Scripting, Editing, And Censoring: The Unreality Of Popular Reality TV Shows

By Isabel K

There is no shortage of TV programs to watch, although sometimes it feels like there’s nothing on despite the 300 channels available at any given time. The reason for this is that everyone has their favorite genre of TV — science fiction, history programs, comedy, animation, etc. Fans of drama and comedy shows (e.g., NCIS, Fringe, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Office) know that it’s scripted; at no point do fans think that what they’re watching is real. There’s one more genre we haven’t mentioned is reality TV shows. What sets these apart from most other shows on television is their claim that viewers are getting 30-60 minutes of unscripted content. But with so much drama packed into one episode, sometimes we are left wondering if the reality show is even real. While some live up to their name, there are plenty that lie to their fans using scripts and editing. Here are 40 shows that you didn’t know were fake:

1. The Voice

Like other reality TV shows, The Voice is a singing competition where the public gets the chance to vote for the best singer. The contestants go through a series of challenges, being judged by some of the most famous people in the world, like Adam Lavigne and Ariana Grande. 

Image source: Instagram NBC 

Low Cut Connie singer Adam Weiner was contacted to judge for the show, but he declined. According to Adam, the shows don’t have auditions, and the contestants are precast. Aside from the unfair NDAs contestants have to sign, the network has the power to eliminate them for any reason. 

2. Dancing With The Stars

A reality show about your favorite celebrities dancing was bound to get people watching. But the focus of this show is more of the drama among the stars than dancing. Fans believe that producers script the show just for entertainment. The great thing about celebrities is they don’t hold back. 

Image source: Dancing with the stars on Facebook

Wendy Williams says she was eliminated from the show because she refused to follow the script. According to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air actor Alfonso Ribeiro, comments are edited to create problems between the contestants. If they can easily stir up drama, is this show really real? 

3. The Bachelor and The Bachelorette

The Bachelor and Bachelorette series have been running for years, with 30 suitors fighting for the love of an attractive Bachelor of Bachelorette. Although a competition like this is bound to stir various emotions, former contestants claim that the show is edited to seem more chaotic.

Image source: The Bachelor on Facebook

Megan Parris was a former season 13 contestant who claims that the producers will do anything to make the show dramatic, including calling the contestants names to say what they want. According to former contestants, coaching and quality editing seem to make the show popular after all these years. 

4. Storage Wars

The Storage Wars show follows professionals as they bid to win unpaid storage units to sell what they find inside. According to former Storage Wars star David Hester, the show is completely fake. He claims that the units are stashed right before filming the episodes. 

Image source: Storage Wars on Facebook

After the network fired David, he filed a complaint where he revealed that almost every aspect of the show isn’t real. Everything is staged for the cameras. The show’s producers also pay people to script every interaction, like interviews with buyers and auctioneers. 

5. Jersey Shore

The drama, romance, and fights on MTV’s Jersey Shore were only a few things that made it one of the most popular shows on TV. The original show aired from 2009 to 2012, and you’ll be surprised to know that most of it wasn’t real. 

Image source: Jersey Shore on Facebook

Although some incidents were real, the producers also created shots of fake scenarios. According to break out star Snooki, the producers edited the show to the point that the members didn’t even know what was happening. She was clear that the cast wasn’t scripted, so the fault lies with the producers. 

6. Pawn Stars

It’s always interesting watching individuals walk into the world-famous Gold and Silver Pawn Shop to sell their valuable possessions. They even made a show about it. But did you know the producers invited those individuals? Because, according to Nevada state laws, you can’t film anyone without their consent. 

Image source: Pawn Stars on Facebook

Pawn Stars is about as real as any other reality show. Some extras claim that the show takes almost an hour to shoot, though the screen time is only five minutes. One extra also claimed that producers usually ran other people out of the store and left a few who signed up as extras. 

7. Hell’s Kitchen

According to the producers of Hell’s Kitchen, the show is real. They say that the only script is for star Gordon Ramsay’s explanations and challenges. The show also uses unique criteria to ensure that the contestants have enough chemistry for more organic feuds.

Image source: Hell’s Kitchen Instagram

Many people like this show because of the intense competition with real and paying guests in actual restaurants. But, everything from the guests to the restaurant where it’s taking place is staged. Former contestants claim that the producers also messed up their dishes to make the show more dramatic. 

