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Exactly How Real Is Reality TV, Really?

Exactly How Real Is Reality TV, Really?

It seems a huge chunk of the worldwide television viewing population enjoys watching reality TV. Shows like Survivor, Masterchef, the Real Housewives and X Factor have franchises all over the world with new seasons coming out on a regular basis. They are relatively predictable and easy to watch, with each programme following a carefully considered formula. Reality shows are the fluff, the padding that we need in between more serious serial productions like Wentworth, This is Us and Game of Thrones.

But exactly how real is reality television? We know that there is a lot of “creative editing” involved, something that we quietly understand and accept as part of the format. Those delighted grins when a fellow contestant gets a bad score on House Rules were probably edited in out of sequence to up the spice factor, we get it. That’s what makes it fun to watch, right?

Redditor TailstheTwoTailedFox asked the following question recently, and was immediately inundated with thousands of other redditor’s personal stories about their experiences on reality television. Here are some of the best responses.

Redditors who have been on a reality TV show such as Hardcore Pawn, Pimp My Ride or Pawn Stars, how FAKE was it?

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. Everyone knew it was him, but it somehow made it in the show as an “unexplained” event. – BosskHogg

I tried out for Canadian Idol. Reading the contract they made us sign, it literally stated that the producers could override the fan votes if needed to make sure the person they wanted to win, would win. I still tried out. I was not the next Canadian Idol. – jupitergal23

My cousin was involved in filming for The Bachelor and said they film many scenes in several different ways. For example, they might film them cuddling while walking and then walking while looking annoyed and so on. – JurassicBasset

My sister’s friend’s family was on House Hunters several years ago, and everything about it was staged. They had already decided on the house before the show even started filming, and other two “options” that the couple was “considering” were found afterwards. They filmed a bunch of fake conversations between the family members to make it seem like they were still making up their minds. – EgoSumAbbas

Not me, but my best friend was on 16 & 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. – melizard89

My mate was on Tattoo Fixers. Basically they get people in with tattoos they regret and make a design they don’t tell them about, tattoo it on and cover the old one up and “surprise” them at the end. He filmed the “big surprise reveal” like 5 times because he wasn’t surprised enough. – mipster97

My uncle was on Pawn Stars attempting to sell something. The item wasn’t even his. He knew a guy who worked on the show. – geniesr

I was on Cops. It’s pretty real. – talkingjunky

My brother was on XFactor 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 XFactor and they make you do loads of fake cheering, dancing and clapping before the show starts so they can cut it in to the actual show. 90% of the cheering you see/hear on the televised shows have been added in post production. – minsterley

I was on a TV show in the UK called Bargain Hunt. It was shot over 2 days, day one we had 1 hour to choose the 3 antiques to sell and day 2 was the auction day where we sell chosen items. The only ‘fake bit’ about it was that we had an hour to choose our 3 items, but we actually spread this over 5 hours as we had to film, get sound right, get lighting right etc… and as the TV crew are sorting out lighting and stuff me and friend would keep on looking around the antique house for other objects to buy. – Stego_sore_ass

 On Pimp My Ride everything done to the car was cosmetic. I believe his car didn’t run before the show and didn’t run after. Basically, a polished turd. – hip_hap

A friend of mine was on The Bachelor. This was years ago and she ended up being one of the last 4 girls. She said they were constantly fed alcohol, 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 alcohol fueled disorientation. 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 re-shot over and over if the reactions weren’t right or their wording was off. The entire thing was completely controlled and she said no one really knew they guy because none of their interactions were real. – Dreadnaught_IPA

My boss was on America’s Next Top Model as a guest judge. In the episode, one of the contestants sprained her ankle. My boss was nice and all concerned, but they edited in a shot of her laughing, that was actually laughing at someone’s joke from earlier. The filming session for that scene was 10 hours long. They edited it down to about 5 minutes. With that much footage, you can edit it into just about anything you want.

These reality shows hire scriptwriters. They don’t actually hand contestants scripts. The staff, especially the editing staff, uses it to build a story out of the hundreds of hours of footage they take. They have a direction they want to head in before they interview contestants, and then they build the story however they want to out of what actually happens. – CypressBreeze

Professional editor here. We can edit anything we want. I have literally pieced sentences together one word at a time to make people say the thing I wanted to make them say. – chipdipper99

 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.

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. Usually off camera and subtitled.

Producers will often talk shit in private interviews to get reactions. “Did you hear that so and so said this about you?” Booze also helps fuel drama. And they cast people who are going to be dramatic anyway. – CalvinDehaze 

Eye-opening stuff, huh?

What do you think? Will you continue to watch your favourite reality shows now that you understand that a lot of it is made up and the points don’t matter?

(I will, I love reality telly, even if it is mostly fake!)


Responses edited slightly for clarity.

Source: Reddit and Gogglebox Australia

Jill Slater

Jill Slater

Jill is a busy wife and mother of four young children. She loves nothing more than making people giggle, and loves to settle in with a glass of wine (or four) and wander about the internet. Feel free to follow her to see all the cool stuff she finds!

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