I don’t think it’s a huge secret that “reality” shows aren’t particularly real. You hear plenty of people shrug them off as “all scripted,” but the truth is slightly more complicated than that.
Networks LOVE reality shows because they get high ratings while being exceptionally cheap to produce, at least by comparison to narrative TV.
But just because there’s no screenplay doesn’t mean strings aren’t being pulled.
Let’s get into it with these Reddit testimonials.
1. They often just use actors
I was an actor in the 90s/00s.
Our agency supplied actors to dating shows. We had three people pretending to be in a love triangle, being sad and emotional and angry and whatever, and we watched a recording of it in our classes, including the three in question, laughing at the sheer… well, falsehood of it all. It was basically improv. I actually didn’t know until then that the contestants were faked.
I guess real people do apply, so perhaps they use a mixture of real applicants and stooges to pad out other episodes.
2. It is, in fact, sometimes scripted
Had a non-actor friend on MTVs “Next” in the early 00’s as one of the three suitors on the bus.
I watched the episode and the banter didn’t sound like him at all.
I asked and he said “every single word out of my mouth was scripted”.
3. Those big moment shots are staged
I wasn’t on a dating show but I saw one being filmed.
A few years ago my wife set up a cool birthday party at an Axe-Throwing place in Atlanta. We had our reservation set up and showed up on time, but we weren’t allowed inside because they were filming a show (Ready to Love or A-Scene or something like that).
Anyways, it was a young couple probably in their late 20s and it was very clear that they were not on a real date. While we were waiting outside, they had to film them descending the steps several times because they couple wasn’t showing enough affection. They also filmed them exiting the venue and walking away about 3-4 times. After they filmed them leaving, we were allowed to go inside, however the production team still wasn’t happy with the results so the couple came back in to film a few more scenes.
You could absolutely tell that these actors weren’t into each other at all, as they had to film the girl throwing an axe about 10 times before she got a good shot, and when she finally got one the dude wasn’t even paying attention, so we had to wait for her to try another 5-6 times before she hit one and he ran up and gave her a kiss. It was super awkward to watch and I cannot for the life of me believe anyone would think this was a real date. Pretty surreal experience but I can guarantee that whichever show this was was 100% scripted.
4. It doesn’t usually lead to anything real
I work behind the camera, but my friend had auditioned and was selected to be on some dating drama show for MTV (the premise was pretty stupid and I don’t think it ever went to air). She suddenly had to come up with a boyfriend because she was very single and I got to play the token gay best friend who she vents all of her manufactured relationship struggles to.
And it was 100% manufactured.
The producer would tell us to do stuff and gave us topics to discuss to create drama. And the “dates” were prearranged by production ahead of time – we got a schedule of everything they were going to do a week in advance – their “date” at a fancy restaurant, her confessing her relationship issues to me at a bar (but it was actually inside of the same restaurant and filmed before their date), and then her introducing me to the boyfriend at a frozen yogurt shop.
We each had to do confessional style interviews where the Producer would ask us a question and we had to answer by rephrasing the question in the form of a statement and then answering ourselves.
Suffice it to say, the “relationship” didn’t work out and I’m pretty sure they didn’t speak again after we wrapped.
5. There are a LOT of misleading edits
Was in Netflix’s Love is Blind.
What you don’t see in camera is the lengthy talks between candidates (sometimes hours) which are just cut short on TV.
There may seem to be no staff around in TV but there are staff behind the scenes telling you what to do, which side you should stand/sit so camera is not blocked.
And sometimes it is not really ‘real’ as there are times they would ask us to repeat a ‘dramatic’ thing we spontaneously did for 2nd or 3rd shot for them to ‘cinematically’ capture the scene.
6. It can be a pretty sad world
I worked for the casting of an unnamed show… Oh my god, I have never felt worse for humanity.
What got me were the truly sad people that just wanted a friend, this was a while ago where people would send in their physical pictures.
It was brutal, I happily jumped over to gay male p**n casting. Much more fun.
7. There’s a ton of manipulation
My buddy’s girlfriend went on one (she was trying to get famous and figured free vacation) where it was set in a tropical island and naked.
From the moment she landed they started feeding her alcohol, which she had no problem with. However, it turned out they were shooting that day, and she didn’t want to eat before she had to be nude on film, so she got wasted quick.
