Love it or hate it, reality TV is a guilty pleasure for many. From its ludicrous drama down to its frivolous humor, it’s hard not to be entertained! But despite their arguably riveting plotlines, many reality shows aren’t all that they seem to be on screen. Here is the truth behind some of your favorite series.
1. American Idol
Watching American Idol became a weekly norm in many homes around the US following its debut in 2002. While the singing competition gave us many memorable performances from artists like Kelly Clarkson and Carrie Underwood, and even some performances we’ll truly never forget, it turns out the competitive nature of the reality TV show wasn’t so healthy after all.
Remember the first episode of every season, when thousands of people anxiously line up to audition for the show for what is meant to be the first time? Apparently those shots aren’t real, as it has been said that producers hand pick contestants ahead of time and hold auditions for them months before they meet the real judges. And for those who do get to meet the judges – well, they have to be hilariously entertaining or have a great voice and a perfectly molded sob story.
2. Hell’s Kitchen
Thanks to Fox’s reality TV show, Hell’s Kitchen, the name Chef Gordon Ramsay is enough to illicit an immediate feeling of fear. In the 13 season series, endeavoring restauranteurs ranging from line cooks to sous chefs go through hell in hopes of becoming an executive chef at one of Ramsay’s restaurants. And even though they are forced to withstand the Ramsay’s rude insults, it turns out not everything in the program is what it’s cooked up to seem.
For example, if you turn on the show, you’ll likely see a few instances in which Ramsay is close to coming to blows with a hotheaded contestant. But this is apparently entirely scripted by producers for the sake of stirring the pot and creating drama. In fact, the celebrity chef has bodyguards stationed all around the set in case any physical altercation were to actually happen.
3. Say Yes to the Dress
In TLC’s bridal reality show, Say Yes to the Dress, over 250 professionals bend over backwards to help different brides-to-be find their dream wedding dress in New York City’s famous Kleinfeld boutique. Mixing together bridal stories, fashion makeovers, and family therapy, each episode of the 16 season series reveals the extreme lengths the Kleinfeld staff goes to in order to fulfill the brides’ dreams.
Not only that but it also shows just how stressful wedding planning can be. While all the meltdowns and fights could be enough to deter any viewer from having a wedding, we’re here to tell you that most of the drama (if not all) is scripted. Apparently, producers vet those who attend the appointment with the bride ahead of time and request the more forthright individuals to stress certain comments that will stir the pot. Even crazier? Some of the brides apparently don’t even have a date for their wedding at the time of the show.
4. Long Island Medium
TLC’s Long Island Medium follows self-proclaimed psychic, Theresa Caputo who seems like an average woman on the outside but has one distinctive characteristic that sets her apart from the rest: she talks to the dead. In the reality TV show, she administers individual and group readings as a means to help people connect with their late loved ones.
However, the voluminous blonde-haired, spunky woman from New Jersey has been at the heart of recent scandals, as it was revealed that she actually knows a great deal about her clients prior to “reading” them. How? Well, her producers gather tons of information on each person through conducting background checks, stalking their social media accounts, and requesting that they fill out questionnaires.
5. The Biggest Loser
It seems the biggest losers of NBC’s The Biggest Loser were the producers themselves. Though the show aimed to help overweight contestants drop extreme numbers on the scale for the chance to win $250,000 – a seemingly positive thing – many have weighed in on how the show wasn’t as real as it seemed and was actually heavily scripted.
Firstly, contestants claimed that the show’s weekly weigh-ins were actually sometimes three weeks – or even five days – apart from each other and that the famous, giant scale was nothing more than a prop. Even worse – there were reports of contestants being encouraged to ingest baking soda to retain water or even eat baby food. The public eventually caught on to the act and the series appeared to be cancelled in 2016. Unfortunately, this isn’t the only reality TV show that had little to do with actual reality.
6. The Bachelor/Bachelorette
Producers of The Bachelor/Bachelorette franchise have certainly taken the saying “all is fair in love and war” a bit too literally. In an attempt to match-make the bachelor/bachelorette with one lucky suitor from a group of 25 eager girls/guys – and make good TV while they’re at it – producers are said to have done some pretty questionable things.
For starters, they apparently carefully select each of the 25 candidates based on who they think will be popular on TV. The more dramatic and out there, the better. Not only that, but they encourage the bachelor/bachelorette to keep the drama queens around and masterfully manufacture situations that will ensure they make it to the end. Remember that infamous ocean moment shared between Courtney Robertson and Ben Flajnik? The model revealed in her tell-all book that it was the producers’ idea to sneak into Flajnik’s hotel room. Now that’s gotta say something about the show’s authenticity.
