Reality television is the ultimate guilty pleasure, whether you’re watching young people get their hearts broken on dating shows, laughing at school teachers roughing it in the wilderness, or just keeping up with a certain family of socialites that shall not be named. These shows are so over-the-top entertaining that they frequently draw accusations of being scripted or faked. Nobody would really get into a fight over the last Chanel bag on Real Housewives, right?

Photo: Creative Commons/Bill Glover

Turns out that they just might. The internet is filled with people who tried their luck on singing competitions and house hunting reality shows, and they’re ready to spill all the behind-the-scenes secrets: what was real, what was fake, and what was simply boring. Did you know how much time reality show contestants spent in waiting rooms? Read on for the most interesting confessions from former reality TV contestants.

Passion for Fashion

Audience reactions have been scripted since the beginning of television, from the laugh track on I Love Lucy to the incredibly over-the-top screams when a celebrity comes out to meet Ellen Degeneres. But reality TV takes it to the next level. 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.

Photo: U.S. Air Force/Ken Hackman

So then she came out 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. Reddit user: seriousrepliesonly

 More Sob Stories, Please

There’s a certain world-famous singing show that’s been on the air for nearly twenty years, which was then followed by about ten more talent shows, all filled with the same sad stories from contestants you’ve heard a million times before. It may seem like they’re crying for votes from viewers, but it may be the producers telling them to turn up the tears.

Photo: Wikipedia

Sob stories on singing shows: it’s seriously 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. Reddit user: Jenny-Thalia

 House Party

I know someone who was on Love It or List It. Here’s how the show works, according to what they told me. Nobody wants to list their house, they just want a free renovation and to be on TV. However, 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.

Photo: Creative Commons/robinhamman

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 that 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 be months or not at all. Reddit user: [redacted]

 Love Is (Not So) Blind

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 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.

Photo: 33RD Fighter Wing/U.S. Air Force photo/Robbin Cresswell

While the contestants on The Bachelor have yet to come forward with any juicy gossip, there are plenty of contestants on other dating shows willing to share the scoop. Unsurprisingly, a reality TV show isn’t always the best place to meet your soulmate, with producers handing you a script and encouraging you to throw spaghetti at each other if you’re feeling it. Reddit user: [redacted]

 Casting Is So Important

You know, it really depends on the type of show you’re on, because they vary so wildly in style. I’ve worked on a number of reality shows as a lighting technician. Twinning was the one that was most like Jersey Shore or The Real World. Definitely not fake, but casting is so important. You don’t need to fake anything when the people you’re filming 24 hours a day are absolutely nuts.

Photo: Creative Commons/Bengt Nyman

The producers and crew will decide at certain points to spice things up a little bit and move them into rooms with people they hate or give them alcohol 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. Reddit user: swoofswoofles

 Gordon Ramsey Really Is That Way

Shows like The Amazing Race and The Great Escape are pretty dang real. Because of the obstacles and challenges, they are interesting enough without the producers interfering that much. While working 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.

Photo: Flickr/gordonramsaysubmissions

While it was “fake,” it was still pretty real. Oh, and Kitchen Nightmares is 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. Reddit user: [redacted]

 One Doggone Good Show

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. 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.

Photo: Flickr/Karsun Designs

Everyone on the show and in the rest of the staff really just wants the best for the dogs. From what I’ve seen, anything that was staged was something that had actually happened and the camera crew wasn’t around for. The dogs there are amazing. Despite all the horrible things they had been through, they remain so lovable. I miss all my furry buddies there. Reddit user: [redacted]

 Made for TV 

A girl from my high school was on MTV Made. She was a tomboy that they were making into a prom queen. They got the dentist to take her braces off for the show to complete the makeover and then put them back on when they wrapped shooting. Even the shows that claim to be all about expression were totally bogus. Awesome.