On the episode she is very visibly d**nk, and her partner was some old dude she didn’t want to pretend she was into.
So the producers told her the better angle was to attack the other girl competing for old dudes attention, which she sloppily did by making comments about how her body was better.
It was not a good look at all. She got eliminated, and was back on the plane and home all within 3 days. She did not get famous.
8. Most of the people on these shows just want attention
I knew a guy who was on Elimidate back in the day. He said he did it just for fun, but he went into in with the intentions of acting insane so the he would end up on clip shows and whatnot.
I mean, he actually was pretty crazy, but he really went nutty for the show, and they kept replaying his episode all the time.
He thought the actual production was annoying due to all the waiting around, and he legit wanted to m**der one of his fellow contestants.
9. Even the “competitions” can’t be trusted
An old teacher of mine happened to be eating in a restaurant across the street from American Idol.
I forget which season it was in, but they came into the restaurant with one of the contestants who felt like she should have made it through and Ryan Seacrest told all the guests to listen to her sing and, if they liked what they heard, stay; if not, leave the restaurant.
My teacher said that they told every person there exactly what to do; how many exited, the hand motions and stuff as they left, pretty much everything.
All of it was fake.
He said the only thing that was true was how terrible her voice actually was.
10. It’s a truly weird world
I was featured on Dating on Demand.
Comcast had an OnDemand feature that had dating profiles.
They had a tent set up at an event I was at and decided to do it.
They asked a lot of stupid questions that you had to repeat and try to give long answers.
Well, I was selected and my profile was set up.
But they changed my s**ual orientation and made me straight.
I was kinda peeved but in the end it was all for the laugh and I got a good one in the end.
My home EC teacher in middle school said she appeared as a waitress on one of the shows.
She let us know everything is fake and scripted.
I couldn’t believe it.
12. Sometimes the line is unclear
A girl I went to high school with was on Married At First Sight, and she said it was mostly scripted and edited to make her look super bad because people ‘love the drama.’
Except, I couldn’t tell it was edited. That’s just how she was.
Anyway, she’s engaged again. So it obviously didn’t make her look too bad.
13. There’s a surprising amount of booze involved
Good buddy of mine was on a Bachelorette style show. He was d**nk most of time.
They used the lavalier mics to have PAs restock whiskey and replace kegs more than they used it to record actual audio for the show.
It was interesting to see parts of his “story” being told as sweet and kind man, but as a good friend I could just see the d**nk on his face on a lot of his dates/interactions.
He ended up winning.
They also NDA’d him to hell and he refused to talk about the show in any capacity until a year or so after it aired.
14. The people are at least…real people
My ex was on naked attraction. Was super weird seeing him.
Didn’t recognise who it was until i saw his face. Watched it again just to see if I recognised him before the faces were revealed. Still didn’t recognise him.
A mutual friend told me he told all his friends that he was on it. So I guess they have all seen him naked now!
15. Remember, it’s a TV set
I was at first dates (in the Netherlands) as a date for in background.
You arrive at a large empty room with the rest of the background date people and then you have to sign some stuff.
I couldn’t wear color or a print, that was too much of a distraction, and the attention should be on the real participants.
We saw the participants in the same empty room but we couldn’t talk to them.
Then we went to the restaurant, which was a small tv studio. It looks big on tv, but is was really small. There was no music at all, because they had to edit the footage later.
They told us to speak loudly. The food was good and the waiters were really nice. (Sorry for any mistakes, English is not my first language)
16. They just lie sometimes
My brother was a production assistant on some show that was produced somewhere in southern California.
The whole premise was a guy and a girl who used to be a couple, but are now respectively seeing other people, are placed in a room or situation where they have to be near each other for a period of time. Cameras are rolling capturing the interaction. Let’s call these people persons A and B.
The new significant others (who don’t know each other) are placed in their own room and there’s cameras rolling capturing their interaction. Let’s call these persons C and D.
The twist is there is a red light in the room of persons C and D. The red light was to illuminate whenever there was physical contact between persons A and B.
One of my brother’s jobs was to push the button that turns on the red light. In one particular episode person’s A and B we’re not doing anything that should have bothered persons C and D, and this not making for good television caused the producer or director whoever told my brother to push the button on numerous occasions. He protested but ultimately did what he was told.