8. Master Chef

Another Gordon Ramsay show that isn’t completely real is the MasterChef. This competitive cooking show started in the UK in 1990 and quickly gained popularity. With such a long run, it’s no surprise that some parts of the show aren’t real. 

Image source: Master Chef on Instagram

One of the former participants in the show, Ben Starr, claims that producers edited their sentences to create new statements and would overstress them to make them more irritable while filming. We can’t blame you for thinking all the MasterChef spinoffs might be fake. But reports say that MasterChef Australia is more natural. 

9. Bridezilla

While the brides who appear on the Bridezilla show are planning to marry, they are paid for their appearance. The We TV show follows brides as they cause trouble and wreak havoc while preparing for their weddings. With the show’s name, you would think most people know what they are signing up for. 

Image source: Bridezillas on Facebook

But season 2 bride Julia Swinton sued producers for misleading her about the nature of the show when she signed up. According to her, the reality show is far from reality. Although every bride has their fair share of demands for their weddings, bride Melissa claims that the producers would often want her to recreate scenes and add more drama. 

10. Vanderpump Rules

The Vanderpump Rules is a spinoff of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills show that follows the life of restaurateur Lisa Vanderpump as she manages her SUR eatery. The drama and feuds between her workers who also wanted to focus on their ambitions, make for great television. But is it real? 

Image source: Vanderpump Rules on Facebook

The former models turned waitresses usually bicker and fight under Lisa’s supervision. With all the resources spent on the show, it’s no surprise that producers manipulated the filming to make it more dramatic for TV. A lot of scenes on the show were not real. Moments like reconciliations between the cast had to be filmed again for the camera. 

11. American Pickers

American Pickers is an American reality TV show that follows hosts — Fritz and Wolfe — around the state as they buy antique items hidden in people’s homes for their own collection or to resell to other clients. Most people think the show is staged, but many believe host Mike Wolfe is a pro at buying and reselling antique items. 

Image source: American Pickers via MikeWolfe on Instagram

According to rumors about the show, the hosts may not even pick the items. Some people who appeared on the show claim the producers reached out to them weeks before the episode. This setup makes more sense because they want to save time and sell what’s valuable. 

12. Duck Dynasty

The Duck Dynasty reality show follows the wealthy Robinsons’ family as they run their successful duck-hunting business in Louisiana. With 11 seasons, there was plenty of family and business drama in this family to keep viewers coming back for more. But a lot of it was staged. 

Image source: Duck Dynasty on Facebook

Unlike other reality TV shows that attempted to be real, producers gave the cast of Duck Dynasty scenarios to act out for the cameras. The show’s stars don’t hide the fact that theirs was a guided reality show, and the viewers loved every second of it. 

13. Basketball Wives

Most reality shows focus on the lives of the rich and famous, and Basketball Wives isn’t any different. The VH1 show follows women’s lives in romantic relationships with professional NBA stars. Where there is money and love, there will be drama, too. 

Image source: Basketball Wives on Facebook

If you’ve watched the show, you’ll hardly believe that some scenes are real. One of the basketball wives Tana Young, claims that producers purposely created drama between the women for ratings. If the show centers around drama, it’s not surprising that the producers would create their own to keep fans tuning into the show. 

14. American Idol

Another singing competition that made it to the list is American Idol. Like the show The Voice, this show’s contestants don’t audition. Those who are lucky enough to perform in front of the judges are already chosen ahead of time through a different screening process. 

Image source: American Idol on Instagram

The producers do most of the work by looking for and inviting these contestants to participate in the show. Since it began in 2002, the show has had plenty of judges, including legendary singer Mariah Carey. She called her time on the show the worst experience of her life, adding that the show was boring and fake. 

15. Cake Boss

Cake Boss stars renowned chef Buddy Valastro as he tries to make outrageous cakes with the help of his family and staff. Considering this is his show, it’s surprising that he is rarely at the bakery where the show takes place. He is only there when filming. 

Image source: Cake Boss on Facebook

The Cake Boss show has been part of pop culture for years, but even the cake reveals are not real. With demanding clients and short deadlines, this show had all the drama for reality TV. From cake falling down the stairs to inedible cakes, there is a lot about Carlos Bakery Shop that isn’t real. 

16. The Jerry Springer Show

You shouldn’t be surprised to find this show on this list because of how outrageous it is. From couple fights to parental reveals, the drama on this show keeps getting more and more unbelievable. The Jerry Springer Show has been on the air for years, so it’s not shocking that some scenes are staged for the camera. 

