Reality television is arguably one of the most popular guilty pleasures among people. “Trash TV” is like a bag of chips, you know eating the entire thing is bad for you, but you can’t help but consume it all. There’s just something thoroughly entertaining about watching catty banter and drama. But there is always that question on how real the reality is.
Would you believe that the contestants on Survivor aren’t left to fend for themselves? And that the ladies on Bridezilla aren’t divas? Keep reading to learn the reality behind some of television’s most popular reality shows.
The Biggest Loser
The Biggest Loser is a popular weight-loss competition that began in 2004. The premise of the reality TV show is to document the contestants on their weight loss journey. Some people leave the show completely changed, losing upwards to 100 pounds! Unfortunately, not everything is as it seems on The Biggest Loser Ranch.
According to past contestants, the people on the show are given diet plans that leave them malnourished. And the industrial-size scale they’re weighed on at the end of each episode is apparently all for show. Each contestant is weighed days prior, so the number is nothing new to them.
Contrary to popular belief, Survivor is not exactly about the contestants surviving on deserted islands and random isolated locations. While the reality game show players are, in fact, in those locations, not everything is as it seems. When the cameras aren’t rolling, they get a lot of help from the crew.
The contestants are given food and supplies to help them build fires off-camera. Hey, the producers don’t want a PR nightmare on their hands! Producers also bring in people to train the contestants on various survival tactics and decide what everyone should wear. Well, at least the prize money is real, right?
The early 2000s was quite a time for MTV reality shows. One such program was MTV Cribs, a show that followed various celebrities around their gorgeous mansions. Viewers got to see what it was like to live like the rich and famous. Too bad that some of those homes weren’t exactly what one would call “theirs.”
Apparently, producers would rent out multi-million dollar mansions and pretend it was owned by the celebrity. One rapper was caught breaching the rental contract when the homeowner saw he had a 600-person party during his episode! Is anything real anymore?
American Pickers follows Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz as they travel across America in search of invaluable artifacts. They then buy from the collectors and sell the pieces in their thrift stores, or, they just add them to personal collections. Unfortunately, this reality show isn’t as spontaneous as it lets on.
Most of the haggling between Mike, Frank, and the sellers is an act, as the prices have already been negotiated off-camera. Also, many of the items are chosen by the producers. At least they know which artifacts would be interesting enough to base an episode around.
While watching socialists Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie chauffeured around the country is a laugh riot, we’re sad to say that it is also very much scripted. The airhead persona that most people associate with Paris Hilton is a ruse. She is, ironically, very well-spoken.
Brad Johnson, 20th Century Fox Television’s comedy development executive, said that he developed the character. “It’s the character that I developed for The Simple Life. They wanted a character that was an airhead with a baby voice, and so that’s a character that I do, and I had to do it for five seasons.”
Naked And Afraid
When watching Naked and Afraid on TV, it’s hard to imagine it’s anything but real. To some degree, it is, the contestants are running around the wilderness naked. That being said, a lot of the drama between contestants is made up to make the show more interesting.
According to former contestants, they aren’t as isolated as the program leads viewers to believe. Participants interact with locals; it just isn’t shown. The producers also help the contestants survive by giving them rations of water and food. They even provide medical attention if need be!
Beauty And The Geek
For the men and women chosen to be on the reality TV series Beauty and the Geek, they had to go through some major personality changes. While the show portrays the guys as socially incapable book nerds and the ladies as the popular girl next door without brains, that’s not necessarily the case.
A few of the “beauties” came out and said that producers asked them to dumb themselves down in front of the camera. For example, Jennifer Carter, a season three contestant, graduated from Northeastern with a journalism degree, even though she was asked to play a dumb blonde on the show.
The Voice is a competitive singing competition where famous coaches, such as Adam Levine and Christina Aguilera, pick their own teams and mentor the contestants. Then, it’s up to the American public to vote on the singers. Of course, there is witty banter and drama along the way, but how much of it is real?
Not a lot. According to Adam Weiner, singer for the band Low Cut Connie, he declined an offer to coach because of heavy restrictions. The producers dictate contestant song choice, style, and even have them sign a 32-page contract that allows the network to portray the contestants how they see fit.
Dancing With The Stars
For the contestants on Dancing with the Stars, personality is apparently more important than their actual dance skills. According to Fresh Prince alum Alfonso Ribeiro, producers will often take comments and edit them out of context to create a narrative and fictionalize drama between contestants.
The entire competition might also be rigged. Hope Solo said that her partner stirred up drama after seeing a memo that called for the duo to be cut from the competition. After he called out the producers on the unfairness of it all, the pair stayed on the show for a few more weeks.
