Reality stars, set workers, contestants, and the ones who know them tell what it's actually like behind the scenes of a reality show.
"A friend of mine was on The Bachelor. This was years ago and she ended up being one of the last four girls. She said they were constantly fed drinks, were put on a strict sleep schedule where they were literally put to bed and woken up. Also, there were no clocks anywhere, so all the girls were in the constant state of tipsy disorientation. She said she had no idea what day it was or what time of day it was. That alone will mess someone up, especially after weeks and weeks like that. Then throw in constant drinking and zero contact with the outside world it begins to feel cruel. On top of this, she said producers would plant emotions and ideas in the girl's heads. In their disoriented state, the producers would go up to them and say stuff like, 'Wow that was really mean of [that girl] to say [all that stuff] about you. You must be really mad at her.'
There were no 'chance' encounters where the guy is sitting on the couch and the girl goes up to talk to him, all of that is staged. Even their conversations were reshot over and over if the reactions weren't right or their wording was off.
She said she hardly saw the guy and basically spent all day either in makeup/hair or hanging out with the other girls. The show centers around the guy, but when he goes on 4 hour dates with one girl, that leaves 15 other girls with each other. And if he just went with Girl A, she has to wait for him to go on dates with Girl B, then Girl C, etc before Girl A even gets to see him again. The girls spend exponentially more time and get to know each other way more than any single one of them gets to know the guy. The entire thing was completely controlled and she said no one really knew the guy because none of their interactions were real."
"I was on set for a filming of Ghost Hunters in Buffalo. On the show, they are 'investigating' an upper level of the Buffalo Central Terminal when they hear a 'disembodied' voice say 'Get out!'
It was the property manager on a lower level yelling at some homeless people to clear out and everyone knew it was him, but it somehow made it in the show as an 'unexplained' event."
"While at a bar in NYC, someone approached my dad and his buddy asking if they wanted to be on a gourmet cooking show. Naturally, they agreed and asked if I (14 years old at the time) could join. The promoter said of course, gave them the location, and told them to tell me not to eat a big lunch as this would be a large multi-course meal at an upscale restaurant.
I skipped lunch that day after a rough lunchtime soccer match and left school early to meet my father and his friend. We arrived in a strange part of Manhattan - near the Hudson, in a rather dead part of the city. We got a call from the producer saying 'Sorry man! Wrong location! We're sending a car to pick you up immediately.'
We hopped into a taxi and BOOM, 'You're on cash cab!' the bald-headed host declared as lights flashed above our heads.
So: we lost, got kicked out in Chelsea, and ended up spending our own money on food and a taxi home - very upsetting."
"My dad sued my mom and they both ended up on Judge Joe Brown (because Judge Judy said no).
My dad is a scumbag. He dodged child support payments for close to 8 years and didn't contact me or my sister during that time (from when I was 5 to 13). When I was 13, he popped back up out of the blue and wanted to visit, but he lived in the Ozarks and we lived in New England. So he flies out for a couple days and we visit, don't really hit it off, and he goes back home.
A few months later we get a letter from some producers in LA saying my dad called the number for Judge Judy and filed a lawsuit against my mom, demanding she reimburse him for the money he spent to visit us. It says Judge Judy turned it down, but that they had a new show yet to air called Judge Joe Brown they wanted my parents to appear on. It also said my mom could file a countersuit against my dad. So, being SUPER-PEEVED, she did, for everything from school tuition, to books, to dentist bills, to my sister's speech therapy, food, school supplies, clothes, freaking everything for 8 years, came out to like $150,000.
So, the filming date is scheduled, and it happens to fall on my first day of high school. My mom decides that's too important a day to miss, so I'm cut from the trip. They fly out, get put up free in a nice hotel, free meals, spend a while in hair and makeup, then start filming. Within 3 minutes the judge boots my sister from the room - says that a little girl doesn't need to see her parents fight in public (good man). The judge listens to both my dad and my mom. My dad's reason for suing was that my mom lived too far away. Judge Joe asks who decided to move to the Ozarks and calls my dad a moron. He listens to my mom list off all the crap my dad skated on. Then Judge Joe says if he could, he'd give her every dime she asked for, but the limit is $5000 and she's getting it all (the show's production company/insurance pays out the 'settlements,' and everyone signs papers saying they won't re-file the same complaints in a real court). Judge Joe tells my dad he should be ashamed. My mom calls my dad a deadbeat on national television, crossing that off her bucket list.