With an impressive 38 seasons on air, Survivor has certainly garnered a large fan base since its start in 2000. The competitive nature of the program draws viewers in, as every week, contestants from two different tribes are brought into the isolated wilderness to survive on their own and compete against one another in a number of challenges. But while this seems all fine and dandy, the tribe has spoken and we’re here to spill the beans.
It is alleged that numerous contestants have previously admitted to receiving both fire and food from producers. So much for having to fend for themselves! It has also been said that body doubles are sometimes used during the physical challenges between contestants. We don’t know about you, but we think surviving in the woods with this type of help can’t be that hard.
8. The Voice
This is the voice: with the help of a famous, popstar coach, a group of aspiring singers compete against one another to win a record deal. Though the reality TV show has garnered super high ratings since it began in 2011, it’s been said that the contest isn’t actually as fair as it’s portrayed.
American rock singer, Adam Weiner, weighed in on this by sharing his experience on Facebook, saying he turned down the opportunity to be on The Voice after producers found him and tried to court him to go on the show without having to audition. He said that contestants are apparently pre-chosen ahead of filming and are told exactly what song to perform for the judges. With all this, it seems there’s something a bit off about the hit NBC series…and we’re not talking about the contestants’ pitch.
9. Judge Judy
Lights, camera, lawful action! Judge Judith Sheindlin, known for her appearance on reality TV show, Judge Judy, is famous for her no-nonsense, straight and to-the-point behavior. But behind all the tough talk and court settlements lie the truth that producers would rather viewers not be aware of.
First off, though viewers are led to believe that the court hearings take place in Judy’s native New York thanks to the state flag that hangs behind her chair and the footage of Manhattan that plays during breaks, the show is actually filmed in California. Additionally, it’s been said that Sheindlin receives extensive information about each case prior to entering the courtroom. Not only that, but the outcome of every case is said to be decided before the cameras start rolling and both sides of the case receive compensation by producers, meaning the decision isn’t legally binding at all… but we’ll let you be the judge of whether you believe that. Pun intended.
10. Fixer Upper
Fixer Upper is considered one of HGTV’s most well-known hits. As a house fixer-upper reality show, it follows couple Joanna and Chip Gaines as they turn people’s houses into dream homes. The concept of the show is great and all, but it’s apparently not as real as it seems to be.
For starters, homeowners are said to have already purchased the house before the cameras start rolling (which means they aren’t actually choosing between three houses at the start of each episode). Secondly, it has been said that producers ask participants to repeat things they’ve said during reaction shots to get a better angle. And worst of all, all the furniture and decorations go straight into a moving truck once the filming stops. What a bummer! But this isn’t the only home series that made it on this list. Any guesses as to what the other might be?
11. Duck Dynasty
Known for their long, unruly beards and duck calling business, the Robertsons aren’t your typical Louisiana family. Though their reality TV show, Duck Dynasty may paint them as such, there is more to these seemingly fight-prone, potty-mouthers than meets the eye.
Actually, a look at past family photos reveals that before they entered the spotlight, the Duck Dynasty stars were clean-cut men resembling country-clubbers instead of hunters. Adding to this notion that maybe the show isn’t as real as it’s chalked up to be is the following: rumor has it that all the drama and arguments are scripted by producers ahead of time. Not only that, but bleeps are also apparently added to the faux-arguments during post production to make it seem as though the actors are swearing at each other.
12. Pawn Stars
There’s very little that’s real about Pawn Stars aside from the people themselves and the shop. A reality TV show about – you guessed it- a pawnshop, Pawn Stars follows the daily activities of a family as they operate their 24-hour store in Los Vegas, Nevada.
Sorry to all its fans, but Pawn Stars is considered one of the most scripted series out there. Ahead of filming, customers apparently have to complete a form about the item they’re planning to bring in. The item is researched ahead of time and even the price point is agreed upon! It is only after all of this (and the cleaning of the item) producers invite the customer to appear on the show. Also, the stars such as Rick Harrison apparently never work the front counter.
13. The Jerry Springer Show
Daytime talk show, The Jerry Springer Show is loaded with people who don’t seem to mind revealing personal details about their lives on national television, and do so while spewing bleeped-out profanities on stage. What if we told you these people were just actors and the drama was provoked by producers?
