Reality TV Staffers Share The Best Behind The Scenes Secrets Producers Don't Want You To Know

Reality TV Staffers Share The Best Behind The Scenes Secrets Producers Don't Want You To Know
Photo by Michał Lis on Unsplash

I miss the good old days of "reality" tv. Don't you? Do you remember The Real World & MTV's Road Rules? Those were the days, long before everything got convoluted. Then Jerry Springer came along with Survivor and the Kardashians and now it's all just scripted chaos. The fact they use the word "reality" proves they don't know the meaning of it. It's all a show darlings.

Redditor u/flyingbeetlekites was dying to hear from behind-the-scenes peeps who work on tv that sell "realness" by asking...

People who work on reality TV: What happens behind the scenes that you don't want the public knowing?


busting in season 1 GIF by Ash vs Evil DeadGiphy

I love when they show up "unannounced" at someone's house and there's a film crew IN THE HOUSE!


Repeat after Me....

I worked with someone who had been on one and he said they tell you what to say and how to answer. They also mix and match the answers. They basically film you completing a set of sentences in a controlled way and then thread the narrative they're going for. It's utter nonsense end to end.



Was on a kind of "documentary" years ago for British TV. The kind where the person has a problem, the TV people offer therapy, activities and fun things to solve the problem (think supersize vs superskinny) when they did the wrap up interview, the edited the hell out of the segment to get the result they wanted. To the point where they spliced audio together and made it a voice over etc.


Original audio: This didn't solve the problem, but it's a start and I'm really optimistic.



fail seth meyers GIF by Late Night with Seth MeyersGiphy

I've got an old friend who writes for a reality TV show. That's right... scripts the spontaneous stuff for actors to say.


Counting Cars

On Counting Cars. Two scruffy dudes in torn clothes and biker tattoos entering someone's garage unannounced and the homeowner is like, "Hi, how are you guys?"


I've noticed this too. Not to mention, scruffy guys driving alongside you, asking you too pull over so they can get a better look at your car; then asking if they can drive your car. The number of antique cars with completely trusting owners is not realistic. Not to mention they buy many of these cars on the spot. I like the show enough to overlook the obvious staging.


Let's Date?

A German satirist once managed to sneak an actor he hired into one of those reality TV dating shows and while the character he created already was very weird; the TV channel that produced the dating show made him completely over the top.

The whole thing is on youtube with english subtitles even. It's brilliant.



I acted as a lawyer for a reality TV show many years ago. They fired me when I started advising them that they needed informed consent from participants to appear. They said that was impossible, and in any event, half the participants are mentally unwell anyway. I said that just makes me even more certain you need informed consent, and in that case, make sure you have a fully qualified mental health professional sign off of the capability of the prospective participant to give informed consent.

I have not worked for any reality TV shows since.


So much to splice...

f for fake film GIFGiphy

I have a friend who worked as an editor for reality shows a few years back. The thing I remember him telling me is that because they shoot so much footage, he can make any storyline the producers want with it.


For 5 Minutes....

I saw something about those shows where young people live in a house together, go out and get drunk and pick up randoms to take back to the house and have sex with.

Well the production companies have a duty of care to the drunk randoms, so they are taken away from the "celebs" made to sober up enough to provide consent, provide full ID and sign a waiver.

They then meet back up with their match and go have sex on camera and then get put in a cab home.

When I thought they were just drunk it was bad enough, but when you realize they have been sitting around sobering up and still go do this it's just sickening what people will do for 5 minutes of "fame".


Again & Again

basketball wives smh GIF by VH1Giphy

The retakes. Endless retakes. It's tiresome. You think filming has wrapped up but then have to do pickups. The stuff someone messed up on and there can be many.


Not Their Issue

This is a really interesting piece by someone who was in Masterchef but never signed the required NDA, allowing them to be really open about the whole process.

"In the "MasterChef" contract, which a casting director later told me was essentially identical to those of most reality competition shows, they asked me to agree to be subjected to physical and mental distress, to agree to have my medical history used in any way that they wanted and to use it in perpetuity, to agree that my family would likely not be contacted in the case of an emergency.

They asked me to release the show and its employees from liability for any injury to myself from risks both known and unknown. They asked that I release them from liability from the social and economic losses that could result and to please note that the consequences could be substantial and could permanently change the future for me, my family, friends and significant others."



bear grylls yes GIF by NBCGiphy

A friend of my family worked uncredited with Bear Grylls for man vs wild. Because Grylls is at the end of the day an actor (although pretty knowledgeable about what he's talking about) he's required to be insured by his studio. In comes family friend.

