Reality TV Exposed: 30+ Reality Shows That Aren't as Honest As You Might've Thought


| LAST UPDATE 03/06/2022

By Kayla Black

Whether it's a cooking competition or a series about a dramatic picture-perfect family, there's something about reality television that keeps us entertained. However, not all of these "reality" shows are as realistic as you might think. Read along to learn which of your favorite shows are actually scripted or manipulated.

Catfish: The Catfishers Apply To Be on the Show

Catfish hosts, Nev and Max, give us the idea that the person being featured on the show, essentially the person who'd applied, is the one being catfished. However, it's actually the opposite; the person doing the catfishing is the one who applies. There's even a specific application for catfishers to fill out to "unburden themselves."

Catfish Scripted Reality ShowsCatfish Scripted Reality Shows
MTV via Catfish

Next, MTV contacts the person who's been catfished about being on the show and tells them they've been catfished before filming. Have you ever noticed that when Nev and Max "spontaneously" show up at the catfisher's home, the individual is already miked up? Well, that's because these "ambushes" are far from unexpected.

The Hills: There Was Never a Trip to Paris

You might remember Lauren Conrad from The Hills as "the girl who didn't go to Paris," after she chose to spend the summer with her boyfriend over pursuing her fashion career. However, Whitney Port revealed that there was no trip to Paris, and she never actually took Lauren's spot; This wasn't the only scripted scene.

The Hills Scripted Reality ShowsThe Hills Scripted Reality Shows via The Hills

Spencer Pratt revealed that the cast members were paid more whenever the ratings went up, so he and Heidi Montag staged their pregnancy scare. Spencer even admitted that they had to re-film the scene 15 times, pretending to be shocked and panicked for each take.

Survivor: Tribes Are Given Matches and Water

Survivor contestants appear to be a lot worse off than they actually are. For starters, we often see them walk long distances to get to the different challenges, when in reality, they're driven around, according to MSNBC. Contestants are also given instructions about the challenges in advance, so they have time to prepare.

Survivor Scripted Reality ShowsSurvivor Scripted Reality Shows
CBS Entertainment via Survivor

"The tribes can ask questions or strategize during that time," Reported MSNBC. Contestant Kelly Goldsmith admitted that her tribe was given matches, so they weren't entirely on their own to make a fire. Ever wonder how they get clean water? Well, a cameraman revealed that filtered water is actually poured into the wells for drinking.

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Project Runway: The Judging Isn't Accurate

Project Runway showcases up and coming fashion designers putting their blood, sweat, and tears into their designs, in hopes of establishing their brand. However, one contestant revealed that although the creations are real, the competition aspect is not.

Project Runway Scripted Reality ShowsProject Runway Scripted Reality Shows
Getty Images via Frazer Harrison

"The show is a sham," said former contestant Jack Mackenroth. "The judging is totally fake, and they basically decide who they want to eliminate and edit the footage to make the viewer agree." The producers denied this, claiming that they only step in when there's a tie between judges, but contestants say otherwise.

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Fixer Upper: Homeowners Don't Get To Keep the Furniture

Fixer Upper shows Chip and Joanna Gaines renovating homes to make families' dreams come true, but a lot of the plot isn't realistic. For starters, the show's participants already bought the house before the show filmed, so the house-hunting scenes are entirely staged.

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HGTV via Fixer Upper

Once the renovation is complete, and the home is revealed, the homeowners don't actually get to keep the furniture that Joanna picked out, as it's typically not within the budget; They have to pay extra if they want to keep it, but that's usually additional tens of thousands of dollars.

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Keeping Up With the Kardashians: Both of Kim's Proposals Were Staged

While KUWTK gave us a closer look into this unique family's life, how much of what we've seen on-screen do you think is completely real? For starters, producer Russell Jay admitted that Kris Humphris' engagement proposal to Kim was not a surprise, and they actually re-shot the scene because she wasn't happy with her reaction.

