before the rest of the crew know.
  • The Doctor Oz Show uses them for both serious (addiction, weight trouble, deadly disease) and not-so-serious (a funny-sounding fart, or another normal body oddity) conditions.
  • Dr. Phil: Dr. Phil typically embeds a camera crew with his guests a couple of weeks/days before they appear on his show; the preparatory footage thus collected always includes several Confession Cams.
  • On Endurance, there is usually a small room provided where contestants can express their thoughts and comments on challenges and relationships that are occurring throughout the series.
  • Face/Off has the confession cam but, due to the general Friendly Rivalry among the competitors, they use it almost exclusively to express their thoughts on the theme of the challenges, as well as to explain screwups and decisions made in the creation stage. In the reveal stage, the contestants talk about the final results of their work as they are revealed to the judges.
  • On Ghost Hunters, TAPS members frequently use the Confession Cam to explain the terminology used in their investigations. More often than note, though, they merely describe to the audience what we just witnessed actually being filmed. It can get tiresome.
    • Thankfully, they've mostly stopped explaining how EVP works, which they used to do twice every episode.
  • Hell's Kitchen, keeping with the theme, has shelves of pots and pans in the background that make it look like the Confession Cam is located in HK's pantry.
  • Jet Lag: The Game: In Tag EUR It, there are several scenes where Sam hides in the restroom so that he can film himself talking about his strategy without his current team partner overhearing him since this season's structure meant that he, Ben, and Adam kept alternating between working together and working against each other.
  • On The Joe Schmo Show, the time the actors spent talking to the confession cam was the time that they could actually be themselves without having to be their character. This caused a panic in the first season, however, when everyone thought that Matt Kennedy Gould (the season's mark) had heard Lance Krall ("Kip") talking out-of-character on the confession cam.
  • Judge Joe Brown shows them ranting before the show; after each case, they are shown leaving while the court report describes what just transpired.
  • Most television court shows such as Judge Judy (see exceptions below).
  • Junkyard Wars mostly relies on the cameras that are with the teams, but each team does have a video camera available to them in a remote corner of their workshops where team members can self-record brief confessionals.
  • Jury Duty features the namesake jury ranting instead of the litigants.
  • The People's Court still features interviews by the court reporter after the case wraps up.
  • The short-lived teen game show Pressure 1 would have one for the first eliminated contestant; they would talk about their most embarrassing moment as a punishment for being the day's first loser.
  • The children's adventure game show Raven has this, with the in-universe explanation of these thoughts being "seen" by Raven with the Raven's Eye. The contestants/warriors give their thoughts at the beginning of each episode as well as after each challenge. The spin-offs only have the thoughts on the challenges.
  • The Real Housewives has multiple talking head sessions for the cast members, filmed after the events of the episode take place.
  • Scrapheap Challenge has one of these; it's rarely seen because contestants are too busy building things, but when a fight takes place or there is a lot of tension, expect a little elaboration from somebody on the team.
  • The documentary-style Confession Cam employed by Survivor is probably the quintessential incarnation.
  • In interviews, many contestants on The Tester have stated that they're not really shallow idiots as they appear to be. The editing just makes it seem that way.
  • Top Chef uses this throughout the episode. Normally, the cheftestants talk about a dish they're preparing or explaining the challenge to the viewer.
  • In a similar vein, The Weakest Link features contestants ranting after they've been eliminated.