Image source: The Jerry Springer Show on Facebook

The contestants who appear on the show are instructed to be as overdramatic as possible. Some of the fights look staged, and if you’ve never seen one of the guests laughing during a ‘fight,’ you know it’s not real. The security guards on standby and Jerry are there to ensure the safety of all the guests. 

17. Survivor

Although most of what you see on Survivor is real, the show collects hours of footage that they can piece together to fit their narrative. Despite the show’s name, the contestants aren’t worried about surviving these tough conditions because the crew will always be there to help. 

Image source: Survivor on Instagram

From helping the contestants start fires to giving them food on set, there is a lot that the crew does behind the scenes. The producers also coach the contestants and tell them what to wear. Not everyone can survive in these conditions, so the contestants are provided with necessities like tampons and contact-lens solutions while on the desert island. 

18. The Biggest Loser

The Biggest Loser is about obese or overweight contestants competing for a cash prize. The show’s winner is the one with the highest ratio of weight loss to their starting weight. Throughout its 17 seasons, the show has faced a lot of controversies, including the fact that they fake weigh-ins and promote unhealthy weight loss methods. 

Image source: The Biggest Loser on Facebook

From the accounts of former contestants, the famous scale you see on the screen isn’t even real. Some of them are also made to appear lazy when they aren’t. With former contestants admitting to taking drastic measures before weigh-ins, it is clear that this show goes to extremes to create drama for TV. 

19. Property Brothers

The Property Brothers features twin brothers who are licensed real estate agents, but they tried acting before settling on the reality show. Like other reality shows on the list, this show has been accused of being scripted. Drew doesn’t do all the house hunting despite what the show makes viewers believe.

Image source: Property Brothers on Facebook

With all they have on their plate, they can’t handle doing everything necessary for the show. That’s why the duo likes working with clients who have chosen a house or already paid for it. So when they take clients around to look at the homes, it’s only for TV. 

20. MTV Cribs

If you were watching TV during the peak of MTV, you would remember MTV Cribs as the best show to watch. Who didn’t want to see how the rich and famous live? MTV was invited to lavish celebrity mansions with swimming pools and basketball courts that we could only dream of. 

Image source: MTV Cribs on Facebook

You’ll be happy to know that some of the houses did not belong to the respective celebrities. They were staged or rented houses to use for the show. The Yin Yang twin stars rented a place they hadn’t seen before filming. Rapper Birdman also rented a 1972 Chevy Phantom for his episode on the show. 

21. MTV Catfish

Interviews with executives reveal that not everything about this show is real. The producers stage most of what happens before filming begins. Although Catfish has plenty of memorable moments, it is clear everything isn’t spontaneous. The catfishers already have mics on by the time they appear on the screen.

Image source: MTV Catfish on Instagram

There is no way the catfisher doesn’t know that there is a crew pulling up to their driveway, and the producers usually know the end of the show before the hosts do. To ensure the safety of the crew and host, background checks are carried out on the catfishers, so there is no room for surprise when they’re revealed.

22. Divorce Court

One of television’s longest-running shows, Divorce Court, has some real aspects, but no one wants to get a divorce on TV. Even though the couples and their drama are real, the judges don’t grant the divorce. Watching a couple argue about their marriage feels awkward, but this show still has great ratings. 

Image Source: Divorce Court on Facebook

The show started with actors playing the real couples, but things have changed over the years. Now, producers need the participants to be as dramatic as possible for the cameras. The courtroom is also full of paid actors, so it’s no surprise they have to sign non-disclosure agreements to appear on the show. 

23. Total Divas

The Total Divas show aired on E! Network starring Nikki and Brie Bella. The show followed WWE female wrestlers navigating their work and romantic relationships. As usual for reality TV, there was a lot of drama between the sisters on the show. Nikki admitted that the producers would fabricate most of the drama on the show for ratings. 

Image Source: Total Divas on Facebook

Like Summer Rae, some stars of the show claim that the Total Divas depicted her as a villain, but that isn’t who she is. She said she had to stir the pot because it was her first season. The show ran for nine seasons before ending in 2019. 

24. The Simple Life

The Simple Life features Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie as they are thrust into ordinary situations to see how they react. Although it was marketed as a reality show, most of the scenes on the show were fake. Paris even claimed she was playing a ditzier characterization of her real self on the show. 