Photo: Creative Commons/blahness71

While it’s not exactly known how much money a reality TV contestant makes, it surely can’t be worth this much time and physical pain, can it? Dental work is a lengthy and complicated process, but it seems like you can never truly estimate just how badly somebody wants to be on TV. I hope the prom queen crown was worth it. Reddit user: 9c9bs

 Drama, Drama, Drama

My wife and I are professional house flippers and did a “sizzle reel” for HGTV, produced by a production company we were signed with. Suffice it to say, about 95% of the production was scripted, with the exception of the fact that we actually owned the houses that were featured. We didn’t like the storylines that the production company scripted, so we only agreed to do the reel if we could have creative input.

Photo: Flickr/Tami Hills

Ultimately, we decided that it wasn’t worth having our reputation destroyed just to do a TV show (the contract essentially says that they can make us look bad and we have no recourse), and we broke our contract with the production company. Long story short, almost everything about the reel we did was scripted, and the goal was to create as much drama as possible, even where absolutely none existed. Reddit user: 123flip

Confessions of a TV Extra 

Well, back in 2001, I was working as a TV extra. While I was waiting in line to enter a studio to be a part of a studio audience, the show Blind Date was recruiting potential contestants from the pool of struggling actors. A lot of dating shows get sexy people from actors. Leno’s Jaywalking segment also encouraged people to give dumb answers.

Photo: Creative Commons/Lawrence Sinclair

I was in an audience for a minor talk show, and the “psychic” was just a production assistant. Anyone can present themselves as a psychic in America. Interesting fact. Any of the TV extras could have played the psychic too, and nobody would know. The moral of the story? Being a TV extra is a job that gives a lot of insight into human behavior. Reddit user: screenwriterjohn

You Are the Weakest Link, Goodbye 

I tried out for The Weakest Link in 2001 at a local casting call. I made it through the written test, the on-camera mock game, and the quick video interview. The tapes were then sent to the producers, who made the decision on who to cast. I was called a couple of weeks later and told I had made it onto the show, and that they would be in touch with transportation and hotel info.

Photo: Flickr/rickh710

I was to be made available the 2nd and 3rd week of September. I was told they weren’t looking for the brainiest exclusively; it was more like casting Gilligan’s Island. They wanted Professors, but they also wanted Skippers, really good in one area. Gingers, eye candy, and Gilligans…how did this guy get on a game show? I felt good about the quiz answers, and I know I got everything in the mock game. I’m definitely not eye candy, so I’m just hoping they didn’t see me as Gilligan. Reddit user: galoots

TRL Wasn’t Live

I was just security, but I worked for MTV in the summer of 2002. You’d be amazed at how many people would come up to us around 3 in the afternoon every day asking when TRL was going to start filming. The joke was on them, because they filmed five episodes in a day and moved the crowd around so it didn’t look like the same people the whole time.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

If you were an ’80s or ’90s kid, this confession may have just ruined your childhood. The year 2002 was a simpler time, when Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey were still married and you had to actually tune in to a TV show instead of recording it and watching later. Is anybody else going to start googling Carson Daly now? Reddit user: [redacted]

It Wasn’t True Justice

I was the defendant on a Judge Judy episode in high school. Long story short, a valet messed up my car by taking a dip in the road hard. The valet owner got in a scuffle with my friend’s family and sued me in proxy for physical assault and damage to his belongings and car (all made up!), and so I counter-sued for damages to my car.

Photo: Flickr/Bud Petal

The case was real, as was the payout. The judge saw through his lies very quickly. However, the money came from the show’s pocket and not the plaintiff’s. Whoever loses actually still gets paid to be on the show, so in that regard, it sucks in the sense it’s not “true” justice. Oh well, at least I ended up getting my money. Reddit user: HIL_H

The Most Inconsiderate People

I live in Waco, and my company is contracted by Magnolia Homes. They have a show on HGTV called Fixer Upper. They’re probably some of the fakest, most inconsiderate people I’ve ever run across. One of my best friend’s moms was on the show. They fixed her house just enough to show it. Didn’t finish the plumbing, electrical, flooring, kitchen, or paint.