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E! Entertainment via Keeping Up With the Kardashians

Kanye's proposal to Kim also seemed staged, as she was spotted wearing the engagement ring in scenes a week before the proposal. Also, the outside of Kris Jenner's home isn't actually her house; It's just an empty property nearby. In addition, the family has the right to edit scenes pretty much any way they like.

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Cake Boss: Some Cakes Are Just for Show

Buddy Valastro appears to be an incredibly creative pastry chef, spending countless hours in Carlos' Bakeshop every day. However, when the cameras stop rolling, he's rarely spotted in the kitchen. Also, all of the pastries displayed in the glass case are made in a factory, so Buddy's team isn't actually whipping these up as we'd thought.

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Getty Images via Tom Briglia

Buddy always amazed us with his ability to make such life-like sculptures that were entirely edible, but one customer claimed that his cake wasn't all made of sugar. Julian Green, Chicago Cubs Spokesperson, said the cake he ordered was "mostly made up of non-edible material."

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Real Housewives: Each Housewife Has a Story Producer

While many scenes in the Real Housewives are as dramatic in real life as we see on-screen, many come straight from the producers. "Each housewife is assigned to their own story producer, whose only job is to develop her storyline," admitted a producer. "So they conspire to create plot points, image, etc."

Real Housewives Scripted Reality ShowsReal Housewives Scripted Reality Shows
Getty Images via Bravo/ NBCU Photo Bank

"If the housewife has a breakdown at 2 am and wants to quit the show, or is pissed about her edit, she calls her story producer," the producer added. "The story producer has to pretend to be their bestie and gain their trust, but they are also in charge of creating exciting TV, and will influence their housewife to walk into setups."

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Pawn Stars: The Cast Can't Legally Work in the Shops While Filming

The cast of Pawn Stars appear to be experts in examining and selling rare antiques, but in reality, a lot of the sales are staged, especially for the show. For example, when an elderly woman came in with a 50s vintage guitar, Rick called in a guitar expert to help determine the instrument's value.

Pawn Stars Scripted Reality ShowsPawn Stars Scripted Reality Shows
Getty Images via Ethan Miller

Well, the guitar guru actually appeared so he could promote his store, and the old woman was just the mother of an employee from the shop. In addition, the cast members are not allowed to work and film at Pawnshops during store hours, due to Nevada privacy laws.

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Say Yes to the Dress: The Bride's Guests Are Encouraged To Spark Controversy

Wedding dress shopping at Kleinfeld's bridal boutique looks like an absolute dream, aside from some of the commentary from guests, of course. Truthfully, the producers identify the bold personalities in every bride's group and put ideas into their heads to make certain comments and spark some drama that didn't already exist.

Say Yes to the Dress Scripted Reality ShowsSay Yes to the Dress Scripted Reality Shows via TLC/ Say Yes to the Dress

The bridal shop is also much smaller than it looks on TV, and because of the show's popularity, far more customers than expected have booked bridal appointments. "There aren't enough mirrors and platforms, so I had to wait in line while the clock was rocking," revealed customer Amanda Lauren.

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The Voice: Isn't Actually a Blind Audition

While it seems like The Voice is completely honest, since the judges are literally turned around during contestants' auditions, some say it's quite scripted. One contestant revealed on Reddit, "Even your song for the blind audition is chosen for you. You need to attend 5 auditions before doing the 'blind audition' that goes on TV."

The Voice Scripted Reality ShowsThe Voice Scripted Reality Shows
Getty Images via Kevin Winter

Rock singer Adam Wiener said he was asked to be on the show, but declined the offer. He explained that the producers would be deciding the style of music he'd perform, as well as the specific songs. Multiple contestants have also revealed that the judges see all singers before their on-screen audition, so it's not actually blind.

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Ghost Hunters: One Hunter Caught Being the Ghost

Ghost Hunters follows groups of paranormal investigators who scope out "haunted" locations, determined to find the lurking ghosts. Some viewers are fascinated with the show, while many think it's the farthest thing from reality they've ever seen.