Image Source: The Simple Life on Facebook

According to Paris, the producers told her and Nicole to create personas to make the show more interesting. Nicole was told to act like the troublemaker. If you’ve heard Paris Hilton’s real voice, you know, she even faked how she sounds, though fans didn’t notice until years later. 

25. Wife Swap

The thought of swapping your wife even for a few days sounds weird, but they made a show about it that caught viewers’ attention. With such a complicated premise for Wife Swap, there is no doubt that some aspects of the show are fake and staged for entertainment.  

Image Source: Wife Swap on Instagram

From hiring actors to creating dramatic situations, the producers do more than direct this show. Some family members were given roles and stereotypes to add drama to the episodes. According to rumors, producers will even turn to the kids to create drama for the show. 

26. Naked and Afraid

Like other shows on the list, Discovery’s Naked and Afraid also faces accusations of being fake. From producers airing lies to misrepresenting the contestants, many aspects of this show are created for TV. The contestants also get medical supplies from the crew. Considering it’s located only a few miles from civilization, it’s no surprise that it’s not all real. 

Image Source: Naked and Afraid on Facebook

Through the 13 seasons of this reality show, fans have seen enough to question whether the contestants fend for themselves in the wild for 21 days. Over the years, former contestants revealed behind-the-scenes secrets about the show. According to them, producers provoke drama to catch it on camera. 

27. Beauty and the Geek

Beauty and the Geek is another American reality TV series that began airing on WB in 2005. The show was termed a social experiment, putting geeks and beautiful women to work on challenges together. Putting these opposites together was bound to make for good TV. 

Image Source: Beauty and the Geek Australia on Facebook

The Beauty and the Geek Australia got into trouble when one of the geeks, Daniel Devenyi-Botos, admitted to being an actor for the show. Many of the beauties also admitted to acting dumb for the camera. The producers use clever editing to bend reality to make it a more interesting show. 

28. Southern Charm

The Southern Charm follows the glitz and glamour of modern-day Charleston aristocrats as they go about their normal lives. With all the drama this show can cause to their reputation, you know the stakes are high to survive. It’s even hard to believe that the cast members are all friends. 

Image source: Southern Charm on Facebook

One former cast member revealed that producers use focus groups when casting, so they might not even be close when the cameras are off. Other members have also been caught faking their lifestyles for the show, like Jenna King. She showed off a huge four-bedroom mansion later revealed to be rented for her Bravo shoot. 

29. Long Island Medium

TLC’s Long Island Medium ran for 9 seasons starring self-professed medium Theresa Caputo. Although fans kept tuning into the show, it shouldn’t be too much of a shock that a person claiming to contact the dead is lying to you. The Long Island Medium reality show wasn’t any different. 

Image source: Long Island Medium on Facebook

Because it was filmed, the show used hot reading techniques, which is when the supposed medium does research beforehand. They did this through questionnaires and guests’ social media for more details about their personal lives. Although Theresa has never admitted to being a fake, plenty of exposés say otherwise. 

30. Famously Single

The Famously Single reality TV series on E Network premiered in 2016. It follows beautiful and single celebrities trying to date and enjoy romantic relationships. If you’ve watched the show, you can tell it is staged, and the contestants don’t seem interested. 

Image source: Famously Single on E Network

The show stages most scenes as the celebrities attempt to find love through dating. The team behind the show claims that it wasn’t The Bachelor or The Bachelorette so that the stars won’t find love. Instead, they will have the tools to find the right person after leaving the show. 

31. Rich Kids of Beverly Hills

Following the lives of the young and famous kids in Beverly Hills, this reality show is about kids who grew up as millionaires and are dealing with normal life situations. The only way to make this show entertaining was to stage some of the drama because it was already a common script in reality TV. 

Image source: Rich Kids of Beverly Hills on Instagram

After four seasons, fans were surprised that the show wouldn’t be coming back. That usually happens when the ratings are low or viewers lose interest. In 2016, one of the main cast members, Morgan Stewart, revealed that they would film a conversation for almost two hours, which translated to only 2 minutes on screen. 

32. I am Cait

Another E! Network show that’s made it to this list is I am Cait starring Caitlyn Jenner. This documentary-style reality show doesn’t do much to highlight the problems of transgender people, as most viewers thought it would. For instance, the long-awaited meeting between the Kardashian sisters and Caitlyn was staged. 

