"I have a friend who signed up to audition for a show that she thought was The Bachelorette or something similar. I guess it's 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 and 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."
"I know someone who was on Love It Or List It when it was in Raleigh.
Here's how the show works, according to what they told me: 1) As mentioned, nobody wants to list their house- they just want a free renovation and to be on TV. However, 2) the show only pays for 50% of the work they do on your house, and the producers do what they want for TV and don't really respect the homeowners' wishes. 3) They shoot a bunch of episodes in one market at a time, so they use one set of contractors for all of the homes. If they get behind on the work on a given home, they pretend that the work is done so they can wrap on the episode, then they take the crew with them to the next house. You then have to live in an unfinished renovation until the whole set of episodes is finished and the crew can get back to you. This can take months or be finished immediately.
It has been an awful experience for many in this market, but the contract is so immensely in the favor of the production company, the homeowners don't really have any reasonable recourse to get things finished or fixed in the case work was done wrong."
"I was an assistant editor on a few reality shows, mainly about people buying homes and people living in the woods. Those were rigged.
A friend of mine worked on P. Diddy's show and explained how in one episode they had to get Diddy's mom to judge people's cake recipes (or something to that effect). Mrs. Diddy, however, is a kind woman and had nothing bad to say about anyone. Because they needed something, they used sound editing to make it seem like she disliked someone's cake more than the others.
As for homebuying shows, the ones I worked on at any rate, the people buying the homes typically already owned one of the three homes they were looking at."
"In the very first episode of Top Chef they ever filmed, Tom Colicchio flipped out because the dishes the contestants had cooked were getting cold while the film crew took foodie shots of them. From then on, all the contestants have to prepare two dishes. One for the judges to sample, and one for the cameras to pan over and show the audience."
"Sob stories on singing shows - it's not the contestant's fault! I made it through a few rounds for a well-known singing show and they BEG you for sob stories. On my very first application form, I was asked about the most difficult moment in my life, what obstacles I'd overcome to be there, had I ever experienced bullying, etc. They pretty much MAKE you tell them a sob story. So I wrote all about my heartbreak when I ran out of coffee."
"You know, it really depends on the type of show you are on because they vary so wildly in style. I've worked on a number of reality shows as a lighting technician, the ones I can remember the most are The Amazing Race, The Great Escape, Kitchen Nightmares, and Twinning.
Twinning was the one that was most like Jersey Shore or The Real World. Definitely not fake, but the casting is so important. You don't need to fake anything when the people you as filming 24 hours a day are absolutely nuts. They'll decide at certain points to play God a little bit and move them into rooms with people they hate or give them drinks when they realize two people have a thing together, but aren't acting on it. The producers of all of these shows just sit in a room and figure out how to create drama."
"I had a friend on Cash In The Attic in the UK.
The idea is that some antique dealers and so on will scout around in your attic/garage/shed and 'find' valuable items to sell. They found precisely nothing in my friend's house, so they pulled some paintings and a vase out of the van, 'found' them, then asked him to go and get changed so they could film a segment from 'after the sale'.
It all seems like a complete waste of time, aside from the couple of hundred quid they gave him."
"I have worked on several reality shows. Some are faker than others, but they are all heavily scheduled and formatted, never spontaneous.
I worked on a certain MTV dating show where one of the contestants tried to escape the house in the middle of the night, and one of the Production Assistants had to tackle him in the front yard and drag him back into the house. It's like prison. They are completely cut out from the outside world (no computer, books, phones, watches) and they are fed mostly drinks. They all go insane.
Also, if the show doesn't air, they don't win their prize money. This is a standard for all competition reality shows."
"I took part in Say Yes to the Dress. It's somewhat real. One sister and a few friends have gotten their dresses there, and while they didn't appear on the show (you get asked when you make your appointment), their experiences were the exact same as TV. Yes, the consultants really are that personable. Yes, you sit where the show is filmed. Yes, the people on the show really work there. No, they won't show you anything outside your budget, and yes, they really do bend over backward to find you discounts if you need one (like on the show.)
I know there are probably cheaper places to buy a wedding dress, but Kleinfeld's is gorgeous and exactly like it is on SYTTD. The only thing that might be 'faked' is if girls/their family are told to be super picky about the dress for ~dramatic effect~."