The Bachelor And The Bachelorette
The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are arguably two of the most popular reality tv shows on-air. Put 30 attractive suitors in one location and have them compete for the affection of one bachelor or bachelorette, and the producers are going to make some good television! But, according to some former participants, it’s the clever editing that makes the show so intriguing.
Megan Parris, a contestant in season 13, said, “[the producers] basically will call you names, berate you, curse at you until they get you to say what they want you to say.” Apparently, they also “coach” contestants on how to portray certain emotions in front of the camera!
The Real Housewives
The Real Housewives follow a group of high-profile socialite divas as they argue, go shopping, and throw parties in different regions of the United States, such as Orange County and New Jersey. And while the general public loves watching catty women argue for no reason other than they heard an unflattering rumor, much of the reality show is scripted.
While under oath at her husband’s trial, Teresa Giudice of the Real Housewives of New Jersey cast, said, “The image is little more than a carefully crafted fiction, engineered by Bravo TV through scripted lines and clever editing.”
MasterChef is the cooking show where Gordon Ramsey gets in the contestants’ faces and yells at them. But how real is the chef and contestants’ relationships on the reality game show? Are Ramsey’s outbursts scripted or just something that comes off the top of his head?
According to Ben Starr, a former MasterChef contestant, the show is “entertainment. First and foremost. It is not real. It is not a competition. It is highly engineered fiction.” Starr also believes that the producers intentionally stressed out the contestants, doing things like waking them up in the middle of the night to switch hotels.
Who doesn’t love watching diva brides wreak havoc on their loved ones in hopes of having the perfect wedding? There’s drama, catty banter, and people that are just so ridiculous that it’s hard to believe they’re real. Ironically, they’re not.
Producers encourage the ‘zillas to kick up the drama and ask for outlandish and over-the-top demands, all in the name of the “shot.” According to former participants, the network misled them into thinking the show was a documentary on weddings. Um, sorry, Mrs. ‘Zilla, but have you not seen the show before? It’s also called Bridezilla, as in a bride who acts like a Godzilla-like monster.
MTV’s Jersey Shore brought the world Snooki, JWoww, The Situation, among other people who, contrary to popular belief, are not from Jersey. Some of them aren’t even Italian-American! Falsities aside, people couldn’t help but be tuned into the drama that always seemed to follow the GTL party-loving cast.
The thing is, the drama was a bit scripted by the producers. It was reported that the network asked the cast to drink excessively so that the dramatic situations would be taken up a notch. Editors would then swoop in and piece everything together to make the show as shocking as possible.
Hell’s Kitchen is another Gordon Ramsey-led cooking competition. But, unlike MasterChef, this reality show splits the contestants into two teams. While in their groups, the cooks have to make dishes at real restaurants for actual diners. The thing is, not everything is as it appears on the screen.
The establishments the show takes over are actually fake, the diners are paid to be there, and the contestants’ dishes are tampered with. According to former contestants, the producers would take ingrediants out of their stations, deliberately messing them up and giving Ramsey a reason to call them an “idiot sandwich.”
While a majority of viewers very much like the audition part of American Idol, it’s not actually a real audition. Instead of random people coming in to audition, potential contestants are scouted by the produces ahead of time and invited to perform in front of the judges.
Unfortunately, that means the auditions are a bit fabricated because the producers already have an idea who they want to showcase on the reality series. So much for the contestants being discovered by the celebrity judges.
Cake Boss has been a popular reality show since its first episode aired in 2009. Viewers are enamored by the Italian-American family in Hoboken, New Jersey, and their gorgeous art cakes. The thing is, the masterpieces aren’t what one would call “edible.”
The cakes shown on TV are reinforced with cladding, a construction tool that helps improve the appearance of a structure. As the extravagant creations can’t be eaten, the baker gives customers a sheet cake to eat while an episode is being filmed. Also, customers know what type of cake they’re getting, so the big cake reveal is completely stagged.
The Jerry Springer Show
Considering The Jerry Springer Show brought us the “cash me outside” girl, it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that the dialogue is a bit scripted. While the stories are actually real, the producers tell participants that they need to be as dramatic as possible.
Before they step foot in front of the camera, people are told that they need to make their situation as over-the-top as possible. After all, that’s why people tune into the show. Even the fights are planned out, so audience members and the host don’t get stuck in the crossfire.
Oddly enough, watching grown men and women bid after an abandoned storage unit is entertaining. And while one would think the premise of the show would be difficult to fake, the producers proved otherwise. The treasures that the bidders end up finding in the units aren’t there on accident.
Dave Hester, former Storage Wars star, has said that the produces plant items in the units prior to bidding. And the network allegedly helps less-experienced bidders with the financial process that goes along with the “war,” giving them an unfair advantage.