Apparently some guests on the series said that behind all the family issues, lies, and paternity tests were show staff that encouraged participants to exaggerate their stories and get into physical brawls on stage. They were even said to be coached them on how to make the fights look real! And if that’s not enough to prove the show is scripted, audience members were also apparently given cues on how they should react to what was going on.
14. The Real Housewives
The Real Housewives is a guilty pleasure for a lot of people who enjoy reality TV. Following the day-to-day lives of affluent women in cities across the US, the name assigned to the show seems pretty ironic when you realize it portrays a reality foreign to the majority of housewives… because the reality it depicts isn’t even real for the main characters themselves.
Real Housewives Of New Jersey star, Theresa Guidice confirmed this when during a public court trial, she swore under oath saying the show is scripted. According to the stars themselves, it turns out the dramatic fights are planned, and staged, the stars are trained actors, and their lavish lifestyles are comped by producers as many of them actually face crippling debt. Who would’ve known?!
15. Project Runway
You don’t have to be a designer to enjoy Bravo’s Project Runway. The show follows a group of talented fashion designers who are tasked each week with creating an outfit under an assigned theme. The two who make it to the finals then compete head-to-head at New York’s Fashion Week. Though it is labeled a “reality” TV show, rumor has it that the program isn’t actually all that fair – or real.
Season four contestant, Jack Mackenroth spoke to this allegation when he told The Fashion Spot that “the judging is totally fake and [the producers] basically decide who they want to eliminate and edit the footage to make the viewer agree.” In line with this claim was season two contestant, Diana Eng’s allegation that the show re-shoots moments (like the time she screamed and jumped after being woken up by producers) in an attempt to make them more camera-friendly.
16. Breaking Amish
TLC’s Breaking Amish showed the lives of five Anabaptist strangers who broke away from their Amish roots to experience a new way of life in New York City. After 20 episodes airing between 2012 and 2017, many viewers reportedly picked up on the fact that the show wasn’t all that real.
We suppose those related to the show didn’t realize that what’s posted on social media is easily accessible to the public. For example, a look at two of the stars’ social media accounts shows they hadn’t met for the first time at the airport like they said they did, but were instead had been in a relationship with each other for at least a year and even had a child together. Hmm, no wonder the show only had a 20 episode run!
17. Queer Eye
Since its debut in 2018, Queer Eye has tugged at the heartstrings of millions of Americans and has even won three Emmy Awards while doing it. But while the show follows five fabulous style experts who help people by completely transforming their lives, it is still entertainment television, meaning not everything is as it seems.
For instance, though the furniture seems perfectly placed following renovation in the homes, it has been reported that the show receives payment from brands like Ikea and Lacoste. What else? Casting director, Danielle Gervais told Vanity Fair that those who receive makeovers aren’t all nominated by their loved ones. The casting team searches high and low for worthy families, surveilling “car shows, small-town carnivals, Waffle Houses, and bodegas.” And one more thing – remember the scene when Karamo gets pulled over? The cop was the one who nominated his friend for the makeover, so was in on the whole thing. Sneaky!
18. What Not to Wear
For over a decade, What Not to Wear fashionistas, Clinton Kelly and Stacy London offered $5,000 to a style offender under the condition that they throw away their current wardrobe and agree to a fresh new makeover. Sounds awesome, right?
Well, someone call the fashion police because not everything on this TLC series was as it was shown to be. For example, many contestants came forward saying the cash prize didn’t actually last that long because on top of shopping at expensive New York boutiques, the contestants were forced to pay taxes on all the clothing. And it seems London and Kelly weren’t around all that much either, as multiple guests on the show admitted to shopping for clothes with personal stylists instead of with the two fashion icons.
19. 90 Day Fiancé
Speaking to the success of TLC’s 90 Day Fiancé is the fact that there have been a whopping four spin-offs of the show. Chronicling the complexities of overseas romances, the series follows couples who travel halfway around the world and are given 90 days to decide whether their relationship will end in marriage. But while many viewers have acknowledged the abnormality of a series that essentially centers around someone emigrating to America on a K-1 visa, not as many realize just how staged it all is.
When a viewer took to Instagram to say that season five’s Luis Mendez was portrayed negatively in the show, the star responded saying producers manipulate clips, alleging the show is “fake more than real.” Season four’s Anfisa Nava also claimed the couples knew each other well before filming started – so much so that they had already decided to marry their partner.