"Not surprisingly, ghost hunting shows are fake... What is surprising is how they do it: see those fancy instruments they carry that no one has ever heard of? They're actually remotes, TO EACH OTHER! All you gotta do is split into two groups and when one team is 'adjusting their settings' the other team is 'detecting ghosts.' So simple and you get twice the footage."
"I've had friends work on Duck Dynasty. Everything in that show was scripted and they would do multiple takes and get coverage. It's very fake, basically, a TV show shot in a reality format.
Shows like The Amazing Race and The Great Escape, on the other hand, are pretty dang real. Because of the obstacles and challenges they are interesting enough without the producers interfering that much. On The Great Escape, because of the style of the show, we would go back the next day and reshoot key moments in a cinematic way to push that style. While it was 'fake' it was still pretty dang real.
Kitchen Nightmares is also very real. Gordon Ramsey is just basically a producer that is in the show. He knows what good TV is and how to get it. They pick terrible businesses and the show writes itself. The remodels are always funny though as they are just so on the surface."
"My friend was on What Not to Wear, and I was in the audience of people who were there to react when she came out from behind the curtain with her new look. She came out over and over again, but our cheering was never enthusiastic enough for the producers.
After about 10 takes, we were screaming our heads off, totally hysterical, as if we'd just seen her rise from the dead, so that part was fake. I thought she just looked alright."
"I was on a cake competition show and every single thing was fake. The judges recorded two takes for every comment, one positive and one negative so the editors could put it together however they wanted. They rolled the clock back an hour so everyone else could finish. We had over three months to plan our 'spontaneous' cake.
Oh yeah, and while we won by the judges' vote...a producer decided one of the other cakes would film better for the big reveal so we didn't win even though we should have."
"I was on the second season of a show that was basically a ripoff of The Bachelor. I was 23 at the time and had just finished college and hadn't found a permanent job yet as a legal analyst, so when auditions came around I figured it would be funny if I got picked and no big deal if I didn't.
Well, I got in and here are the things you don't see: the producers direct everything, even some of the dialogue. All the drama and most of the arguments are either scripted, added in during post-production, or instigated by the producers. We only had like three girls out of the whole group not get along well, but the final airing made us all look like total crazies or ditzes even though almost all of us were educated and relatively mature adults. The guy was a complete doof and a bit pudgy, but in the final airing he always seemed cool, calm, and collected...even in the scenes with his shirt off he looked more athletic.
During six weeks of filming, we each spent maybe six hours with him one-on-one. We were encouraged to drink, strip, act inappropriately, and talk about all kinds of juicy topics 24/7. Sometimes the producers would come in the room and just say, 'Who here has dated a complete loser? What did he do?' or 'Who is the cattiest girl you know?' and then use the footage of us discussing those stories to insinuate we were talking about the guy or about other girls in the house. The house smelled really bad, like a women's soccer locker room where the garbage disposal hadn't been run in too long mixed with stale drinks.
The guy was also a complete jerk. On my first one on one date with him, he was sweet, if not a bit odd. We had a lot of fun and had way too much to drink and I ended up hooking up with him. After filming was over, I found out he had given me something nasty."
"My cousin was on a Toronto dating show called Matchmaker many years ago. She said it was completely scripted and she met her 'blind date' before filming so the producers could go over the script with them. They were given a list of ridiculous and racy questions to ask each other and encouraged to make out if they actually liked each other or to cause a scene and be dramatic if they didn't really click."
"I worked for Pitbulls and Parolees on Animal Planet. I used to work at the main warehouse where they filmed everything. Not sure if I'm actually on the show at all, but if I am, I'm just in the background scratching my head.
Everyone that works there only tolerates filming because it's more money for the dogs. The camera crews would try and get people to recreate things they missed, but most of us weren't very cooperative. Everyone on the show and in the rest of the staff really just wants the best for the dogs. From what I have seen anything that was staged we're things that had actually happened and the camera crew wasn't around for.
The dogs there are amazing. All the horrible things they had been through and they remain so lovable. I miss all my furry buddies there."
"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. To clarify, 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 another 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. However, 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."