Even though reality shows seem to interpret the word "reality" pretty loosely, I can't help but get sucked into the drama of series like Bachelor in Paradise or 90 Day Fiancé. Judging by the sheer number of reality shows currently on TV, I'm sure a lot of people would agree.
Quite a while back, I rounded up stories from people who've been on reality TV and shared how fake it was. In the comments, others shared their own experiences with getting a peek behind the curtain, whether they made it onto reality TV themselves, knew someone who did, or auditioned but didn't make the cut.
Here are 22 behind-the-scenes stories and secrets from people who've had experiences with reality TV:
Disclaimer: These stories have not been verified. The users are supposedly speaking from their own experiences.
Some entries have been edited for length/clarity.
1. "I was on MTV's Made. The coach and I got along well. The producers were pissed that there was no drama, so they edited the footage to make it look like I was a total jerk who was lazy."
"They also made me sign a $3 million dollar editing confidentiality agreement. I looked like such a horrible person. I hate that fucking channel."
2. "I tried out for American Idol, and I literally watched them pass up good singers and put through the shitty ones because they were in costume."
"They don’t care about talent; it’s about getting viewers."
3. "My friend's dad was on Survivor South Africa, and she was so bummed when they edited him to be the 'villain.' She'd watch in her uni residence every week, and everyone else watching would make fun of him or root against him."
"He took it in his stride, as he knew what he was getting into, but she was really upset."
4. "I was an extra on some sort of hidden camera show about bad employees or a secret boss situation. The bar, Victory, was actually a popular spot in the business district of New Orleans, and I knew some of the bartenders who worked there. The owner rented the bar to the show for an entire Saturday shoot, and the actual staff lost a bunch of money. The show used the bar like a TV set and filled it with actors playing the roles of the employees. The 'secret boss' even busted someone for stealing, I think."
"They kept it really vague for the extras. I haven't been able to find out what show it really was or if it even aired. It was so ridiculous and I cannot imagine they got any good content from what I saw them shoot that day.
They didn’t use the real name of the bar, so I'm not dedicated enough to try to find it in the hundreds of similar shows' episodes. Oh well. I got my $100, so all's well that ends well, right?"
5. "I know a few people who were on an episode of Jerry Springer. The entire storyline was fake. It was a love triangle where the man left a woman for her best friend, who was a man. But in reality, the man and woman weren't even together, but the men were. They were all friends who came up with the story one night. The only thing [the studio] offered was airfare, $500 to split, and a night at the Ramada down by the airport."
"When the show aired, it was a hot topic in our circle of friends for a while. Now I can't even find the recording of it, but it was wild."
6. "One of my kids was asked to be on a singing competition show. Producers found her — she didn't audition — and they asked her to be on, telling her she would be in the final round or win. Part of the contract they asked her to sign would sign over ALL her publishing rights and something like 80% of all income from albums, merchandise, etc. FOR THE NEXT 10 YEARS."
"They'd let her win if they could own any music she recorded for a decade. She passed."
7. "My mother tried to get us on a reality show when I was around 13. I can't remember the name and plot for the life of me, but her entire backstory was about a single mom and her three daughters trying to survive in the big city. She was actually accepted for the show. During pre-production, the producers somehow figured out that everything she told them was a lie."
"She didn't have custody of us. We lived in a different state with our Dad and hadn't seen her in more than a year. The producers were still willing to go ahead with her lie, but my dad refused to sign the papers letting us be on the show. So, they had to scrap it."
8. "My roommate's brother was on the high school version of Chopped, Chopped Teen Tournament. He made up a backstory about his sister being a teen mom experiencing drug addiction and their parents facing deportation, even though they are both second-generation Americans. He didn't win, but I wonder if they would have investigated his story if he did."
9. "Catfish isn't fake. I worked on the show. The producers do their due diligence to make sure the situation's safe and not fake before they film. If they didn't [vet each catfish], they would waste time with people who didn't exist, and [Nev and Kamie] would never be able to contact them."
"But Nev and Kamie don't know anything and aren't told anything. They have to find it organically."
