A confessional is a stylistic device used in many reality television shows. It is a type of aside, consisting of cutaways to a close-up shot of one (or occasionally more) cast members talking directly to camera. Confessionals are used to provide narration, exposition, and commentary on ongoing action within the show. They present cast members in isolation, providing a sense of intimacy in which emotions may be close to the surface.
While confessionals are typically presented as an immediate reaction to events in the show (an illusion enforced by the use of the present tense), they are generally filmed later, sometimes much later, and often at another location.
Cutaway interviews have their origin in documentary filmmaking. Confessionals in the modern sense may have begun with The People's Court, in which litigants gave interviews to the court reporter after arguing their case, in the style of post-game interviews. Judge Judy later dropped the court reporter from these interactions, and had litigants speak directly to camera. Confessionals were also used on MTV's The Real World, which debuted in 1992. The use of the term "confessional" to describe these cutaways can be traced to The Simpsons.
The confessional device has been deployed in scripted series parodying the reality genre, most notably The Office.