When shows like The Real World first hit the airwaves, everyone was in awe of exposing a less scripted, more “real” TV show. While these shows are entertaining and may make us feel more connected to the characters we are viewing, they aren’t always as “real” as the show’s production team would like us to believe. It’s part of a producer’s job to produce the best show possible, that means creating memorable (and somewhat believable) characters, creating (or “capturing”) drama and conflict, and providing a cohesive plot thread for everything happening on the show.
If these elements of show production didn’t exist, the shows we watched wouldn’t be as cohesive or linear as we have seen. In addition to the rise of these faked (or largely altered) reality shows, there has also been a rise in the world of “mockumentaries” which include shows like Animal Planet’s Mermaids and the channel’s most recent mockumentary, The Cannibal in the Jungle, which was scripted and completely fake.
Why are these shows so popular? Because we love reality television. We feel more connected when the word “reality” is slapped on a show, no matter how unbelievable a show may in fact be. It’s understandable that reality shows can’t be totally transparent, but these ten shows go beyond creating a tweak or two in characters or story lines to project a show that is totally fake. In these shows, we are given a scenario that is largely staged or altered. Does this impact the entertainment value of a show? Not necessarily. However, some people may feel differently knowing the truth behind the reality of their favorite reality shows.
10. House Hunters & House Hunters International
The shows House Hunters and House Hunters International on the HGTV channel feature people who are house hunting for their dream home. The show takes viewers along as the buyers browse different houses, debate the pros and cons of each home, and decide upon a home they’d like to purchase. What the show doesn’t tell you is that it’s all staged. As former show participants have revealed, the majority of what House Hunters gives viewers is an illusion. As former show participant Bobi noted on the Hooked on Houses blog, to be accepted for the show, she (and her family) had to have already secured a home to purchase in order to be on the show. It isn’t hard to believe, seeing as you never see an owner on the show be turned down (only countered) on their offer for a home. While the show has a fun house buyer escapism aspect to it, the reality is less than entertaining.
9. The Pickup Artist
The VH1 show The Pickup Artist, which ran a total of two seasons (in 2007 and 2008), was a reality show geared at helping clueless cast members find love. A bit like a reality TV show version of the Will Smith film Hitch, contestants are supposed to be groomed from socially awkward nerds into heartthrob worthy hunks. While not everyone on this show has real skills when it comes to wooing the opposite sex, some of the contestants are completely faking their socially awkward ways. For example, The Pickup Artists season 1 contestant (and winner) Greg Fellows was presented as needing help from the show to up his game, when in reality, Fellows had already had a taste of the spotlight prior to his time on the show. According to Fellow’s IMDB page, the supposedly struggling artist had already been in film (despite being an extra).
8. Storage Wars
This A&E show promises viewers a look into the world of abandoned storage units that are bid on by auctioneers, hoping to cash in on the potential treasures that are hidden within the abandoned storage units. The show provides plenty of bidding drama and personality among the bidders. Often times, bidders are out large sums of money for a storage unit that has less than exciting items inside. On occasion, bidders will get lucky and win a bid for a storage unit that has items of actual value, allowing them to sell the items and make a profit off their purchase of the unit contents.
While the show gives viewers the chance to see what it’s like to potentially turn a profit on a gamble, ABC News reported that one of the show’s former stars, David Hester filed a 2012 lawsuit against the show because Hester claimed the show was faked. While Hester’s lawsuit did raise some eyebrows, the show has remained popular enough to stay on the air, which raises the question, do viewers really care if bidders are set up from the start?
7. Alaskan Bush People
A somewhat surprising hit from Discovery channel, Alaskan Bush People features the lives of the Brown family. The Browns are posed as a true wildlife enthusiast Alaskan family who relies on their hunting, fishing and bartering skills to survive in the Alaskan wilderness. Complete with odd beard choices and even stranger social skills, the Browns are an interesting group to watch. As the LA Times pointed out in a recent article discussing the validity of all the popular Alaskan “reality” shows, the Brown family were recently in court for fraud charges, which also exposed that the family doesn’t live the remote, antisocial Alaskan lifestyle the show would lead viewers to believe.
6. Duck Dynasty
While the popular A&E show Duck Dynasty may feature the ups and downs of running a family business, and does a good job at creating a few laughs, not everyone in the Robertson clan has always had the signature rugged, red-neck look that fans are accustom to seeing on the show. While it’s not surprising that the Robertson family would go through their share of wardrobe and style changes over the years, some of the changes between the family’s looks before Duck Dynasty and after are enough to raise an eyebrow to the validity of their appearances. If the Robertson’s have always been a rough and tough redneck bunch, why did they have family photos showing Willie, Jep and Jace sporting a much preppier look?