Photo: Creative Commons/MishaGirl

They made their show and moved on. My friend’s mom sued and won a 110k judgment; it all went to finishing her house. I’m on a job with them, and they only show up for what’s needed for television. The minimal amount possible. And their business in downtown Waco is extremely overpriced, but people herd there. Makes me so mad. Always wanted to vent about these people. Reddit user: C0dyL88

A Case of Bad Editing

There’s a show here in Canada called Party Mamas, and it’s pretty much just overbearing moms throwing overly extravagant parties for their kids (basically My Super Sweet 16). Anyway, I knew a mom and daughter who were featured on it quite well: some of the sweetest people I’d met and relatively humble about the money they have, but the show made the daughter look like a total spoiled brat.

Photo: Creative Commons/J.Wesley_Photography

And the mom looked like a tyrant for her grad party (I think). I mean, I’m sure genuine outbursts happened, but from knowing and interacting with them on a daily basis, it very much came off staged, or at least to the point where the producers put them in enough situations to get the reaction they wanted. In a show all about spoiled teens, they had to stir things up. Reddit user: bohemianwitchcraft

It Was So Boring

I was on the reality TV show Wife Swap a while back, and you’ve probably figured it out, but most of it is fake. Before they actually set up the scenario where your mom goes away for 10 days (they say it’s two weeks, but it’s only 10 days), a camera crew and director get a 2 HOUR INTERVIEW on tape with each family member.

Photo: Flickr/Pete

And of course, they ask about you, and then just throw loaded questions at you to get clips of what they want to use in the show and what answers you say. Didn’t say an answer in the way they wanted? The director will say, “Can you answer again, but like this?” These clips they use later, to set up the scenarios that they want, because nothing interesting happens.

After they do actually swap moms, it’s just super crazy and awkward. More set up daily scenarios, interviews every day; once I had to walk down the stairs three times so they got the shot. It was bad. Reddit user: Blakavenge

It Was a Trick

I was on Make Me a Millionaire Inventor, and we were asked to show up to a day of filming with our prototype. We told them our prototype wasn’t ready and that it wasn’t going to be ready in time. They said that it was okay and to just come. So the day of, I reiterate and tell them that our prototype still isn’t working.

Photo: Flickr/Joe Ross

They say no problem, just try to get it going. Then when they start filming, they call me out, saying I tried to show up with a broken prototype and trick the professor we were working with. Off camera, I gave the director the stare of death as I realized he just tossed me under the bus, because I know he’s feeding info to the host through a wireless earpiece. Reddit user: FITGuard

Bad Timing

I was on Bath Crashers on the DIY Network. It was pretty legit and unscripted. They staged some things, like my buddy and I launching the old toilet into the dumpster, but for the most part, they just filmed while we all worked and did our thing. The most “rigged” part of the show was definitely how the timing of the project was presented….

Photo: Creative Commons/Atelier Teee

I believe that on the final edit, they made it appear to be done in three days, but in reality, there were still contractors putzing around with final touches for around three weeks, and while the final project WAS truly impressive, there were a few things that were done pretty wonky. Not everything is as perfect as it seems on TV, I guess. Reddit user: minneapoman

Kinda Real, Kinda Not

I was a witness on a show with a certain syndicated judge. The cases are real. The people are real. The rulings are final. But, you sit in a green room for hours beforehand not getting fed and watching Jerry Springer, and a bunch of producers come in trying to get you riled up. My mom had to submit a statement of her side of the story, and the producers brought it to her with some “edits.”

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

She had to basically say “no, that’s not what happened” and get them to redact some of their edits. They pretend to be on your side, calling names, and you know there’s someone else in the next room saying the same thing to the person you’re in court against. When you go into hair and makeup, there’s people walking you through the halls.