Both she and my sister got a bonus $300 appearance fee and cards from a bunch of people who book extras/background for soap operas and stuff. Then they spent the next day at Universal Studios, the same day as the MTV Movie Awards, so they got to watch all the limos arrive and some of the red carpet for that.
Then on the flight back they ran into some soap opera actors from General Hospital, which is my mom's favorite; good trip for her."
"When my wife and I were looking to buy a home in Michigan, our agent told us we had the opportunity to be on House Hunters if we wanted to. We talked to some person from the show and they told us the basic process: we'd buy whatever home we wanted, then they would film us there before we moved in, as though we were just looking at the place as well as looking at two other 'prospective' places that they had selected. Then we'd ultimately 'choose' the house we'd already bought and live happily ever after.
We watched a few episodes (or I did, my wife already liked the show) and I convinced my wife of how stupid they would likely make us look, so we passed.
I honestly don't recall the exact amount they offered us to be on the show, but I think it was around $500. My main recollection was that the amount was nowhere near the going rate for my dignity."
"I worked on a couple of low key reality shows a while ago and this is what I learned:
1) Each show has a team of 'Story Producers' who stand behind the cameramen with walkies telling them to get specific shots. As the reality is happening, the story producers are there to make sure they're getting the shots they need to make whatever story for the episode. It's really hard to make something that didn't happen, but it's not too hard to change an emotion, or a mood, within what happened. Like when a woman doesn't like seeing the guy kiss the other woman - just use some out of context shots and boom.
2) Mostly everything that people say on a show is what they said, but sentences can be taken out of context. Sometimes if the editor is good they can 'frankenbite,' which means they can take specific words to make a new sentence. This is rare because it's pretty hard to do, and you have to find a place to put it, so it's usually off camera and subtitled.
3) Producers will often talk crap in private interviews to get reactions. 'Did you hear that so and so said this about you?' Drinking also helps fuel drama. And they cast people who are going to be dramatic anyway.
4) Producers will also select people to be on the show. Like Pawn Stars, the producers select which customers get to be on the show. With Hardcore Pawn, it's the same thing, but more for a dramatic event rather than someone who has something interesting.
4) If it's a game show or any show where you win money, the federal government sends a rep to make sure the game is fair. There are laws against rigged game shows."
"I interviewed for What Not to Wear. It started when I was at a punk show on the West Coast. I'd just moved to the West Coast and didn't get the memo that everyone would be wearing a plaid shirt and jeans (on the East Coast, you dress punk for a punk show), so I was in full on regalia. So this woman approaches me and says she likes my outfit and that she works for a fashion show that she'd like me to be on, and asks for my contact information so she can follow up afterward.
Later on, I get an email from her and find out it was What Not to Wear. Obviously, this made me feel like complete crap since I felt like my outfit looked pretty nice. I battled a lot internally about whether or not I should enter. They told me I would get a prize of my choosing worth $20,000 plus an entire new wardrobe of fashion designer clothing, but the trade off is that it would be really degrading and probably ruin my self-esteem, plus they would destroy all of my 'alternative' clothing. They said I would have to get all of my friends and family on board so they could have an intervention to tell me how bad all my clothes are.
Eventually, I decided money is money and went into the audition (I also decided I was going to hide all my favorite clothes so they couldn't destroy them). A filmographer was asking me some questions when the director walked in and dragged him out of the room. She came back in a minute later and told me she thought my outfit looked great, that she had no idea how I had ended up there but that I was welcome to recommend any other poorly dressed friends to the show.
I guess in the end it was a confidence boost, but a $20,000 prize would have been pretty sweet."
"I was on a reality ambulance TV show when I was an EMT. The patients were real and their medical conditions were real. Everything else about the show was fake. In the morning when the camera crew got there, they filmed us driving lights and sirens around the parking lot. Then we did personal interviews where they let us talk about moving bariatric patients and how we felt about our jobs. Then they made us say a bunch of stuff that we normally would never say like 'Without us, these patients would die' etc.
They used these clips of the stuff they made us say and spliced it into the real stuff we said. Our actual ambulance transport seen in the TV show was 100% planned and scripted. The patient wanted to go to the ER and have some decubitus ulcers looked at; however, this patient being diabetic, had a high blood sugar of 400 having just eaten and taken insulin. We were forced to treat it like a life or death situation and then they used our earlier footage of saying things were life and death and our driving around the parking lot lights and sirens to make it seem like we were fighting for her life. In reality, in about 30 minutes her sugar was going to go back down to normal and life would be good - The whole experience actually really turned me off to reality TV and made me realize how fake everything is."