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Robert Blaszkiewicz

For example, when a group was walking through a property on Halloween in 2008, they claimed that a ghost pulled one investigator's jacket. But, if you re-watch the footage closely, it's evident that he actually adjusted the hood of the jacket himself slyly, assuming no one would notice, as pointed out by some viewers.

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Jersey Shore: Snooki's Car Accident May Not Have Been an Accident

While the cast of Jersey Shore certainly brought plenty of drama, how much of it was actually real? For starters, the producers encouraged the gang to form complicated romantic relationships with one another or anyone they could meet out of the house, really.

Jersey Shore Scripted Reality ShowsJersey Shore Scripted Reality Shows via Jersey Shore

Season four, which took place in Italy, was more scripted than usual. For instance, Vinny and Pauly's mind-blowing fight had been staged and was filmed under a street lamp to get the right lighting. A Florence police officer also claimed that Snooki's car accident did not seem like an "accident" at all.

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Long Island Medium: Uses a Common Psychic Technique

Theresa Caputo has mesmerized many with her ability to communicate with the dead, giving those who've lost loved ones some closure. However, not everyone believes her 'powers' are real. According to professional myth buster, Ron Tebo, Caputo uses a common psychic technique to read her clients, especially when she does group sessions.

Long Island Medium Scripted Reality ShowsLong Island Medium Scripted Reality Shows
Getty Images via Roy Rochlin

"She'll ask the group a question like, 'Who lost an older male relative to heart problems?'" Tebo explained. One client, who initially believed in Theresa's ability, completely changed her mind after seeing her live: "After tonight, I am no longer a believer."

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Naked and Afraid: Not Really On Their Own

The brave contestants on Naked and Afraid appear to be abandoned in the wild, with no clothes and one survival item. But once the cameras stop rolling, they're sometimes able to acquire some essentials, such as medications, vitamins, and even some snacks from the producers.

Naked and Afraid Scripted Reality ShowsNaked and Afraid Scripted Reality Shows
Discovery Channel via Naked and Afraid

For example, contestant Kim Shelton suffered from severe food poisoning and appeared to just sleep it off in the woods. However, according to the Daily Mail, she was given two IV drips, bread, and rice. All cast members have access to amenities, and there's a medical tent nearby where they can get vitamins or medical care, according to Ranker.

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Love Island: Sometimes Breakups Are Filmed Twice

Former contestants from Love Island admitted that this particular island had essentially no privacy, making true love hard to find. "You have to tell the producers on-site if you are planning to have an important chat," explained former contestant Tyla Carr. "So they make sure the microphones pick it up and the cameras get it."

Love Island Scripted Reality ShowsLove Island Scripted Reality Shows
Instagram via @loveisland

"If you forget, they would call you in and ask you to film it again. Liv Attwood had to dump Sam Gowland twice last year, which was embarrassing for both of them," Tyla added. Season two's Malin Anderson said it was "sad" that so many moments were scripted, as it "takes away the innocence of finding love on the show."

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Breaking Amish: Some Left the Community as Teens

All of the cast members on Breaking Amish claim to have never consumed alcohol when realistically, that's not the truth for all of them. According to Us Weekly, Abe Schmucker was arrested in 2008 for public intoxication, and Kate Stoltzfus was caught driving under the influence, both before the show aired.

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TLC via Breaking Amish

X Amish Atheist, an ex-Amish blogger, revealed that some cast members had left the community long before what was said on the show. He claims that Jeremiah Raber actually left the Amish community when he was 18, and he'd been divorced, while the series portrayed him as leaving at age 30.

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Dance Moms: Producers Create the Arguments

Dance Moms shows a group of young girls who devote their entire lives to dancing under the watchful eye of Abby Lee Miller. A lot of the show focuses on the drama between both the girls and their moms, but Maddie Ziegler admitted they never wanted to fight. "It's hard to do a reality show when there's so much crying and drama."