One of my brothers other jobs was to drive them back to the LA area when shooting was done. Well couple A/C was having quite the argument. The girl (C) accusing her boyfriend (A) of physical contact with ex girlfriend (B). Guy (A) denied all of it, naturally.
Well my brother couldn’t take it anymore he spilled the beans and told the whole van full of people how the director had instructed him to push the button even when there was no physical contact.
17. They have no problem fudging the details
I don’t speak Spanish fluently, but one time I appeared on “Doce Corazones” (12 Hearts), which is a Spanish language romance show where a woman has to choose from 12 men to date. (Living in Southern California, where it’s filmed, and a Spanish speaking friend of mine dragged me to the set when they had a last minute cancellation and needed someone to stand in lol.)
Anyway, the gimmick of the show is that each of the 12 guys has a different zodiac sign, and I guess that’s part of the host / matchmaker’s recommendation to the woman. I didn’t really understand what was going on, but they didn’t care what my actual birthday was. They just told me to pretend to be a Sagittarius for the show. I made it to the second round (the woman didn’t kick me off immediately, much to my surprise lol).
When she asked me to describe myself, I just kind of said “you know, I’m a nice guy who likes having fun” or something ridiculous in my high school level Spanish. It was a silly but memorable experience. Wish I could find it on YouTube. It would have been 2005 or 2006.
18. They often don’t pay their participants much
A friend was on the Irish First Dates.
She said everything took ages.
They had to get there early and wait for hours to be called, they were told to take a toilet break during the date so they could be filmed phoning someone, this took a long time as they had to change microphones, afterwards they had to wait around to be filmed talking about the date.
They were given €20 towards the meal and had to pay the rest themselves. The taxi afterwards is just for filming purposes and drops them off round the corner, they have to make their own way home.
19. They can be emotional roller coasters
Not me but a mate went on Dinner Date.
Had the date and the producers said they’d call him in the next few days after the winner had been chosen by the girl and they were ready to film the conclusion.
They called him on a Friday night while we were in the pub but they wouldn’t tell him if he’d won and was going out or whether they would just be filming the rejection. He wanted to stay at the pub but I convinced him to go back. Turns out he lost and after 10 mins of filming spent the evening at home on his own, he was pretty annoyed!
20. They toss all the stuff that doesn’t sizzle
I did a car dating show when I was an actor in LA.
It was fun and we did a lot of fun trivia games and such.
After 2 hours they took me aside and asked if I was in love with the girl. I honestly said that I wasn’t but I’d be happy to be friends.
For a long time I couldn’t figure out why they wouldn’t use my episode because I thought it was really funny. Turns out they only use the episodes where people actually fall in love with each other in 2 hours. That’s a little fast for me.
21. Things are often shot out of order
Not me, but my best friend was on First Dates (Dutch one).
There was a lot of waiting, I think he was there for 4 hours in total. Had to eat a 3 course meal at 12 in the afternoon.
What I thought was also funny was that the shot of them walking towards the restaurant is shot way before the actual date.
So they are not walking towards their date, they just approach the restaurant and then go back to the waiting room.
22. They change how you see someone through editing
Not me, but a family member was on dating show, did quite well, although didn’t end up with guy.
She had said that a lot of the personalities depicted for certain women were very much just cherry picking specific scenes to portray them differently than they were in the house.
She had also said they were confined to the house with very little opportunities to leave, essentially creating a stressful environment where tensions are likely to boil over.
They had the opportunity to go back on the show in a different capacity and turned down the offer, so I do not think they would recommend it.
23. There’s a LOT of hurry up and wait
I can actually answer this one. I was on First Dates, last September.
Because we were still in pandemic mode, the show was filmed in Manchester. They sent a cab round to pick me up and had a hotel set up for us. They also set up a testing station in the hotel which was convenient.
They told me the date was at 7, but I actually ended up in a waiting room till about 10 for the actual date to start. Had to do the walk up to the restaurant twice and was waiting outside with no jacket which was annoying.
They’d also told me that I couldn’t wear a white shirt (something to do with the cameras and lighting?), so had to go with a back up outfit. The producers definitely tried to stitch me up though: when I went to the bar, the girl who I was talking to wasn’t actually my date, it was her sister who was in the bathroom. But I had no idea initially so I was chatting up the wrong girl, yikes.
During the date I didn’t notice the cameras until we were leaving and saw some of them on a small discreet tripod.