While it’s common for networks to have reality stars commit to a look to help give viewers an easy visual to go along with the names and faces (just like a fictional character would be portrayed), the drastic changes in looks makes it easy to wonder what else is faked on Duck Dynasty. In a recent article from Radar Online, Phil Robertson even admitted that the show’s producers would manufacture bleeped language on the show to provide entertainment. While it’s clear that the Robertson family is close-knit, with the drastic changes in appearance and tweaks to what the show’s stars say during filming makes it easy to question just how much of the show is staged for entertainment purposes instead of portraying a real family.
5. Pimp My Ride
In the early 2000s, the MTV reality car makeover show Pimp My Ride with host Xzibit had audiences in awe of how a dingy, neglected old car could go from lame first car status to a pimped out ride that would be the envy of everyone on the street. The show would “surprise” the lucky contestant and take their car to be made over. When the car was returned, not only did the vehicle have a new paint job and parts, but the best features possible, including killer sound systems and even televisions were integrated into the car.
In a time before backup cameras and dashboard television streaming and navigation, the cars on Pimp My Ride seemed unbelievable. Recently, the Huffington Post revealed that former contestants exposed the true reality of the show, where features were added just for filming purposes or otherwise altered to give the illusion of a stellar vehicle when it wasn’t what the contestant actually received. While Pimp My Ride was fun while it lasted, it isn’t too shocking that much of it was a smoke and mirrors show aimed at causing instantaneous awe and astonishment over these makeover marvels.
MTV’s popular show Cribs gave us a look into the homes of celebrities of all variations. From actors, musicians, and famous athletes, it seemed that most anyone that would be worthy of the red carpet was welcome to participate on the show. It isn’t surprising that Cribs had an impressive 13 year run on MTV as the show allowed viewers to see just how their favorite celebrities chose to live. From extravagant homes, to tricked out cars and dream worthy accessories, these stars welcomed viewers into their homes to see just how celebrities choose to live their lives.
While some episodes were more impressive than others, the reality of the show has come into question in the past, thanks to a 2004 lawsuit from a woman named Janette Varela who’s leased home was presented on the show as rapper Ja Rule’s own abode. While MTV has not confirmed the allegations, many viewers have speculated that Ja Rule’s home isn’t the only fake on Cribs. Some viewers believe that much of the show was staged to give celebrity homes a more jaw-dropping appeal. It isn’t hard to believe that celebrities would be willing to spice up their home life to impress viewers of the show, but the true realities and the illusions may never be fully exposed.
3. Master Chef
Cooking reality shows are everywhere. From restaurant pioneers to bakery gurus and cuisine artists, cooking reality shows regularly leave viewers hungry for both food and more drama. While many contest based reality shows are suspiciously unrealistic, one show truly takes the cake. The Fox channel’s hit show MasterChef featuring renowned chef Gordon Ramsey has been accused of being fake, thanks to one of the show’s prior contestants speaking out against the show. In an article published by The Inquisitr, former contestant Ben Starr asserted that the show was anything but reality. In the article, Starr suggested that all reality television, including MasterChef is geared at entertainment, not at creating a realistic view of any said scenario.
2. True Tori
As the child of well known parents (Candy and Arron Spelling), and having a successful acting career at a young age, actress Tori Spelling is no stranger to the spotlight. From her early days on the hit 90’s show Beverly Hills 90210 to spoof comedy films and various televisions hows, Tori Spelling has had her share of acting and production roles over the span of her career. On her latest reality television show titled True Tori, which airs on the Lifetime channel, viewers are supposed to have an unscripted, real look into Tori’s life. What ended in a one year, two season fail of a show was highly criticized by viewers. As jezebel.com noted, the show had many flaws, from portraying Tori as a struggling single mom (who had the typical help that would be expected of a celebrity) to unnatural sit downs with Tori, everything about the show had a false ring to it. With True Tori appearing to have such little truth to it, it’s no wonder that the show was a flop.
1. Amish Mafia
Everyone loves getting a sneak peak into the lives of other people while in the comfort of their own living room. While people may know the basics of the Amish lifestyle and culture from living in an area that has a large Amish community, or simply learning about them from school and talking with family and friends, the Amish are known as a group of people who are reserved about their lifestyle.
Mix in a little criminal minded drama and you’ve got a potential recipe for reality television gold. This was the basic premise of the Discovery channel television series Amish Mafia. Starting in 2012, the show Amish Mafia has seen a roller coaster of viewer intrigue and criticism. Many have questioned the validity of the actions of the cast members (namely Lebanon Levi) because of the simple fact that they’re promoting violence and other acts that go against the law. In the series sneak peak for the final season, the clip asserts that the show is real, yet this need to assert the “validity” of the show has some viewers even more skeptical of the show’s reality. While it may make for good television, it isn’t reality.
References: animalplanet.com, animalplanet.com, hookedonhouses.ne, latimes.com,abcnews.go.com, imdb.com, huffingtonpost.com, imdb.com, contactmusic.com, inquisitr.com,inquisitr.com, imdb.com, imdb.com, radaronline.com, discovery.com
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At Chaen-Santy Media, we do not follow the common practice of staging Reality TV. We strive to produce Reality TV as true and real as possible.