10. "My sister was on an episode of Wife Swap. A lumberjack swapped with a burlesque dancer, and my sister was in the burlesque troupe who helped teach the lumberjack to dance. She said the lady was sweet, and all the drama was totally faked."
11. "My friend's wedding was televised for Swanderosa, a CMT wedding reality show. The premise was two sisters/wedding planners who used their large home for different wedding themes. It only lasted one season, but my friend's wedding was definitely the most 'dramatic.' For example, her wedding was peacock themed, and behind the cameras, she asked the wedding planners for live peacocks at the ceremony. They said no. However, in a taped consultation with them, the producers told her to ask again while on camera. She did and got the live peacocks."
"Also, she brought in her husband's cousin (who is also a party planner) to help with the wedding and made her do things to get the other planners upset. Being in the wedding party, I saw what's real and what's staged for entertainment."
12. "My friend's brother was on one of those home makeover shows. They went into the house and actually messed it up because it didn't look like enough of a train wreck to them."
"The people who came in for the open house were actually friends and relatives, including my friend's teenage daughter.
By the way, the house didn’t sell."
13. "I auditioned for The Voice and got through the first two rounds. The first round was with a group of people, both single and duo acts. Everyone got about a minute to perform one song, but the producers very obviously had the people they wanted to let through chosen before they even opened their mouths."
"A couple I auditioned with got to sing three songs because they sucked, but production thought they were hot and had a cool backstory...Of course they got through."
14. "My best friend was a producer on Chains of Love, and she told me all about the crap they did to exaggerate the program. It was the last reality show she ever did."
15. "My cousin was on Property Brothers once. She never really shared the details about her experience, but we know that she sold the house shortly afterward. The idea of the show is that people renovate a new home into the house they want for an affordable price, but my cousin just wanted to increase its property value and then sell it for more than she paid."
16. "Someone I know was on Idols South Africa. She made it to the semi-finals, but then she decided she actually didn't want to win because of the terrible contract and would rather make it as a musician through some other means."
"I can't remember how it all ended up (whether she pulled out or 'didn't make it to the next round'), but I remember being horrified when I heard that."
17. "My friend was a runner-up for The Real World. She was in a long-term relationship (they're now married), and in the audition process, the producers kept prodding to see if the long-distance filming would cause drama — which she confidently said wouldn't be a problem since they'd done long-distance before. She got cast, but last minute, they told her they cast someone else in her place."
"We suspected it was because they figured she wouldn't play along with the drama enough."
18. "I tried out for Canadian Idol. I had been debating whether or not to audition, so I didn’t go until the last day. In the first stage, they put you in groups of five and have you try out for some lower-level judges. From our group, they announced that one girl was getting through, and the rest of us could leave. The other people in my group demanded to know why I wasn't getting through."
"I guess they thought I was good. I was touched.
The people from the show told us they'd filled their quota on 'good' singers and only had space for 'interesting' people left. The girl who got through had pink hair and a pink cowboy hat. She looked crushed when they told us. She really had a lovely voice, too, but clearly it wasn’t about that. I never saw her on the show, so she must have either quit or been weeded out at the next level."
19. "My friend was on Chopped Junior once. He said it was actually pretty cool and undramatic, and everyone ate the food afterwards. His dad went on Hell's Kitchen, and it was nothing like that."
20. "My friend tried out for Shark Tank. They make contestants go through numerous rounds before they ever get to audition in front of the actual 'sharks,' and they pick people with comically bad ideas or voices to move forward for TV/entertainment purposes instead of others who auditioned with a bit of substance, which is too bad."
21. "My best friend's neighbor was on Chopped for one of the holiday episodes a few years ago. He didn't win, but he did go through several 'auditions' in previous rounds before filming the actual show."
"His 'story' on the show was real, and he said everyone was nice as well. He also said that Ted Allen was really cool."
22. "I was on Style by Jury in 2002, and very little about the show was fake. They came to my house to check out my wardrobe the day it was shot. All the other scenes were real except the timeline."
"It took four weeks to shoot instead of one. Bruce Turner, the host, really cared about the people on the show."