Before an episode, family friend (a former british army paratrooper) attends a meeting with Grylls, and his team, who tell him where Grylls wants to go, and what he wants to do while there (EG: The congo, build a raft, survive via fishing, and set up a tree shelter). Family friend is then jetted off to the place in question with his own team, and the group of them mess around in the wilderness, seeing how viable Grylls's plan is.

After a few weeks they jet back, and inform the company about the hazards, validity, and expected cost. This allows the production company to correctly determine any insurance, gear, safety issues, and plan out Grylls's survival trip.

Family friend has some really good stories about being in survival situations, and is always really blasé about things like "oh yeah we picked out a cave to camp in, and a bear tried to eat us lol'.


The Top 100

I was offered top 100 in an early season of a singing show in Australia. I rejected it because the contract they wanted me to sign had a non-compete clause that stated that even if they didn't use me, I wouldn't have been able to release music independently for 2 years and not have been able to release music with a competing label for 5 years. In retaliation they used my footage but heavily edited my voice and used footage of the judges saying "no" instead of "yes". I also wasn't allowed to discuss it publicly for a number of years and am never allowed to use that show's name in conjunction with my career.

I also had a family friend who won a cooking show here in Australia as well. The final was filmed about a month before it aired, after filming the winning contestant, they re-set everything up and then filmed the other person winning. This was so if it got leaked that the intended winner had indeed won, they would switch the footage and air the loser winning instead (giving them the prizes instead). Luckily for me one of their family members told me in secret and I won a couple hundred betting on them to win whilst they were weren't considered a favourite.


We All Know

I live where a show is filmed and have had friends on it twice. The entire premise of each episode was completely fake. Not a single bit of what was happening was real at all. And they told one of my friends--who is an expert on the item he was talking about--what to say because the real description he gave of the item wasn't dramatic enough for the show. So, the description that made it to tv is not even accurate--it's fantasy made up by the producers.

Another friend was on a different reality tv show. In it, he gets caught doing something he isn't supposed to do and is thrown out by security. It's portrayed in the show as if this is all actually happening. Nope. He was hired as an actor to come in and break the rules to get kicked out. Everyone was in on it.



Classic not be, but... A friend of mine has a sister who made it to the X-Factor semifinal 10+ years ago. From around their second or third audition, she signed a contract that specifically said how far she would make it before she got sent home. Everything was planned from her first televised act (there is a pre-audition or two that isn't shown on TV where they select the contestants). The bands and singers that made it to the final also knew beforehand, but my friend's sister told us that she wasn't sure if they were told exactly who was going to win.

Also, if you don't have a tragic nor specifically interesting story to tell when you're interviewed, they'll make up a sob-story themselves. Of course it's been so many years since she was on the show that a lot of things can have changed, but this is how it was back then.


They Own You

i had a friend who was going to go on one of those tv talent shows but wanted me to look at the contract first because i knew quite a bit about the music industry. the contract was horrible. like i've seen some crappy contracts in my time but never any this bad. basically you had to scrub your online history, they own any song ideas/covers you ever posted online, any original songs you come up with now belongs to the record company, the contract you're signed to a 6 album deal if you come in top 5.

And if you try to get out the contract then you'll have to pay them back any money they put into you along with any money they claim your music "lost" which was really just you not meeting projections. you'll also have little control over your artistic voice but will still be blamed if they don't think the songs are good enough, even if you were working with the song writers they force on you.


The Shill


Probably already pretty well known, but on House Hunters, the people looking to buy a house have already bought and signed a contract on their chosen house.

The two other homes they are shown are "shill" properties that might or might not even be for sale. If the house is shown fully furnished, it's a shill. I have friends who were on the show years ago and still laugh about their great acting jobs pretending to be interested in houses that weren't even on the market.


Not so Great

I work in reality and docuseries. Can answer specific questions if you have them. The turnaround time in renovation shows means that the quality is atrocious. Never let your house be used in a renovation/rehab show. You'll end up paying almost full price for crap quality. I would say the only exemption is something like Grand Designs where they document the building process but don't interfere with it at all.


The Bigger they Get

Anyone ever work with "Impractical Jokers"? I love their show, but I don't understand how the people they prank don't recognize them.


I have for some years. As the years have gone on, the boys have gotten bigger and it's gotten to be more of an issue. But they also put a big premium on real interactions.

It may take longer now, but it's all a numbers game of approaching enough people. If they are recognized, they may swap out who is "on the floor" or take a short break until the crowd has changed enough to go back out. I have nothing but nice things to say about how hard they work to make it real.


person holding black remote control

person holding black remote controlPhoto by Erik Mclean on Unsplash


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