After the date, we had to hang around for another hour and a half for a photo shoot and the post date interviews, then they did the filming for the taxi and dropped us off at one of our hotels.
All worth it in the end as my date ended up my girlfriend 😁
24. They’ll use your ideas even if they don’t use you
So, I wasn’t on a show, but I really wanted to tell this story!
I was one of the final… I want to say 20? in selection for the first season Beauty and the Geek Australia, but ultimately didn’t make the final cast.
My whole thing was that I was (still am) a rapper, but also a giant nerd. When we got into the final one-on-ones with the producers, they asked if I had any special skills, and so I told them that yeah, I rap. I actually had a song that had a LITTLE radio play at the time called Sci-Fi Geek, so they asked me to perform it, which I did acapella.
Anyway, I didn’t make the show because I don’t think I was “book smart” enough (like, most of the cast had multiple doctorates) which I was bummed about, but I got over. Anyway, when it aired, I received multiple text messages saying I urgently had to watch it!
The very first week- on THE FIRST F**KING EPISODE- the challenge for the Geeks was to write and perform a rap song for the beauties.
They essentially distilled my whole pitch down to use for one episode. It felt liked I’d slightly been wronged by that one!
25. They really don’t care if your story is true
I’ve worked at a marketing agency. We invented the story, that a woman fell in love with a guy while he was doing promotion in a mascot costume of one of our clients.
She said she don’t know the name, only the brand of the mascot, but could for sure recognize him by seeing his eyes through the costume.
A nation wide TV show believed that story, invited the girl and three of our mascots to there show.
The girl had to take a deep look in each of the mascots eyes and was able to recognize her crush – which was her long term relationship in real life.
Our client got free attention and a high class appearance at prime time!
26. Some scenarios are just plain faked
I had a roommate in college whose best friend was on a dating show for MTV. I don’t remember the name of the show off the top of my head, but the premise was that a couple who are having problems go on dates with other people and then have to decide whether they want to stay together or break up at the end of the show.
They filmed the show, went on the dates with other people, and at the end they decided that they wanted to stay together. The producers decided they didn’t like that ending so they did a reshoot where they choose not to stay together. The couple went along with it and acted it out just because they asked them to.
27. There’s a lot of booze
Lacey Sculls, known best as the “evil” redhead from the show Rock of Love with Brett Michaels, has a podcast where she interviews all of the past contestants from those VH1 dating shows from the early 2000s (Flavor of Love, Rock of Love, New York of Love, etc.).
Most of the contestants sum up their experience by being incredibly d**nk the entire time, which I find hilarious. I remember watching those shows as a teen thinking everyone was just really animated and invested in the competition.
What I found most interesting was that the contestants had no idea who the “celebrity” was before entering the show. So all of those confessionals about how they idolize this person was basically constructed B.S.
Also, production has a very heavy hand in everything you see, from forcing contestants to say certain things in confessionals to straight up deciding who is staying or going.
If you know anything about how reality TV works, this should come as no surprise, but I always get a kick out of hearing the truth behind the insanity.
28. They ain’t afraid to manipulate
I knew a guy who was on Blind Date years ago.
The only part of the story I remember was how much they tried to manufacture the drama.
Apparently they were late to a session or something because they had to try very hard to get her to say something negative about him. And apparently when asked if he would do this again he was like hell no.
He claims it was about going on the show again but they apparently twisted it to make it sound like he really didn’t like her.
I never saw the episode myself but that’s my takeaway.
29. Seriously, booze
Not me, but my boyfriend’s sister.
She was on Rock Of Love, that show with Bret Michaels from Poison.
She said when she got there they were all trying to get them hammered before meeting Bret and she wasn’t down with that.
I guess he noticed that and really liked that about her, and they ended up dating for a little bit.
My boyfriend had lunch with him at his (bf) house.
Pretty cool, and my boyfriend’s sister said he was a really good guy.
I don’t know what made them split, but it’s pretty interesting!
30. TV sets are actually pretty un-glamorous
Teamsters eating craft services watching two 21 year old wannabe actors try to flirt.
The ultimate in romance.
Did you get the cream cheese for these bagels?
The general rule is, if it’s made to be entertainment, don’t trust that it’s real. Enjoy it for what it is: just a show.
What are your thoughts on reality TV?
Tell us in the comments.