At first, the draw of reality TV was the drama and excitement that came from the lives of real people. Yet of course, the entertainment industry being what it is, it was quickly decided that real people doing real things was just a little too boring. Instead, producers started putting their real-life “characters” into increasingly bizarre situations, and then just fabricating events completely. Some of these moments are simply staggering in their phoniness, begging the question: why do we bother calling it reality TV at all?
10. Bear Grylls and the “Wild” Mustangs
In the Sierra Nevada episode of Man vs. Wild, Bear Grylls makes much of the fact that these are some of the few wild horses left in the United States. He talks about how he hopes against hope that he can catch and ride one of these extremely wild animals.
It’s amazing how quickly he gains the trust of the horse, although it doesn’t let him ride it. That itself is remarkable, as the horses were tame animals from a nearby trekking station. This was by no means the only time Man vs. Wild was called out on fakery, but it was one of the most blatant.
9. The Hills – Final Scene
If the wooden acting and obviously rehearsed lines weren’t a clue, the fact that this finale was perfectly timed and placed to send the series off with a bang was a little coincidental.
There’s also the way they kind of hinted at it with the final clip of a Hollywood backdrop. And if that’s not enough for you, Audrina basically admitted it in an interview: apparently it was an open secret as the show began to draw to a close.
8. The Snooki and Angelina fight on Jersey Shore
While your gaze is probably drawn to the two girls fighting on the sofa, try to keep an eye on JWoww’s feet.
We have socks, then no socks, then socks again. If this was a genuine fight, then how on earth did JWoww manage to sneak her socks on and off again? And why would she bother? This was very clearly filmed with more than one take and spliced together. It seems the tans aren’t the only fake things on this show…
7. Joe Millionaire
Given that it was a show about women vying to become the bride of a millionaire whom they had never previously met, Joe Millionaire was never going to provide the classiest of entertainment. The TV-watching public was, however, shocked to see that one of the contestants had performed an intimate act on the eligible bachelor behind some trees in efforts to better her chances.
However, after the show had aired, the contestant stated that no such incident happened: the producers had added sound effects and used a piece of dialogue from earlier in the day — “Think it’ll go better laying down?” — to trick viewers.
6. The “Love Triangle” on Laguna Beach
Everyone loves a love triangle — the drama, the tension, the will-they-or-won’t-they — and the producers of Laguna Beach thought they had one ready to go with Lauren, Kristin and Stephen.
The only problem was that Lauren and Stephen just weren’t interested in one another that way, according to a story editor who worked behind the scenes. Not to worry, though: with the magic of editing you can make even mortal enemies seem like lovers. So, making it appear as if there was sexual tension between the two friends was a breeze.
5. John and Kate Plus 8 – Family Christmas
According to Kate Gosselin’s sister-in-law, this whole episode is faked. The sister-in-law says that producers came up with all the ideas, as they felt that viewers would like to see some thanks given to those who helped Jon and Kate raise so many children.
It turns out the caroling and cookie-making “traditions” were anything but, as Kate’s sister-in-law says they were purely for the cameras. Then there are all the extra shots of Kate cooking and baking, which the sister-in-law says were simply put in to promote a cookbook.
4. Deadliest Catch – Wave Footage
Deadliest Catch is often the go-to example of a reality TV show that avoids fakery. However, it seems that even this show is not immune to the demands of trying to capture ever-more exciting scenes live on camera.
It turns out the scary scenes from the season four opener, similar to the season six clips shown here, were filmed in October, while the flooded boat was filmed in September. At least, that’s what a leaked production outline shows. Discovery Channel deny that the production schedule was accurate, but do admit that they did not have shots of the scene that caused the damage and had to film another version.
3. The City – Whitney’s Job
In this trailer for The City, we hear Whitney profess that she would never have taken her fashion design job with Diane von Furstenberg if she wasn’t “serious.” Weird, then, that she apparently doesn’t spend much of her time actually working.
According to inside sources, Whitney is barely ever in the office, and the need for continuity in case of re-shoots means that other employees can’t actually move anything on their desks!
2. The Real World: Chicago – 9/11 Reactions
When the tragic events of September 11th, 2001 took place, the cast of The Real World: Chicago were at Wrigley Field baseball stadium for a photo shoot. However, that didn’t stop the producers from staging their reactions to watching the destruction unfold “live” on television.
It seems that their emotional response was real, but the fact that the program-makers felt the need to fake a live viewing for better ratings is quite simply disturbing and disrespectful.
1. Survivor – Jonny Fairplay’s “Dead” Grandmother
This bit of fakery wasn’t actually the doing of the show-runners, although they could have blown the whistle if they had wanted to. The sheer audacity of pretending that your grandmother died in order to get sympathy votes is simply unbelievable.
What’s more, Jonny Fairplay didn’t just leave it at that; he manipulated the other contestants into giving up their chances to spend time with a family member so he could hang out with his friend and hear about how his grandmother “died.” All the while, she’s sitting at home, hale, hearty and happy as a clam. He then proceeded to swear on his grandmother’s “grave” when he needed to convince people of his honesty.