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 very smart competitors (most of them female) have circumvented that by noticeably changing their hairstyles or make-up every day, very effectively limiting how much the footage can be misplaced.
The modern concept, similar in execution to documentary interviews, hearkens back to the granddaddy of television court shows, The People's Court, wherein litigants would pause in the hallway after each case for a brief interview with the court reporter. Later, Judge Judy created the precedent (along with many many others) of eliminating the court reporter and having the litigants rant directly to the camera. And the Confession Cam was born.
Trope name comes from an episode of The Simpsons which parodied Reality TV; in this episode, 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).
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.
- 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 Apprentice puts a Confession Cam with the eliminated contestant in the taxi ride to the airport, along with more standard invocations of the trope.
- The diary room in Big Brother would be the second most common form.
- Doctor 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.
- Ditto Maury Povich.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Amazing Race does a variant, as teammates almost always do them together.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Real Housewives has multiple talking head sessions for the cast members, filmed after the events of the episode take place.
- America's Next Top Model also uses these.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 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)).
- A certain few TV court shows are exempt:
- Christina's Court features the titular judge (no pun intended) offering up a pearl of wisdom.
- Similarly, Judge David Young lectures the gallery on the subject of each case — or, really, anything the judge wants to talk about.
- Judge Karen and Judge Pirro avert it completely.
Parodies and Non-Reality Programs
- Rare non-television example: Guardians of the Galaxy and its debriefing 'video' clips.
- Used one by Ingmar Bergman in En Passion. All four main actors have one chance to speculate on their characters.
- 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 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- The soliloquy-esque bits in the Mockumentary The Office (both versions).
- Also Parks and Recreation.
- 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.
- A regular feature of The Muppets, 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.
- In the Saints Row IV DLC Enter the Dominatrix, Jane Valder(r)am(m)a 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.
- 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
- Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse makes frequent use of this, even for characters who can't speak English.
- The French web series Confessions d'Histoire parodies this with historical characters.
- 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.