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Scott Gries Photography

"The producers set it up to make us yell at each other," Ziegler added. "All I can tell you is that they set up situations that might not have actually happened," revealed dancer Peyton Evans. "Which causes a reaction to something that happened that wouldn't have if they didn't set it up."

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Restaurant Stakeout: The Waiters Are Paid Actors

Willie Degel appears to swoop in and save many struggling restaurants on Restaurant Stakeout, and most episodes show a lot of drama between the owners and employees. The owner of Mount Ivy Cafe in New York revealed that the producers staged nearly all of the chaos and even hired actors.

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Food Network via Restaurant Stakeout

"They wanted a lot of drama, and unfortunately, we don't have that drama here," he explained. "So, therefore, they made some of their own drama." On the show, a waiter dropped food and a drink on a customer, which got him fired, but truthfully, this 'waiter' was just an actor who was paid to cause a scene.

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The Bachelor/ Bachelorette: Producers Choose Who Goes Home

The Bachelor or Bachelorette is given a rare opportunity of 25 potential suiters, to hopefully get to know them and eventually fall in love. But how much say do they really have in on the dates and eliminations? Laura-Ann Rullo, who starred in Matty J's season, revealed the truth.

The Bachelor: Scripted Reality ShowsThe Bachelor: Scripted Reality Shows
ABC via Craig Sjodin

"He doesn't choose who goes on the dates. Producers choose who goes home until there are only a few girls left," she explained. And producers find a way to get contestants to say certain things, including "call you names, berate you, curse at you until they get you to say what they want you to say," said former contestant Megan Parris.

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Hell's Kitchen: Producers Swap Out Ingredients To Stir Things Up

It's no secret that Gordon Ramsay gets heated in the kitchen, but his explosive arguments with the contests that nearly get physical are exaggerated for dramatic effect. Ramsay actually has bodyguards on set to prevent any physical altercations, so truthfully, no one even thinks about letting an argument get out of control physically.

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Getty Images via FOX

You might be wondering how Ramsay always finds an error in the chefs' dishes, and it's all thanks to the producers. Former contestant Tek Moore admitted that the producers occasionally swap out ingredients to mess up a recipe and get a reaction out of Ramsay. Even switching salt and sugar could ruin a chef's reputation.

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Toddlers and Tiaras: Toddlers Aren't as Competitive as They Appear

Toddlers and Tiaras gives us the idea that 5-year-old pageant queens are so competitive that they can't be in the same room as one another. But in reality, "It is truly not as competitive and crazy as what you see on TV," explained pageant organizer Maxine Tinnel.

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Getty Images via Roger Kisby

"When we have downtime, the kids are sitting on the floor coloring or playing together." The mothers of the competitors also spend time together, meaning they don't actually despise one another, as seen on TV. The producers also "find the crazy families first, then find a pageant near them," Maxine added.

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American Idol: Auditions Are Granted Based on Your Back Story

On American Idol, we're told that the auditions we see on TV are the contestants' very first audition, but the truth is, all contestants have to audition for the producers before meeting the judges. Former judge Mariah Carey said she hated being on the show, claiming American Idol is "so boring and so fake.

American Idol Scripted Reality ShowsAmerican Idol Scripted Reality Shows
Getty Images via FOX

You have to make things up to say about people." Former contestant Michael Barnum revealed that once he filled out the pre-audition questionnaire, explaining he was unemployed and taking care of a sick family member, he was granted an audition, simply because of his back story.

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Property Brothers: Participants Can't Always Afford to Renovate the Entire Home

Jonathan and Drew Scott appear to help families construct their dream homes, but the whole process isn't as simple as it looks. "Because everything moves so fast on the show, we have found that it doesn't work well for people who haven't even started searching," Jonathan admitted. So, everyone on the show has previously looked at homes.

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HGTV/ Scripps Networks, LLC

Also, everyone on the show must be able to pay the renovation budget of $65,000, but that doesn't usually cover all of the construction, so the cameras only show the rooms that have been done. And what about those randomly added expenses? Those are staged, and producers introduce sudden issues to spike emotions or dramatic change.