"I was on an episode of Wife Swap. One of the wives was a burlesque dancer, so her new husband had to MC a variety show of which she was the headliner. I was the juggler in that act. Full disclosure, I'm pretty sure all tape with me on it is on the cutting room floor.
Anywho, it's pretty fake. The people are real, and lots of their interactions are real, but a TON of scenarios are staged. 'Ok, now we're going to plan the show, but make sure Wally (new husband) takes over.' He'd never done anything showbiz before, so naturally, we tried to help him. But the director kept telling us that he was in charge and he needed to be doing the planning. I caught a moment of a personal interview as well. Honest answers, but very much being steered by the camera crew and director.
During the show, the crew said they needed to get 'sound levels' so they had people sit quietly, clap politely, clap, clap loudly, etc. I'm fairly certain that was so they could have clips showing a range of responses. In the end, the whole show bit got about 4 seconds of time on screen. Waste of 2 days with no pay."
"When I was in university about 7 years ago we got an email inviting us to take part in 60 Minute Makeover (UK). It's a show where a person's family calls in a team of experts to totally re-furnish their house while they're away from home for the day. The audience at home is led to believe that all of the work is done within 60 minutes, and they make a point to start their countdown on camera and rush everyone in to meet their deadline.
About 10 of us joined the makeover team at around 8 am on the day and were given flat-pack furniture to make outside the house before they started the makeover. The crew had a waste container outside where they threw all of this poor unsuspecting guy's furniture, only to be replaced with this cheap stuff that was only available to him via sponsorship of the program.
They also masked off all of the baseboards and light switches to be ready for painting before we were let loose inside.
We were let into the house as a member of the ITV crew declared the start of our 60 minutes. After 30 minutes of frantic, patchy wall painting, carrying lamps, uncomfortable seating and hardboard coffee tables into the house we were told to vacate.
We then had lunch in the street while the experts went in to clean up our mess and then did it all again for another strict 30 minutes.
After we were finished and the official 60 minutes were over, there was another period of professionals tidying and filling in our shoddy decorating before we all gathered outside and waited for the man to come home from work. He would find that all of his furniture had been smashed into a skip outside his house and replaced with stuff that may look good on camera for a couple of seconds during a quick sequence, but would be very disappointing to live with, but this man would have to act happy about his makeover."
"My best friend was on 16 and Pregnant. Now I don't know if this is always the case, but none of the drama on her episode was fabricated. However, at one point, they did ask her to reenact a conversation that she had had with her mother off camera. The funny part is, they had her reenact it about a week after giving birth so she was no longer pregnant. To hide that, she wore a big sweatshirt and held a teddy bear in front of her tummy so you couldn't tell the difference.
It is invasive, but all reality tv is. You know when you sign up that they're going to expose your personal business to millions of people. But when you offer a pregnant, broke 16 year old, they will pretty much always say yes."
"My family runs a bunch of storage facilities in Southern California, which is where they film the majority of shows like 'Storage Wars' and 'Auction Hunters.' The first year or so it was all real, but then we were getting 50-100 people showing up at all our auctions to try and be on the shows.
Auctions on storage units in California have to be publicly announced in the paper a week or so before the auction happens, so people would see that and know when and where to go. It became such a disaster (and people bidding hundreds of dollars on units where there was nothing in them) that it became a problem for the people running the shows, too. They ended up having to stage the auctions and 'hiding' expensive antiques in the units.
If you look at the background folk in a lot of the auctions it's often the same people, aka me and some of my family members, other storage staff members, and friends of people who worked on the show."
"I have a friend who signed up to audition for a show that she thought was "The Bachelorette", or something similar. I guess its standard practice to not give the actual name of the show, and just say, 'We need good looking, energetic young women for blah blah blah.'
So she got called back, went through a few different interviews and a screen test. Finally, they tell her that the concept is that she will be running a Pawn Shop with another woman. She is a dental assistant with no experience remotely related to the Pawn business.
'Pawn Queens' ended up being on for two seasons and they gave her a backstory about how/why she got interested in the pawn business. Not exactly SHOCKING, but it was pretty interesting to see that they basically looked for hot girls first, then put them into a proven concept ('Pawn Stars'-type reality show)."
"I worked on Love It Or List It. The reactions at the time of the reveal of the house were meant to be real and they actually sign a contract saying they won't go in the house before renovations are complete.