They’re talking on walkie talkies to make sure you don’t run into the person you’re suing/the person suing you beforehand. The people in the audience are paid actors, and they just have them move seats between episodes. And lastly, you get paid to appear, and if a judgment is made against the defendant, the show will pay for the defendant’s damages. So, pretty real, but also kinda not. Reddit user: herrschmetterling

Reality Check

As a video editor, I can safely say it would be nearly impossible to make an entertaining reality show that wasn’t at least a little fake. There’s very little budget and very little turn-around time, so I’m not going to have time to sift through 1000 hours of unscripted BS to create a convincing narrative. I’ve done that before. It’s called making a documentary, and even a 30-minute short doc takes months to edit properly.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Most reality TV is nothing more than loosely scripted TV, with extra shots to allow for some spontaneity, and that is the only way to do it (that I know of) without: a) releasing 2-3 episodes per year, b) budgeting for an army of scripties/assistant editors/on-the-fly writers (think The Truman Show), or c) being more of a talk show/game show/reality hybrid. Reddit user: jrm2003

Big Brother Is Watching

My favorite reality show, Big Brother, is under scrutiny constantly for being “rigged or “manipulated,” but many people who say they know producers ask them what’s real and what’s not, and as it turns out, BB is one of the most un-riggable shows there is outside of competitions. The fact that fans watch live-feeds 24/7 and have the ability to go back and watch proves it.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

It means that producers have to be SUPER careful if they even want to attempt to manipulate contestants. But that doesn’t say they don’t feed lines to HGs in the diary room, or that they are purposefully only putting certain people’s chips in the “randomized” bag for competitions and rigging competitions entirely. Although I have not been on this show, I have watched for YEARS and have done tons of research into it. Reddit user: pudgelad

Busting the Myths

Mythbusters has always claimed that their experiments are totally real and that the hosts write their own dialogue. But beyond that, it’s definitely staged for TV. In the “tastes like chicken” episode, they go to a butcher shop in San Francisco to buy a bunch of exotic meat. Well, I want to eat that meat too, so I go there to buy some.

Photo: Flickr/Max Goldberg

When I get there, the meat is totally ordinary, and they have no idea why I’m asking about the rare meats. Then I tell them I saw them sell the meat on Mythbusters, and they say, “Oh yeah, that was staged; they brought in their own meat to film.” Actual question: could this be considered false advertising, and why would the shop agree to this? Other than free publicity. Reddit user: Hdirjcnehduek

Can’t Sing? Dress Up

In the early days of American Idol, the audition process was considered the most entertaining part of the show. It brought iconic moments like William Hung singing “She Bangs” by Ricky Martin and plenty of terrifyingly hilarious outfits. Does anybody remember the girl in her bikini? But sadly, it also meant that some of the best singers would go unnoticed in the early stages.

Photo: Flickr/Taylor Dahlin

I auditioned for American Idol a few years ago. There are a handful of stages before anyone sees the “judges.” These stages are judged by producers who often don’t even listen to the person singing. Two kinds of people make it, though: the people who dress up like idiots, and the people who are lucky enough to have the producers actually listen to them singing. Reddit user: crew1991

Jerry Lied to Us

It’s not a reality show per se, but my sister’s friend was on Jerry Springer. She got on the show by being friends with a producer, but it was 100% scripted. The story was fake. Her boyfriend was on the show with her, but he was supposedly cheating on her with a woman she’d never met. They told them to act like he really cheated and he had to try to justify it.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

This revelation can be taken as either good news or bad news. If you’ve ever watched the Jerry Springer show and lost a bit of faith in humanity, you can sleep better knowing that plenty of it is fake. If you’re a major fan of the show, well, then this is probably a pretty sad discovery. At least there’s still Maury! Reddit user: steiner_math

Cooking Up Drama

My mom has worked with a lot of the chefs that have been on Iron Chef. They’re notified of the category of the secret ingredient beforehand, like protein, veggie, fruit, etc. so they can plan out some general ideas. However, the reveal IS the first time they see the actual ingredient. Also, the time limit is only for a set number of dishes.