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Below Deck: The Tip Hand-Off Is for Dramatic Effect

Below Deck takes a look at the crew working on a large yacht, especially what happens while they're not serving guests. Crew members legitimately work while filming; However, some details are added for the sake of reality TV, such as the tip amount and handoff, and the length of the charters.

Below Deck Scripted Reality ShowsBelow Deck Scripted Reality Shows via The Daily Dish/ Below Deck

"On a yacht of that size [a good tip] would be $5,000 a person for seven days of work," said former cast member Kate Chastain. "Our charters are a little bit shorter, just so we can make the show." At the end of each charter, the primary guest hands the captain an envelope of cash; Normally, this occurs privately with the captain.

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Dancing With the Stars: Interviews Are Scripted

Although the show focuses on dancing, former contestant Wendy Williams revealed that all of the interviews are scripted. "When they put you in the room, and you have to talk to the camera about your experience - you know, the one-on-one with the camera - I was letting people know that they script what you say," she explained.

Dancing with the stars Scripted Reality ShowsDancing with the stars Scripted Reality Shows
Getty Images via Lukas Schulze

She refused to go by the script and thinks that's part of the reason why she was eliminated early on. Alfonso Ribiero also admitted that the scores are based more on your "journey" and "personality" than your dancing. "There is a lot of manipulating going on with the producers," he added.

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Million Dollar Listing New York: Some Open Houses that Are Filmed were Fake Listings

While the real estate being sold in Million Dollar Listing New York is real, many of the scenes showing the agents' personal lives aren't. Producers often film the realtors getting out of bed in the afternoon to stage a scene or have them wear winter clothes in the summer if something needs to be re-shot.

Million Dollar Listing New York Scripted Reality ShowsMillion Dollar Listing New York Scripted Reality Shows
Bravo Media via Karolina Wojtasik

Holly Parker, a cast member's colleague, claims that some of the dramatic open houses are staged at homes that aren't on the market, just to show some extra drama, without hurting their business. Also, some of the time frames that certain properties are sold in are determined by producers, show the agent thriving or struggling.

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Wife Swap: Families Are Given Scripts and Told How To Act

Wife Swap is far more than switching homes and families. "They rearrange your house to make your family come across a certain way," said former cast member Kate Martinez. "The families depicted on the show are more like puppets asked to do and say whatever the production demands, and if they don't, ultimately they will be sued."

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Paramount Network/ ABC

"They come to your house with props, a SCRIPT, a list of SCENES to shoot, THEY WRITE the manuals, THEY WRITE the 'rule changes,'" she added. The kids might be complete angels, but if the producers decide they're going to be rule-breakers, then that's how they'll be portrayed.

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Chopped: Contestants Might Be Judged On Personality Over Skill

Chopped is a culinary competition, but there's speculation that the contestants are judged or cast based on their personality over experience. For instance, John Sierp, a loud New Yorker with a big personality, left out an ingredient, while his competitor used everything from the basket, and he still made it through to the next round.

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Food Network via Chopped

Since the chefs are often shocked by the mystery basket's contents, the producers do their best to capture the reactions. With that being said, they frequently have to rewind time and re-shoot certain moments until they get the perfect angle and facial expression.

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The Jerry Springer Show: Participants Exaggerate Their Stories

The Jerry Springer Show is certainly full of entertainment and lively personality, but this might be because it's slightly scripted. The people selected to be on the show are honest about their stories, but the producers feed Springer lines and talking points to steer their dialogue in specific directions.

The Jerry Springer Show Scripted Reality ShowsThe Jerry Springer Show Scripted Reality Shows
NBC Universal

Anything that gets a person's blood boiling on television is typically loved by viewers, so the producers have learned how to pin people against one another. Participants are also instructed to exaggerate their stories and commentary as much as possible, all for the sake of the audience's enjoyment.

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