Parodies and Non-Reality Programs

    Comic Books 
  • Guardians of the Galaxy: A rare non-television example is used in Guardians of the Galaxy (2008) with its debriefing 'video' clips.
  • Ice Cream Man: Played for Horror in the chapter where a scriptwriter gets Trapped in TV Land by the eponymous Humanoid Abomination and finds himself in increasingly disturbing reality shows. Each time he shifts to another show, there are interludes like this where the guy details how he suddenly found himself in these shows, how disturbed he is by what's going on, and how desperate he is to leave. There are also interviews with the other show participants (like a mannequin woman in a dating show and three zombie women in a Real Housewives sendup) who talk about their roles in the disturbing shows like nothing unusual is going on, as well as an interview with the scriptwriter's uncle who was also pulled into the shows, killed, and is now surprised that he's dead.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Axe Murdering with Hackley: Hackley has a Vlog, which he uses to rant about his situations and talk about himself.
  • During the allegedly gruesome filming of Dogville, a Confession Cam was set up for the actors by director Lars von Trier to help them cope. It's on the DVD extras.
  • Used one by Ingmar Bergman in En Passion. All four main actors have one chance to speculate on their characters.
  • Used in Series 7: The Contenders, but it's hard to fit into the continuity proper, what with it being the most dangerous game and all.
  • Used in Showtime for the Reality Show Within a Show of the same name. Since this was a police-themed reality show, the two protagonists are contractually-obligated to spend at least 5 minutes a day in the booth with the camera. Trey uses the camera to the full extent, complaining about Mitch and boasting about his own skills. Mitch does anything in the booth but its intended purpose (e.g. reading a newspaper, shaving, making fun of Trey).

  • The Warrior Cats field guide Secrets of the Clans has a variant of this: there are brief sections called "_____ Speaks", and the characters talk about their feelings during a major event that occured in the main series, their motivation for doing something, and things like that.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Backstage uses this regularly.
  • On the Hulu original series Battleground (2012) this occurs. The interviews seem to take place after the ending of the campaign, showing where many of the characters are.
  • Since The Big Leap is about an in-universe reality show called The Big Leap, this happens often. The cast, hosts, and eventually executive producer Nick sick in a room next to the rehearsal area, which means they can also be interrupted during their confessions by people tapping on the glass or otherwise distracting them.
  • Used in an episode of Community in which Abed is filming a documentary about his friends. Shirley even films a confession cam segment without Abed's knowledge.
  • Doctor Who: "Bad Wolf" starts off with the Doctor arriving on a far-future Big Brother, and immediately being sent to the confession cam.
    Davina-Droid: You are live on Channel 44,000. Please do not swear.
    The Doctor: You have GOT to be kidding.
  • Some episodes of Drew Careys Improvaganza do this with the audience volunteers and some special guests.
  • A variation of this is used in the Discovery Kids show Flight 29 Down. Each person has their own tape for the camera which they use as a sort of diary.
  • High School Musical: The Musical: The Series have some set up as part of the mockumentary-style of the show, even though there's no recording occurring in-universe, so they mostly act as spots for soliloquies and inner thoughts.
  • The Kicks used this in the original version of the Pilot, but dropped it during the full season and released a recut Pilot that didn't use it.
  • An episode of Leverage meant to parody The Office naturally uses this.
  • Liv and Maddie does when the main characters have some comments about the scene at hand, for example, in Sleep-A-Rooney, Liv states that she did had fun times with Parker prior to her departure to Hollywood. The Grand Finale reveals this to be a Show Within a Show within the series itself.
  • Modern Family uses this device, where characters complain about their family members.
  • Both The Office (UK) and The Office (US) use a Mockumentary format that will frequently cut to characters in confession cams revealing their thoughts about the situation that is unfolding.
  • Parks and Recreation, as the Spiritual Successor to The Office (US), copies its use of confession cams while never actually establishing that there is a documentary being filmed.
  • RuPaul's Drag Race UK: The Drag Queens competing in the show provide commentary via confessional interviews, which are recorded after the scenes they refer to, then spliced into the episode. Confessionals are recorded out of drag and typically start on video, sometimes changing to voiceover when the episode cuts back to the original scene.
  • In an episode of That's So Raven, Raven and Chelsea are on a dating game show where they compete for a chance to date a guy. They're filmed via confession cam saying what they really think about each other, but they producer turns them against each other by editing what they say (i.e. Raven's "Chelsea is such a good friend, I would never want to lose her, and that's coming from the heart" is edited to "Chelsea is such a loser, and that's coming from the heart").
  • The seventh episode of WandaVision has these, being an Affectionate Parody of Modern Family. Mixing it with the characters' increasing Medium Awareness leads to some funny moments, like Vision realizing he has no idea what he's doing talking into a camera or how he suddenly got there.

