21 Former Reality And Game Show Contestants Are Sharing Their Wildest Behind-The-Scenes Secrets And Stories, And OMG

    "Extreme Home Makeover redid a house in my neighborhood, but the family had to move out a year later because they couldn’t afford to pay the upkeep and taxes on it."

    Have you ever watched a reality TV show and wondered what actually goes on behind-the-scenes? Good thing for you that the people who have experience on reality shows, game shows, and paranormal shows are now opening up about what they're really like.

    Here are some of the most shocking, surprising, and wildest experiences people have had while being involved in reality TV shows:

    Disclaimer: Obviously we cannot confirm all of these stories.

    1. "A Ghost Hunters-type TV special was done on a bar near my house that was supposedly haunted. Everything was based on falling/'flying' things (glasses falling off shelves. beverage hoses 'flying' off their places they're held). The crew 'proved' there were ghosts by setting up a mock bar scene and putting salt around the bottom of all the glasses and leaving cameras."

    "Sure enough, the footage showed all the glasses/cups moving around and the salt barriers were all disrupted. It was like 100% of the glasses had moved in some shape of form. What the show failed to mention was that the bar is literally under an overpass for a train, and at a train station. The 'moving' items are just because trains are coming by, and the building is about 50 feet from the train tracks."


    2. "I was in the audience at a Food Network taping, and Iron Chef America really is a 60-minute competition. That's not fudged. The judging, on the other hand, takes forever."


    3. "They did a home makeover show a couple towns over from where I used to live. When we heard about it, we went out to see them, watch them build it, and obviously see if we could see the 'stars' of the show. The area where they built this house wasn't the greatest area around. They were old houses built in the '60s and '70s on pretty large acre lots, but the area was awful and all the houses were in some state of disrepair. Crime was high, rent there was super cheap, and most was government-paid. We always wondered what they would do to secure the house considering the crime in the area."

    "The answer was...nothing. They slapped a $400,000 house with giant plate windows and sliding glass doors down in the middle of a high-crime neighborhood where the average house price was probably $60,000. Then they filmed exactly where all the new home tech and automation was, exactly how to get around the house from one room to the next, and aired it on national TV. A week after that show aired, it was all over the local news that the house was (surprise!) broken into and cleaned out. Every TV, every computer, everything."


    4. "I worked for a bakery that was on, and won, Cupcake Wars. The premise of the show is to surprise the bakers with a few, more often than not, odd ingredients and see what they're really made of. In reality, we found out the ingredients a few months before the show. Had we not known, there's no doubt we'd have lost. There are definitely people who thrive under pressure, both in performance and creativity, and they have better things to do with their time than crank out cupcakes for Food Network. Tell an unprepared contestant they have 40 minutes to make a delicious cupcake using tater tots and nine times out of ten you'll have a middle aged woman sobbing into her mixing bowl."


    contestants lined up

    5. "Extreme Home Makeover redid a house in my neighborhood when I was in high school. The family had to move out a year or so later because they couldn’t afford to pay the upkeep and taxes on it."


    homeowners ready for a makeover

    6. "I'm a film carpenter, and I worked on Big Brother. The 'house' is actually inside of a huge warehouse. I found it kind of creepy that they silently lead contestants to the game room with a black bag over their head. Also, because of the camera alleys, anyone working on the show can just wander behind the walls and watch the contestants in any room. I will never understand why people apply to be on that show. It looks stressful AF!"


    7. "A friend of mine tried out for American Idol and said it always seemed like the people just wait and then get their big shot in front of the TV judges. In reality, it's a ton of steps and hours of waiting. You have to go through loads of intermediate judges who decide if you're either TV material, aka either wild and/or terrible, or actually good enough to move on."


    american idol judge making a yikes face

    8. "I've been on MasterChef. The judges have a ton of stylists following them around, so they look the same between takes. Also, all the timers were fake. They usually recorded all the countdowns and sentences announcing how much time was left at the beginning or at the end of taping, sometimes even while we were cooking. They recorded them when the lighting was okay. Also, nothing is a surprise. You get to practice your dish for a week or more before the episode. There are no 'surprise ingredients.' They also train you in presentation. Sometimes your dish gets moved around the plate by the personnel for lighting reasons or whatever."


    9. "I've worked on a bunch of reality shows. Have you ever been watching a reality show and after a cut from one angle to another you think, 'Well, gosh...shouldn't a camera guy be standing right there? The previous angle one second before was from the exact direction I'm now looking directly in!' Well, that's because that's from another take after the crew has repositioned to run the scene again for coverage."


    10. "In the very first episode of Top Chef they ever filmed, Tom Colicchio flipped out because the dishes the contestants had cooked were getting cold while the film crew took 'food porn' shots of them. From then on, all the contestants have to prepare two dishes: one for the judges to sample, and one for the cameras to pan over and show the audience."


    11. "I was on The Price Is Right, and they let the other girl in the Showcase Showdown rebid after the audience booed her original bid. When it aired, they cut her original bid and showed only her second, winning bid. I lost."


    12. "I'm a production sound mixer based in LA and I frequently find myself on reality gigs. The pay is pretty good but the days are very long. Minimum work day will be 12 hours (the most I have done is 20 hours in a single day) with the only real break being a half hour to an hour lunch. This is pretty typical for most LA-based productions."