Photo: Little Rock Air Force Base/U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Aaron Irvin

They get extra time to make enough for all the judges after. The judging is completely real and unscripted. While significant, this is definitely not the worst case of reality television scripting you could ever think of. Let’s be honest…could you really create a delicious dish on television in front of millions of people without ANY help? Probably not. Reddit user: DilbertsBeforeSwine

Find Your Voice

I was on The Voice this season. And I can tell you that there is a lot of scripting there. Before entering, you have three auditions and a recording session with the producer. So they already saw your face (blind audition?) and heard your voice. On TV, they use the version you sang at the blind audition, but they autotune it. The interview before the blind audition is also recorded weeks before.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

You have to pretend it’s on the day itself. Interviews are almost always set up. When we had rehearsals, it was mostly three days apart from each other, and we had to wear the same clothes so it would look like the same day. Voting seems pretty real and not scripted. Avid watchers of the show…any idea which contestant I might be? Reddit user: Rockitlikearedhead

Home Sweet Hoarders

My dad was on Hoarders. To be a little clearer, he wasn’t actually the hoarder. It was the season finale for season 5 (I think), and the lady’s home was so bad, the producers of the show couldn’t let her stay. However, the show obviously didn’t have the budget to buy her a new home. They came to my dad, hoping they could buy one cheap from him.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

My dad ended up donating one of his repossessed homes to the lady. I teared up watching. Surprisingly, it’s all very real. I mean, of course the editors work their magic, but all in all, those people really do have hoarding problems. By “couldn’t let her stay” I mean that the house had actual holes in it once they removed all the stuff. It wasn’t a safe environment to call home. Reddit user: okaygeorgia

Gene Simmons Hated Me

My best friend in high school was in a long-term relationship with Gene Simmons’ daughter, Sophie, right about the time they started filming their reality show. Since he didn’t really want to be a part of the show, they literally wrote him out after a few episodes. Some highlights: to make his exit seem less abrupt, they created a subplot about Gene not approving of the relationship.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

There was one shot in particular of my friend and Sophie making out on a trampoline outside, then cut to Gene looking out of a window and shaking his head. That window didn’t even look out into the right yard, it was on the other side of the house! The family took a road trip to go skiing, which my friend was invited to.

However, since he had been written out of the show, he had to sit in the way back and hide for nearly the whole duration of the drive up. Scenes weren’t scripted; however, each family member was given an “arc” for their character and placed strategically in rooms together to fight/scheme/laugh, etc. according to what the writers needed. Reddit user: 40dollarsharkblimp

Geek Chic

I had a friend on Beauty and the Geek recently, and this is just one of the many examples he gave about how fake the show really is. He arrives, and the producers look through his suitcase and tell him, “You can’t wear any of this.” All the contestants are actually dressed down at the beginning of the series to make them appear more geeky.

Photo: Flickr/tiarescott

When he got his “makeover,” really all he did was go back to wearing his normal clothes again. So basically, it was The Princess Diaries in reverse. Except that at least Anne Hathaway was able to straighten her hair, lose the glasses, and learn how to apply makeup. Guess clothes really can make or break your look. Reddit user: Nihill_am_I

It Was No Piece of Cake

I worked for a bakery that was on, and won, Cupcake Wars. The premise of the show is to surprise the bakers with a few more often than not odd ingredients and see what they’re really made of. In reality, we found out the ingredients a few months before the show. Had we not known, there’s no doubt we’d have lost.