Image source: I am Cait on E Network

Although Caitlyn shared statistics about the high suicide rate among transgender teens, it seems she was reading from a script. The editing and rehearsed speeches on the show are typical for any reality TV show on E Network. It was far from the reality shows fans were expecting.

33. Keeping Up with the Kardashians

This list wouldn’t be complete without Keeping Up with the Kardashian and its spinoffs. This famous family has been rumored to do everything from being in relationships to faking marriages just for a storyline on the show. In 2014, a producer for the show admitted that scenes with Kim and Kris Humphries were reshot and scripted. 

Image source: Keeping Up With the Kardashians on Facebook

Although most scenes on the show are real, some scenes are visibly scripted for entertainment. Fans have pointed out that the scene where the family finds out about Tristan’s cheating was dramatized for effect. From their facial expressions to the dialogue when they heard the news, it seems staged. 

34. Project Runway

Project Runway is a television series about fashion design. Contestants compete to make the best clothes with little time and material. With a specific theme for each challenge and contestants trying their best to finish their pieces, this show makes entertaining TV. 

Image source: Project Runway on Facebook

Former contestant Jack Mackenroth revealed that the whole show was a scam. He says that the judges don’t even judge the show. The show is edited to make their favorite contestant look good in the eyes of the viewer. At least the work the designers did was real. 

35. E! True Hollywood Story

This documentary television series details the lives of some of the most famous stars in Hollywood. From actors to directors and musicians, this reality series featured episodes about all the celebrities in  Hollywood. You’ll be surprised to know that it’s not all true. 

Image source: E True Hollywood Story

While some of the details about the celebrities are real, some aspects of the show are exaggerated for dramatic effect. A large chunk of the details is untrue, which might be why the show has never been nominated for an Emmy.  

36. Ghost Hunters

Do you believe in ghosts? Whether you believe in them or not, watching people investigate locations rumored to be haunted by ghosts is exciting. Unfortunately, the investigators on Ghost Hunters aren’t as fun as they seem and are accused of psychologically abusing the crew to create the show they want. 

Image source: Ghost Hunters on SYFY

One of the investigators on the show, Donna LaCroix, revealed that they have staging locations to create fake paranormal evidence as part of the show. When leaving the show, host Wilson also claimed that they relied too much on gimmicks to keep the show afloat, which says a lot about how real it is.

37. Love Island

The next reality show about finding love on this list is Love Island. With plenty of jaw-dropping moments on the show, fans quickly began speculating that the show was fake. Although the show insists that they are real, details from former contestants prove otherwise. 

Image source: Love Island on Facebook

Representatives of Love Island say that the show was a combination of produced elements and reality. Former contestants revealed that the producers coached them to talk about certain topics on camera. They were asked to refilm conversations with other members or inform the crew before doing certain things. 

38. Breaking Amish

A reality show about leaving the only home and culture you’ve ever known to experience life in the city is bound to keep eyes glued to the screen. That’s the premise of the show Breaking Amish where teens leave their Amish community to see what the rest of the world is like. 

Image source: Breaking Amish on Facebook

Soon after Breaking Amish aired, people called out how unreal the show seemed. Most cast members had left the Amish community years before, and other members who claimed to have never met already had a child together. According to former cast member Jeremiah Raber, only 60% of the show was real. 

39. WWE

Yes, WWE isn’t all real. If you watch carefully, you will see how fake the feuds and exaggerated drama are to create an interesting story that will keep viewers watching. If you believed The Undertaker came back from the dead, then we’re here to break it to you — it wasn’t real. 

Image source: WWE on Facebook

WWE is scripted, story-driven, and performed for entertainment purposes according to wrestling promotions. Everything is scripted, from what they do to what they say. Most fights are also choreographed to reduce the risk of injury or death. Even the results of the matches are decided beforehand. 

40. Pimp My Ride

MTV and Xzibit had one of the most popular shows on TV with Pimp My Ride. Everyone wanted to see a run-down car turned into a swaggy new ride with speakers and everything else you could want in your vehicle. Or so we thought. A lot of the restoration you saw on the show wasn’t real. 

Image source: Pimp My Ride on Facebook

Most of the fittings in the new pimped cars didn’t even work. They were only placed there for the cameras. According to a Huffington Post exposé, the contestants were briefed about the show before filming. Some even appeared on the show only because they had a friend who worked on the set.