The Juiciest Secrets That Expose How Reality TV Shows Really Work

We all remember how shocking it was to find out The Hills was scripted. Even the ending where they pulled away from an L.A. backdrop to reveal a set made us wonder what is real and what is fake on TV. But the truth is, we all know that reality TV shows are one big scam.

The producers are just puppet masters acting behind the scenes to give us the most entertaining show possible, and it totally works. Whether it’s a competition show like Survivoror it’s a trashy show like Jersey Shore, we always stay glued to our couches. Check out all the juicy behind-the-scenes secrets about how reality shows work, and then blissfully go back to watching The Bachelorette.

It’s The Producers, Not The Judges, Who Have The Final Say

GLENDALE, CO – MAY 30: Paula Sloan and her daughter Sydney pitch their produce called the Fly Right, that is used in cheerleading training, as they tryout for the ABC reality show Shark Tank, May 30, 2014. The reality show held a casting call, at Infinity Park Event Center in Glendale, to watch 1-minute pitches form people who want to take part in the show. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Photo credit: RJ Sangosti / The Denver Post / Getty Images

Everyone likes to blame Simon Cowell for crushing dreams, but it’s not always his fault. Most of the time it’s the producers of competition shows that have the final say on who advances and who gets cut.

If you ever make it past the first round, read your contract carefully. There is usually a clause that explains that the producers will keep whoever is the best entertainment.

There Is A Special Term For When To Splice Together Sentences

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The industry trick to getting the perfect soundbite or comment from reality show contests is “frankenbiting.” It’s what happens when the editors create new, fabricated sentences out of multiple lines.

We all know that reality shows like to bend the truth, but frankenbiting is literally putting words into people’s mouths.

Producers Will Pit Contestants Against Each Other

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It’s rare to find a reality show contestant who auditions to be a villain. Usually, producers have to lie about what other contestants said or did so that they will turn on each other. Unfortunately, girls are generally the quickest to fall for this trick.

Keep reading to see what producers use to keep the drama, and the spirits, going.

Shows Use Alcohol To Keep The Drama Rolling

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It’s not very surprising to hear that reality shows love to stock the set with alcohol to keep the action moving. Producers will even call it their “secret ingredient.”

Just look at how successful Jersey Shore was all thanks to the fact that they got drunk every single night.

When Alcohol Doesn’t Work, They Resort To Exhaustion And Hunger

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Sometimes alcohol isn’t enough to get people to say something to start drama. Producers pair the alcohol with isolation from the outside world and long “working” hours. If that doesn’t work, they’ll push the lunch break until later in the day, so people get hangry. It sounds like torture.

Coming up, can you guess how much of the action we really get to see?

Home Improvement Shows Always Take Longer Than They Show

Home Improvement Shows Always Take Longer Than They Show
Llanes family new home being bullt during On Location: Extreme Makeover Home Edition: Llanes Family at On Location in Bergenfield, New Jersey, United States. (Photo by Bobby Bank/WireImage)

Photo credit: Bobby Bank / WireImage / Getty Images

Most home improvement shows claim their work takes about a week, but it can take weeks and even months in reality. The shows cut out the boring things like laying floors and drywall that take days of work.

We all know that there’s no way Bobby Berk from Queer Eye is remodeling an entire home in three days, but the lie all started with Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.

Producers Ask Leading Questions To Get Reactions

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If you’re wondering how contestants always have the perfect response to a scene that happened long beforehand, it’s because producers ask leading questions.

They’ll often ask how they feel about a particular contestant, relationship, or judge and press them until they get the response they want.

You Barely See A Sliver Of The Action

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When we say a sliver of the action, we mean it. Take Shark Tank. Out of thousands of auditions, we usually only see 3 or 4 per episode. That’s because each pitch can take hours because the investors are genuinely grilling the entrepreneurs. On the show, we see about 10 minutes of that.

Keep reading to find out the secrets behind your favorite cooking competition shows.