    13. "My brother entered my family in a Disney+ family-style trivia game show as a joke. Two Skype interviews later, the joke became very real, and we were flown out to California on essentially the eve of the pandemic (March 11, 2020). The entire production was a nightmare. The producers had no idea what they were doing, the games didn’t really make any sense, and the questions were extremely hard. They made my family sound like pretentious, rich assholes, which couldn't be further from the truth. They made us each spend over $1,000 on 'outfit options' because we were told to provide our own clothes. I called one of the producers crying a week before we left because she told me to go shopping again, and as a broke college student, I genuinely couldn’t afford it."

    "The show was supposed to be a bracket-style, and since we won the first episode, we were going to have to go back and keep winning in order to win the grand prize, which was three days at a Disney park. Because of the pandemic, they kept pushing it back, then canceled it this past May. I’m so happy it was canceled. I spent the last year dreading having to film on a set where I felt uncomfortable and the producers treated us horribly. The best thing to come out of the experience was meeting the family we competed against. Their adult kids are about the same age as my brother and me, and since filming the first episode, we’ve talked to them every single day."


    14. "I dated a guy who worked on Paranormal State and he told me that 99% of the spooky sounds and whatnot are added in post."


    group sitting around a table with candles

    15. "Extreme Home Makeover came to our area and redid a fire station and, I think, a local high school that was fucked up during Hurricane Rita. My brother is a firefighter and also well-versed in construction. He said the fire station was not functional at all. Half the sinks weren’t even hooked up, light switches and plugs were just attached to the wall and non-functioning. Then they couldn’t use the station at first because the fire alarm system didn’t work, and the building itself wasn’t up to fire code. The high school was just as bad."


    16. "I was on Wheel of Fortune in 2015. For the audition, there were about 80 of us in a hotel convention room in downtown Brooklyn. We played a few rounds of the game, and the casting directors would tell us to project our voices and how to answer properly. Then, there was a written test with puzzles like you'd see in the bonus round. We took a quick break, and when we came back, they narrowed the group down to 18. About three weeks later, I got a letter in the mail saying I had been selected to be on the show! I flew out on a Thursday, taped Friday, and returned home Saturday. They tape 6 shows a day, 40 days a year. Vanna White was SO nice. She came out in her jogging pants and a T-shirt to say hello to everyone and reminded us to buy vowels."

    "The day of taping, we were bussed from the hotel to Sony Pictures Studios at 6 a.m. There were 18 contestants plus two LA-based alternates in case anyone needed to drop out last minute. The entire morning was spent touring the studio, going over rules, practicing with the buzzer and the wheel, and going over our intros. EVERYTHING was explained — every category and every game show law. Then, they split us into groups of three, and we went to set to start taping. The lady I lost to was FREAKING AMAZING at the game. 

    While playing, I won a trip to London and Paris, and spun a 'bankrupt,' so I experienced a full range of emotions from the wheel. They were super accommodating when it came to my trip and made sure I could work around my schedule to go. You do have to pay taxes on the prizes, so I refer to it as my '85%-off trip.' My then-boyfriend and I decided to add Ireland to our itinerary, and they even paid for our flights to London and home from Ireland, even though the trip I won was just to go to London and Paris. Overall, it was a really positive experience!" 


    17. "When I was a kid, I was on a home makeover show. The entire time I was on camera, I was being told what to do. I was definitely more of an alternative kid, but they put me in this preppy little skirt and braids and told me to be super overexcited about everything. I will say though, the reveal is very authentic. I LOVED what they did."


    18. "I worked on a paranormal show for a week about four years ago. The hunters invited a psychic (not sure if that was what he called himself). This guy was a big asshole and thought he was the shit. Big ego. Anyway, they were hunting in a haunted house, and this guy was doing a walk-through before taping. He went into the whole routine. Cameras were not rolling, it was just for staging and getting acclimated. During this time, I was at Video Village and could see and hear what was going on. He was in an upstairs room and began to feel a cool breeze. He made a big deal about it and insisted we start rolling."

    "We did, and he went on and on about that room temperature drops mean a spirit is present. He started asking the crew if they felt the breeze as well, and they did. Finally, the first assistant director — who was sick of this guy's shit — told the guy that the breeze was coming from the open window in the other room. The psychic threw a fit and stormed out saying we were all amateurs."


    19. "I met someone on a plane once who was on House Hunters. After she purchased her new house, the show came and taped her viewing that house. Then they took her to two other houses to make it seem like she was going to pick between the three. In reality, she had bought a house before they even taped the show."


    20. "I have been to Carlo's Bakery, aka the bakery from Cake Boss. While there, we learned that the 'wedding' they were filming in Italy was completely faked, and they never actually got married. Kind of ruined the whole experience for me."


    21. And finally: "When I was 14, I applied to one of those home makeover shows (although this show was just a room). First off, the application process was wild. First, you have to write in, then you have to make an individual video, and then a video with your whole family. Before they finally call you to tell you, they ask if you can set up a camera to film your reaction (which totally ruins the surprise!)"


    Have ✨YOU✨ been on a reality or game show? If so, tell us your experience in the comments!!!

    Submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.