Duck Dynasty follows the Robertsons, a family of hunters who enjoy long beards, camouflage attire, and patriotic bandannas. This reality show differs from others in a few ways. One is that the family is very much open about their scripted conversations. Another is that the entire series is staged.
Rather than have the camera crew follow the family around as they do in other reality shows, the producers come up with scenarios and have select family members “act out the scene.” The Robertsons call it a “guided reality.” Also, the producers made the decision to bleep-out a lot of unnecessary dialogue to make it seem like there was more cursing.
The HGTV show Property Brothers is a well-formulated reality spectacle that is completely fake. While the network has a recipe for success, the plot of each episode feels forced. Not surprisingly, either, because the brothers show each buyer real estate that is way over budget, knowing that they’re never going to go for the property.
The worst part is that the home buyers on the show are already in the process of buying one of the properties. Obviously, this isn’t shown on camera, and the audience has no idea that these people are just going through the steps of the show while they already have a house picked out.
As the long-distance love interests are fake, so to is the MTV show Catfish. Ever wonder how the “catfish” has a microphone and are ready to go when Nev, Max, and their internet love-interest show up on their doorstep? This is because they have to agree to be on the show.
Meaning, producers know these people before filming, so they’re able to do all of the detective work Nev and Max presumably do on-camera. At least they make it seem like everything is being done in real-time.
To say the premise for Wife Swap is a bit absurd would be an understatement. But the reality show has been on the air since 2004, meaning viewers are entranced by the cringe-worthy family swap that has two women switching places for two weeks. The twist? Presumably, these women come from totally different family dynamics.
In reality, the families aren’t so different as the show makes them appear. Producers tell each family member to play up their differences, going as far as giving the children “roles.” The producers also embellish the “manuals” each wife writes for the other to help them navigate their “new family!”
Total Divas follows a group of female wrestlers and explores their lives outside of the ring. That being said, the behind-the-scenes drama is about as real as actual wrestling. These women are trained entertainers and actors, so the show is capitalizing off of their skill set.
According to former WWE Tag Team Champion PJ Black, about 90 percent of the show is scripted. Then Jim Ross, a wrestling announcer, admitted to a fan on his podcast that “the presentation is fictional.” Well, at least the show is good for some embellished drama.
Southern Charm is another reality show that follows wealthy socialites. Only, this time, southern culture and politics are brought in to play. While the show’s producer, Whitney Sudler-Smith, would like viewers to believe that Southern Charm is authentic, that isn’t the case.
This show goes further than a phony scripted dialogue. According to a local real estate agent, Jenna King’s mansion isn’t hers. Instead, the property was rented out solely for the show. “They used it for some interior and exterior shots, and Jenna had absolutely nothing else to do with the property. She never lived there or owned it.”
There’s nothing quite like watching the young waitstaff at SUR bicker and betray one another under the watchful eye of Lisa Vanderpump, a restaurant tycoon and real housewife of Orange County. While the “basic” drama draws in viewers, apparently, most of the show is anything but real.
Vanderpump Rules alum, Stassi Schroeder, admitted to faking a breakup on the show solely because the producers told her to. She also said that a majority of the dialogue is scripted so that everything would fit into the narrative. Is anything real anymore?!
While Pawn Stars is filmed in the world-famous Gold & Silver Pawn Shop, much of what’s shown on the reality series is not all it’s chalked up to be. Nevada state privacy laws dictate that anyone who wants to film another person must get their consent.
That means the people on the show went through an extensive paperwork process before filming. It’s been said that anyone who comes on the show must first fill out a form illustrating their item and outlining their demands. Pretty much, everyone is hand-selected and told when to arrive at the shop.
Say Yes To The Dress
Say Yes to the Dress is a very popular reality show that follows brides-to-be as they shop around Kleinfeld boutique in New York in hopes of finding their dream wedding dress. Viewers watch and witness meltdowns as well as happy endings in the store. But how much of the experience is real?
Apparently, the camera crew angles themselves just so, to make the boutique look bigger and less congested than it actually is during business hours. Producers also observe the people accompanying the bride, asking them to repeat and stress certain comments to make the show seem more dramatic.
Cupcake War contestants are bakers from all over the United States (or special celebrity guest stars). Being experts and professionals in the kitchen, one would think these participants wouldn’t need help or assistance on the show. Wrong.
In “mystery ingredient rounds,” it’s said that the contestants are told ahead of time what they’re going to have to incorporate in their creations. All they have to do is look surprised on-camera. Pretty much, they’re told the secret ingredient and have some time to think over the dessert they want to bake. Talk about cheating.