20. Dancing with the Stars
Premiering in 2005, ABC’s Dancing with the Stars has brought on some pretty famous celebs who compete against one another in hopes of taking home the lust-after prize of the Mirrorball Trophy. But despite all the hard work that goes into mastering the dance routines, many viewers have speculated that the dancing itself is the realest part of the entire competition.
It should seem unfair to anyone that some celebrities would have an unfair advantage of having a prior background in dancing. For example, model and Instagram influencer, Alexis Ren told Sports Illustrated that as a classically trained ballerina, she was preparing to join a ballet company before getting her big modeling break. But that’s not all! Following her elimination, former contestant, Wendy Williams told TODAY that producers script what the dancers tell cameras during their one-on-ones in the back room.
21. America’s Got Talent
For a show aiming to find the country’s best talent, America’s Got Talent purportedly doesn’t go about doing so in the most authentic way. And a look at all the allegations they’ve faced over the years about the competition being rigged just goes to show that.
In the book, “Inside AGT: The Untold Stories of America’s Got Talent,” interviews with past contestants reveal the schemy things producers used to do to get higher ratings such as: recruiting acts without auditions, dictating their performances, pre-screening their jokes, and telling them to congratulate certain participants for making it through to the next round when they had actually been eliminated. The latter was said to be done as a way to illicit emotion out of those who just found out they were being sent home.
22. House Hunters
If you’ve ever searched for your dream home, chances are, you can probably relate to the couples featured on HGTV’s House Hunters. Meant to imitate a real-life house hunt, the show follows the purchasing process of a prospective buyer and a real estate agent. And while nothing on TV is really as it seems, luckily for us, a past House Hunters contestant spilled the beans on what it’s really like behind the scenes.
Past participant, Elizabeth Newcamp claimed a lot of what we see in the series is scripted and staged. Not only had she and her husband already purchased their house before “chosing” it in their episode, but producers instructed them on what to discuss amongst eachother while the cameras were rolling. Newcamp also made an appearance on House Hunters International, during which she had already lived in her home for a year before picking it in the episode. Not only that, but the houses she and her husband visited on camera weren’t even up for sale!
23. American Pickers
The History Channel’s American Pickers tracks two Midwestern friends, Mike Wolfe and Frank Fritz as they travel across the US, digging through unconventional locales like junkyards, treasure troves, and warehouses in search of unique artifacts and treasures to sell in their antique shops. But like most reality TV shows, fans have questioned just how authentic it all is.
First things first, you could say the show’s production staff are the actual American pickers – not Wolfe and Fritz – as they first scout locations ahead of filming and then send a representative to scope out the scene nearly a month before sending the two friends. According to guests who have made it onto the show, the bargaining prices are determined prior to filming. Oh, and Jack Sophir, aka “Hobo Jack” isn’t a vagabond in any way, shape, or form. He’s actually a very successful collector who owns tons of property by day, and a musician and prolific writer by night.
24. Keeping Up with the Kardashians
Keeping Up With The Kardashians is a good chunk of Americans’ guilty pleasure when it comes to reality TV. Seriously, what’s there not to love about watching the lavish (and dramatic) lifestyle of one of the nation’s most well-known families?
Maybe the fact that many believe the series to be scripted. After lots of speculation, rumors were confirmed when Kim was caught exiting an LA studio wearing the same outfit, hair and makeup as she supposedly wore in a car in Dubai while discussing her divorce with ex-husband, Kris Humphries. But that’s not all – many viewers also claim the majority of fights and marriage proposals were staged for ratings. So are the Kardashians all an act? We don’t know, but we’re still team Khloe.
25. The Hills
MTV’s The Hills had basically all the ingredients to create a juicy reality TV show: relationships, teenage angst, a lavish LA lifestyle, and backstabbing. But following the series’ end in 2010, and it’s coinciding closing of cast member contracts, many of its actors came forward saying it was scripted… a pretty risky thing to do considering the reality TV show rebooted in 2019.
Star, Spencer Pratt revealed to Complex that the fights between him and wife, Heidi Montag were planned by producers ahead of time, thus making them out to be the villains of the show. He also told the Daily Beast that the two had to film the scene where he was outraged at the news of her pregnancy some 12 times! And if his confirmations weren’t enough, producers ended the entire series with Brody Jenner standing in front of a Hollywood sign backdrop in the closing scene. With all this info, how can fans tune into the new season featuring him and ex-wife, Kaitlynn Carter with a belief that it’s all real?
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