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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 very Genre Savvy 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 equiped 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.
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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").
- 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.
- On the Hulu original series Battleground this occurs. The interviews seem to take place after the ending of the campaign, showing where many of the characters are.
- 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.
- Hells 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.
- 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 Dead Baby Comedy and parodying just about everything else.
- Seen, of course, in the faux-reality show Total Drama Island. Like much of the show, 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 the confession booth is also an outhouse. Which is sometimes in use. When the camera is on. Thankfully, above belly button level.
- Also of course recently parodied in the South Park 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.