Photo: Nellis Air Force Base/U.S. Air Force photo by Bailee A. Darbasie

There are definitely people who thrive under pressure, both in performance and creativity, and they have better things to do with their time than crank out cupcakes for Food Network. Tell an unprepared contestant they have 40 minutes to make a delicious cupcake using tater tots, and nine times out of ten, you’ll have a middle-aged woman sobbing into her mixing bowl. Reddit user: Sallymoustacheride

Can’t B-lieve I’m Here

I was once profiled on a show where they interviewed me on camera, and also shot a lot of ‘B-roll’: you know, the shots of me doing stuff. First of all, the interviewer lady couldn’t have cared less about me until the word “Action!” then she was all concerned-looking and acting like she was my best friend. Camera off, back to business.

Photo: Wikipedia

Then for the B-roll, they made me do all kinds of things to look sad, even though I was not sad at all. They made me wring my hands and look off into the distance. They actually said, “Now wring your hands and look off into the distance.” It was clear I was a pawn in their production plans. Didn’t care for the experience. Reddit user: iwilltakeabreath

Always Waiting in Lines

I was on Antiques Roadshow, which I suppose is a reality show of sorts. It’s actually pretty legit, but considering it’s PBS, that shouldn’t be surprising. The main thing you don’t realize is how long you wait in lines. Your ticket has a time on it to help control when you arrive so foot traffic isn’t bad. You get there and wait for about an hour in line.

Photo: Flickr/Andrew Campbell

At the front of the line, you get your items checked (each person gets two), and these tickets direct you to the next line you need to stand in. I had a watch and some art, so I had tickets for the time piece and Asian art lines. After the first hour and a half of waiting, you wait in the main room.

The set up is that there’s a small circle of banners and tables in the middle of the room that obscure the outside where all of the lines are directed. Everything is filmed in the middle of that room. You go through the line, and when you get to the front, an appraiser looks at your item. If they like it, they go and talk to the producer to see if they’ll film it.

If they film, you’re taken to a small back room where they’ve got makeup and might make adjustments to your clothing (like if you’re wearing a branded shirt, they’ll make you change, but they actually advise you to wear neutral clothing if you’re coming to the show). Then they do the interview after you sign the release. If your item is valuable, they actually have security escort you out to your car.

All in all, it was pretty efficient, and none of it seemed fake. It took a REALLY long time (about five hours of mostly standing in lines). Reddit user: Xerodo

Hey, Chef

I was on Kitchen Nightmares with my friends and family. We ate on the “before” day. Nothing at our table was fake, but I don’t know about the kitchen scenes (never watched the episode). We did get our food for free because we complained, though (it was really bad). The waiter seemed pretty nervous in front of all of the cameras, though.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Also, they just told us not to look at the cameras when they came by. I did briefly meet Chef Ramsey when I was taking out the trash for the store I worked at that was next to the restaurant (he was smoking a cigarette). It was pretty cool. I just said, “Hey, chef” and walked away because I didn’t want to disturb him. He said, “Hey” back. Reddit user: thrwaway90

House Hopping

I met someone on a plane once who was on House Hunters. After she purchased her new house, the show came and taped her viewing that house. Then they took her to two other houses to make it seem like she was going to pick between the three. In reality, she had already bought a house before they even taped the show.

Photo: U.S. Air Force/Tech. Sgt. Scott Moorman

It’s more than likely that the cast and crew encouraged her to fake reactions as she walked through the houses she definitely wouldn’t buy. “Oh my, look at that beautiful marble counter!” or “That fireplace is amazing!” At least she got money and a nice house out of it. But she isn’t very good at keeping secrets if she’s telling all this to a stranger on a plane. Reddit user: hopeuci

Light ‘Em Up

Haven’t been on a show, but worked in TV. Television LIGHTING, to be specific. Lighting takes forever. There are literally hours between takes. If there aren’t, then that just means that the lighting was set up beforehand. This means that the “stars” have to stand in a very specific location during those “impromptu” scenes. They aren’t impromptu at all, believe it or not.