  • U2's ZooTV tour had a video confession that played before and during the show.

    Puppet Shows 
  • A regular feature of The Muppets (2015), which has a similar format to The Office. In the first episode Gonzo uses it to decry the whole concept, saying it just gets used for cheap laughs based on Hypocritical Humor. We then cut back to the meeting, where he tells Kermit it's a great device and he loves it.
  • Invoked on The Mr. Potato Head Show during the reality-show episode: Mr. Potato Head set one up and allowed the other cast members to go in any time they wanted to discuss their feelings. Which he then used Manipulative Editing on to make it look like one of the characters was badmouthing all the others as an attempt at generating conflict to liven up the show.

    Video Games 
  • In the Saints Row IV DLC Enter the Dominatrix, Jane Valderamma interviews many of the Saints in this style about one of their "deleted scenes," a story that was partially "shot" but never released called Enter the Dominatrix. It's implied that many elements of ETD were later reconfigured and reused for Saints Row IV itself, mirroring SR4's partial origins in the unreleased Enter the Dominatrix DLC for Saints Row: The Third. More lampshades are hung than in a lampshade factory.

    Web Animation 

    Web Videos 
  • Escape the Night: As traditional for reality/scripted TV hybrids (see; Murder In Small Town X, The Murder Game, Whodunnit? (2013)) it makes sense to have the YouTubers comment on the action from their points of view. It's later confirmed that those scenes represent the YouTubers' in-universe thought processes as it actually happens in that moment, and as such, are not really to be considered as a actual thing in "canon".
  • Certain contestants, such as Vance and Sylvia, have spoken directly to the camera to speak about their motivations and strategies. Unlike with normal reality TV fare, the livestream format helps remove the risk of their "confessions" being selectively edited.
  • I Am Not Infected features a confession cam, which is a leftover from the series taking place in the house before the Zombie Apocalypse, The Frat House of Representatives. It's put to use by the characters frequently.
  • BAMF Girls' Club, being a parody of reality TV, has an obligatory one.
  • One Hundred Yard Stare: Ellie makes a startling confession at the end of episode 18
  • The French web series Confessions d'Histoire parodies this with historical characters.

    Western Animation 
  • In an episode of The Simpsons which parodied Reality TV, the house which served as location for the reality Show Within a Show featured a closet equipped with a camera, dubbed the "Confessional," which Marge interpreted quite literally.
  • Parodied, of course, in Drawn Together. The series uses it scarcely in later episodes as it becomes more divergent from its Reality Show parody premise and places more emphasis on Black Comedy and parodying just about everything else.
  • Seen, of course, in the faux-reality show Total Drama and its Spin-Off Total Drama Presents: The Ridonculous Race. Like much of the shows, it invokes the Rule of Funny, so expect it to be used when it quite logically and explicitly cannot. For many reasons, including the fact that in Total Drama the confession booth is also an outhouse. Which is sometimes in use. When the camera is on. Thankfully, above belly button level.
  • Life's a Zoo features these as part of its reality show parody premise.
  • The 7D does this in almost every episode, even the main antagonists, the Glooms.
  • South Park:
    • Also of course parodied in the episode It's a Jersey Thing, where the various Jersey Shore template characters suddenly cut to confession cams in the middle of a scene. This is Lampshaded when Kyle's mom does one and it cuts back to everyone else in the room staring at her talking to thin air.
    • And again in "I Should Have Never Gone Ziplining"
  • While not a confession cam per se, the interspersed comments by the cast of Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.
  • Used for a one-off gag in a season 1 episode of Big Mouth with Coach Steve. It's very random and appears out of nowhere.
  • Used in Butterbean's Cafe with the Bean Team commenting on whatever is going on at the moment. Ms. Marmalady also gets some on occasion.


Video Example(s):


Snackdown Confession Cam

The main contestants are all interspersed with a Confession Cam segment, as commonly seen on reality cooking shows such as "Master Chef". But the scenes are later revealed to just be Mortimer listening to the contestants talking inside a pretend TV.

How well does it match the trope?

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