Long Island Medium
Long Island Medium Theresa Caputo has been connecting people with their friends and family since her first episode aired in 2011. The reality show centers around Caputo’s career of speaking to the spirit world, specifically the loved ones of her clients. However, her show has been the center of a few authenticity scandals.
It’s said that the producers of the show feed Caputo all of the necessary information regarding her clients. They find the information through social media, background checks, and even questionnaires. It’s even been rumored that specific people are told to sit in certain places within her live audience. Yikes, talk about faking it till you make it!
Whenever Undercover Boss comes on the TV screen, it’s time to bust out the tissues. This staged “reality” show sends the owners and CEOs of companies to work for their own business while undercover, disguised in costume.
At the end of the show, the boss presents extremely generous gifts to the employees that they worked with while undercover, at which point everyone cries. Unfortunately for fans of the show, Undercover Boss is scripted, and the bosses aren’t held accountable for the promises made to the employees in the episode.
South Beach Tow
South Beach Tow is so over-the-top, it’s easy to see that it’s made for entertainment– but it’s not reality. The show follows the family-owned Tremont Towing business as they battle their rival towing company in town, The Finest Towing.
There are plenty of scripted shenanigans, including Finest Towing attempting to sabotage their rival’s business, and even a towing office exploding in fire. Many of the scenes are reenactments of “actual events” which by definition, isn’t real.
Rumors of the TV show Hardcore Pawn being fake have been buzzing about for a while, despite Seth Gold claiming that the show is real. He told fans of the show on Reddit AMA, “we’re pawnbrokers, not actors.”
Yet New York Post writer Linda Stasi claims that there’s no way the episodes aren’t scripted. She pointed out that Les Gold just so happens to be working behind the counter at the shop each time a customer comes in with a sentimental item. When the shop isn’t filming, it’s rare for Les to be on the floor helping customers.
According to Season 4 contestant Jack Mackenroth, Project Runway is totally fake. Although some believe that he’s just bitter about being cut from the show, Mackenroth claims that even though the designers and their work is real, the competition is rigged, and producers select who they want to win and create a storyline so that it makes sense to the audience why they won.
He told Paper, “The show is a sham, the judging is totally fake and they basically decide who they want to eliminate and edit the footage to make the viewer agree.”
It’s hard to believe that a show is real after one of the cast members goes on record saying it’s fake– right? Well, that’s what happened with Ghost Hunters. Although the show is thrilling, and has led to several similar shows being filmed, Donna Lacroix says it’s not all real.
In an interview with “Ghost Divas” radio show, Lacroix admitted that the cast goes to locations that have already been identified to be areas of paranormal activity, and then acts like they discovered it for the first time.
Say Yes To The Dress
The popular bridal show Say Yes To The Dress is known for one major thing — the drama-filled brides who will go off the rails if they don’t get their way! The thing is, not everything is as it’s seen on the reality series.
The producers will actually vet participants, making sure the people on the show will be outspoken. And, to put the cherry on the proverbial cake, they will also ask people to repeat themselves on the show, particularly to make their comments more drama-filled. Also, each location is way smaller than they look on TV!
If there were ever a reality show that lied about the reality aspect, it would have to be Fixer Upper. The people in the home remodeling show have not only already purchased their house, but they’re responsible for paying for the furniture and any other decor placed inside since it’s not included in the show’s budget.
This means they’re not actually choosing between three homes at the beginning of the episode. Not only that, but there are claims that Chip only works while the cameras are rolling, so the remodels can take forever!
Naked And Afraid
The Discovery reality series Naked and Afraid is a survival show that seems, well, very scary. Contestants are brought to exotic, out-there locations, stripped of all worldly possessions, and told to survive. The thing is, it’s not as scary as the series makes it out to be.
Apparently, producers are heavily involved in the series, supplying participants with day-to-day necessities, including prescription medications, feminine hygiene products, and even vitamin supplements. Hey, humans aren’t equipped to live in the wilderness like that anymore, so it kind of makes sense.
The VH1 reality series Basketball Wives follows a group of women married to professional basketball players. Their lives seem full of drama, scandals, and family affairs that really have no place on television. Ironically, they’re not actually shown on television.
According to a former cast member of the series, the entire show is very heavily staged and scripted, making things seem way more dramatic than they actually are. The producers would even go ask far as pitting women against one another, all for the sake of good TV.
The MTV series The Hills is pretty much what every reality show fanatic loves. It’s filled with drama, fashion, luxury, and most of all, friends going against friends because they chose the boy instead. Well, not everything is as it seems on the show.
According to one of the series’ stars, Spencer Pratt, he and his then-girlfriend Heidi Montag had to do the “I’m pregnant” scene a solid 14 times until they “got it right.”