Food Is Almost Always Served Cold

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After the first episode of Top Chef, Tom Colicchio freaked out because the dishes were served cold because the film crew had to take “food porn” shots first. From then on, all the contestants have to prepare two dishes.

But making them serve two dishes didn’t change anything. Judges for multiple Food Network shows have said they don’t take temperature into account when judging because the food almost always ends up cold.

Judges Often Have To Give A Positive And Negative Review

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After being served cold food or stale cake, the judges have to give their opinion, and they always have to provide more than one. Everything judged has to receive both a super negative and super positive review. That way, the producers could cut the show whichever way they wanted afterward.

Next, if you thought those reaction faces are timed a little too perfectly, you’re right.

Reaction Faces Are Usually Unrelated

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All those perfectly shocked, angry, and sad faces are rarely in reaction to the actual situation. They are filmed before or after and are entirely unrelated.

Producers will ask the reality show contestants to make certain faces to use back. So they’ll tell someone to “look shocked” so that the clip can be spliced in later.

They’re Looking For The Most Flawed People

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If you think the way to get onto a reality show is to list off all your accomplishments and successes, you’re wrong. Producers are looking for the most flawed people out there.

They want someone who is open about their sob story, deep fears, and weaknesses. If you don’t have a filter on your opinions, that’s even better.

People Make Their Decision Before Filming HGTV Shows

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When you see people on House Hunters or Love It Or List It, they’ve made their decision long before the show even started filming.

Sometimes people already bought a house, and they go “hunting” for the show. On Love It Or List It, both outcomes are recorded, and the producers choose the better ending regardless of what the couple actually chose.

If The Show Doesn’t Air, You Don’t Get Paid

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If you think going on a reality show will help pay off your debts, you’re wrong. If your episode, audition, or entire show doesn’t make it to air, no one gets paid.

If you’re worried the reality show has a low budget, check out where the filming takes place. If it’s outside in public places, then the show is low on cash, and you will probably never see a cent.

If You Get Paid At All, It’s Minimal

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If you do end up on a paying reality show, you won’t end up making much. Most shows will pay for your travel to the filming location, room, board, and food. Other shows like Big Brother or The Bachelor will pay a weekly stipend ranging from $20-$1000.

Not all reality shows are entirely fake. Keep reading to find out which show is the most real.

The Background Checks Can Be Exhaustive

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If you’re dead set on auditioning for a reality TV show, then be prepared for an FBI-style background check. Producers will dig into everything from your Twitter history to a drug and STD test.

They will interview your family, friends, and even do a psych evaluation to make sure that they know exactly what to expect when you’re on camera.

They’ll Repeat Takes For The Audience Reaction

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It’s not only the contestants who are subjected to following the producer’s rules. The audience is required to do multiple takes to get the right reaction.

One Reddit user shared that they were in the audience for an episode of What Not To Wear and they have to do more than ten takes for the “final reveal” because the audience was never enthusiastic.

Some People Compare Reality Shows To Prisons

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If all of these crazy rules haven’t already convinced you of it, many people compare reality shows to prisons. People have shared some shocking stories of people being unable to leave the show.

One person who worked on a dating show said that a production assistant had to tackle a guy and drag him back to the house because he tried to escape in the middle of the night.

If There Is An All-Star Version Of A Show, Contestants Likely Already Made Alliances

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Anytime there is an all-star or celebrity edition of a reality show, you can bet that the contestants have called each other to make plans for the show.

Often they will scheme beforehand and make alliances before the show has even begun filming. But of course, the producers try and squash that, and the alliances are quickly broken.

On The Flip Side, Some Shows Are Very Real

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Yes, we’ve spent this entire time reminding you about how fake reality shows are, but some of them are very real. Nearly every Survivor contestant or crew member who has spoken out about the show says it’s very, very real.

Even though producers might have the final say, both X-Factor and American Idol don’t rig any votes.