Photo: Public Domain Pictures

I saw one episode of The Bachelor where the couple decided to make out in the shower. It was one of those tub showers with the curtain. Well, the curtain was a translucent white with a purple-tinted light behind so that the silhouettes could be seen in the act. This was the worst example of a staged scene I have ever seen in a reality show. Reddit user: threeironteeshot

Courtroom Antics

I was on Judge Judy. It was heavily scripted; I was basically told what would be my “defense,” and I was encouraged to argue with JJ because it made for good TV. The courtroom is a set, and the people in the room are all paid extras. Overall it was fun. I “lost,” but JJ pays the winner, so I didn’t really lose.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

A free trip to LA, a quick visit, a few embarrassing moments on TV, and I was home. Could you imagine being encouraged to argue with the incredibly headstrong (and slightly terrifyingly) Judge Judy? There are lots of people who wouldn’t dream of doing that, even for the money and free trip. The audience may not be real, but the tension in the courtroom totally is. Reddit user: card_set

More Waiting Rooms

I was on the UK X Factor two years ago. It was without a doubt the best experience of my life. I met amazing people during my time on the show (I got to the final round of bootcamp) and got a lot of publicity. A lot of people say talent shows are “fixed.” In my experience, that wasn’t the case.

Photo: Creative Commons/Krzysztof Malinowski

The producers heavily imply what they want you to say or do, but it’s your own choice what to say and all that jazz. I can remember after my audition I got A LOT of abuse on social media sites, Twitter mainly. The main downside to the whole process was the waiting. Hours and hours of it. One day I arrived at 8am-ish and wasn’t on stage until 11pm. It was the worst. Reddit user: bananasabre

Staged Conversations

My girlfriend’s brother won a season of The Cougar a while back (Bachelorette-type show but with a pretty somewhat older lady compared to the contestants). He said nothing is real and everything is either scripted, re-shot, or edited to produce what the show wants to pass as the show. For instance, in the last episode, he and the cougar had dinner with his parents.

Photo: Flickr/Vancouver Film School

His parents were also my girlfriend’s parents, and it apparently took them around 6 hours of filming and acting like they were eating to produce approximately 2 minutes of footage. And the final cut of the scene was just spliced bits of their actual conversation, which ended up being nothing like the conversations they actually had. So pretty fake. Reddit user: MacAndTheBoys

Buzz Words

I was on an episode of Celebrity Apprentice as a graphic/packaging designer (not one of the celebrities, of course). I worked with John Rich, Star Jones, Mark McGrath, and Lil Jon. The show itself is 100% unscripted, although the celebrities’ reactions to events are sometimes “hammed up” when they know the cameras are rolling. For example, John Rich said the words St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in practically every other sentence.

Photo: Creative Commons/Ryan Sawyer

It was because that’s the charity he was competing for and wanted to make sure it got mentioned as often as possible on the show. It’s not something he’d say as often in NORMAL conversation, but when there was a camera on him, he’d say it frequently. Other than that, it was a lot of sitting around and watching them talk to each other.

We were instructed to not create any designs or graphics unless the celebrities specifically told us what to do, and to ONLY create that. But everyone was very friendly (probably because three of the four had already been kicked off the show, so they weren’t trying to win for themselves, just the team). Reddit user: eightballart

Weighing on Me

I was on a weight loss show. They touted healthy diet and exercise, but this is not what I was told off-camera. The “trainer” advised me to fast/dehydrate myself prior to weigh-ins to have a lower weight. The producer told me to use the “chew and spit” method (chew the food and spit it out instead of swallowing) to manage eating.

Photo: Health.mil/U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Ross A. Whitley

Although there was not an explicit script, they would ask questions or direct you in such a way that there was only one answer (the one they wanted). We had to film the fitness events multiple times to get all the angles and shots they needed. Where possible, they would keep you exhausted and hungry so that you were more likely to have dramatic breakdowns.

The producers tried to get between me and my husband (for drama purposes only); it was such an issue that I refused to allow any of my family/spouse be interviewed any more. The producer would berate me about this, presumably to generate more drama. Not a good experience, but certainly an enlightening one. Reddit user: hairheads3