99% of the work isn't done by the people shown doing the work on TV, it's actually done by subcontractors. The entire staff works until 1 or 2 am the night before filming to get the house ready.
Most of the stuff they put in for design purposes are taken back after the shoot because it wasn't part of the homeowners' budget. We got blacklisted from several stores because we would buy thousands of dollars of stuff and take it back after we shot."
"I was on Jerry Springer. The episode never aired but the entire thing was fake. They even asked me to find friends to complete the storyline of a double love triangle. The coolest part of it all was when they literally asked me if I wanted a fake doctor's note or a fake death certificate made out in a fake family member's name in order to get me out of work. They literally had a guy on staff whose only job was to get people out of work so they could attend filming."
"I was on an episode of 'Extreme Guide To Parenting.' My mom is a hypnotherapist for a living, and so they 'interviewed' my brothers and me about getting 'hypnotized' to do chores and get good grades. They had us say thing like 'my mom using neuro-linguistic programming to make us do things' and that she hypnotizes us on a daily basis. I was 14 and I had to pretend that I had a crush on this boy and my mom taught me how to 'hypnotize him to like me.' All the parts with me in it were cut out, thank God, but my twin brothers got a decent amount of airtime. All of it was scripted. It was basically a publicity stunt on my mom's part to get more business. I don't blame her, it worked pretty effectively and we got a $5,000 check for letting them use our house to film.
Everything my mom said was true to a degree, and she has hypnotized me in the past, but hypnotherapy is not what everyone thinks it is. It is a way of gaining more self-control, not less, and in no way is it someone controlling your mind. There are subtle cues you can give people to get them to agree with you, such as nodding your head when you ask for something (and touching their shoulder) but other than that it is mostly used to help people stop smoking or biting their nails and even improving concentration and avoiding panic attacks. Just like any other therapist might help you, my mom does it with hypnosis.
As for exploiting my brothers and me, it was really fun and I laughed a lot when I saw the final cut. I thought my family didn't seem so bad when compared to others that I saw in the same episode, but I can't judge. Either way, the whole plot was made up but it is true that my mom taught us how to exit something called flight or fight mode when in non-life threatening situations, like when you panic, she taught us to think clearly. Nothing as extreme as how they portrayed us in the show. Honestly, it's counter-intuitive to make a show that puts my mom in a bad light for business reasons and so while everything was scripted, she did maintain her usual air of professionalism, the directors just took all the parts that made her look as bad as possible."
"The show is called Restaurant Takeover in Canada.
The premise of the show is like Kitchen Nightmares only worse. Failing restaurant, not enough business, family run, blah decor, food is mediocre etc. A celebrity chef along with an interior designer/contractor comes in and they check the place out, including food. They proceed to fix the place in terms of the menu and the interior/exterior aesthetic, owners are happy, the end.
I work as a cook and have for eight years and a chef of mine calls me up seeing if I needed some extra cash, which I did. Without even asking about it I agreed to it and then he explained - instant regrets.
The episode I worked on had a celebrity chef picked already and I was just the one to prepare everything that was to be shown and filmed. I was never actually on film, I was never even credited. I was even paid late, they said it would be two weeks check in the mail and it ended up being three. The celebrity chef didn't do anything to help me, he spent most of his time, honestly, having makeup redone and flirting with the ladies on set, the owner of the restaurant included.
Anyway, all the food on the episode was prepared by me and even then, only to the point where it 'looked' correct. No need to taste anything. I didn't even have salt and pepper. The worst part is half the crap I prepped wasn't even used. It was annoying because you would think it was easy since they didn't give a crap about the actual flavor of the food, only the looks. Heck no, they were giving me ridiculous time constraints because they were rushing filming and were doing things so haphazardly.
It just makes everything on these kinds of shows seem fake. I should have never done it. Being a passionate cook and then doing this filming bull just drains the soul ever so slightly."
"In Holland, there was a Dutch version of Pimp My Ride. A player of a football team we played against had his car 'pimped' and the car didn't even make it home, he had to call the car repair service on his way back from the studio."
"My brother was on The X Factor UK. There are several rounds before the televised rounds, so all those rubbish acts you see on TV have been picked by producers to go through.
I've also been in the audience of The Voice and X Factor and they make you do loads of fake cheering, dancing and clapping before the show starts so they can cut it into the actual show. 90% of the cheering you see/hear on the televised shows have been added in post-production."