We’ve all seen the disclaimers on our favorite reality shows. Yes, the ones that tell the audience that the episodes could mess around with the edit to heighten the drama. But just how real are these so-called factual entertainment shows anyway? And when Seth Rogen and James Franco appeared on Naked and Afraid, just how naked and afraid were they? Well, here’s a closer look at 20 staples of the U.S. TV schedules – including everything from house-hunting ventures to survival missions – that might have been duping their viewers for years.
20. Fixer Upper
HGTV show Fixer Upper sees husband and wife team Joanna and Chip Gaines renovate a property in dire need of some love. The pair ask a prospective buyer, who will benefit from the pair’s DIY expertise, to choose from three different houses for the project. However, it turns out that the decision has usually already been made.
Yes, all the agonized decision-making is just for show – as each client has typically bought the house in question before the Gaines get to work. And that isn’t the only deceit. You see, not every room in the house gets the Fixer Upper treatment. Rumors have floated about that Chip puts down his tools the minute the cameras stop rolling, too.
19. What Not to Wear
What Not to Wear had a pretty impressive run, with Clinton Kelly and Stacy London offering fashion advice across ten seasons. But the pair weren’t always the stylish saviors they professed to be. For one thing, the stars were heavily assisted by another fashion consultant off-camera – according to a Reddit thread. And it’s claimed Kelly and London often left the participants out of pocket.
What’s more, some say those who subjected themselves to a sartorial inspection ended up having all their clothes donated to charity. And sometimes the $5,000 they were given by the show wasn’t enough to build an entirely new wardrobe. To make matters worse, participants reportedly had to shell out for any tailoring and haircuts, too.
18. House Hunters
House Hunters has a simple premise. A couple visit three different properties before deciding on which one they would like to call home. But to make things even simpler, the pair have usually chosen their new abode long before the camera crew comes to town. Its home network, HGTV, sees nothing wrong with this lifehack, though.
In a 2012 statement released to Entertainment Weekly, a representative admitted, “We’re making a television show, so we manage certain production and time constraints while honoring the home-buying process. To maximize production time, we seek out families who are pretty far along in the process. Often everything moves much more quickly than we can anticipate, so we go back and revisit some of the homes that the family has already seen and we capture their authentic reactions.”
17. The Real Housewives
The Real Housewives franchise is unarguably the jewel in Bravo’s reality TV crown. The shows follow the day-to-day lives of various impossibly rich women from across the United States. Cue a whole host of luxurious getaways, astonishing spending sprees and – perhaps most notably – dramatic catfights. When it comes to the last, however, it seems that the housewives are simply playing pretend.
This is despite producers likely claiming that all the heated debates on display are entirely authentic. You see, during the filming of one particular episode in New York, onlookers reportedly noticed something very odd about these unscripted interactions. The crowd said that not only would those involved constantly pause for the benefit of the cameramen, but they would also often reshoot their conversations several times, too.
16. Beachfront Bargain Hunt
Beachfront Bargain Hunt producers certainly used their fair share of artistic license for one particular episode. The HGTV show sees realtors guide interested parties through several beachfront properties before asking them to settle on one. However, on one occasion, the property professional featured essentially ended up showing herself and her husband around their own home!
How did this happen? Well, when the realtor couldn’t find a client with a property that met producers’ stipulations, she informed them that her recently acquired home did. Subsequently, she and her partner ended up playing both agent and buyer for the cameras. The pair also had to pretend that it was the height of summer when, in fact, it was the end of winter.
15. Say Yes to the Dress
One of TLC’s longest-running reality shows, Say Yes to the Dress does exactly what it implies in the title. A bride chooses the outfit in which she will walk down the aisle – with assistance from her loved ones and a fashion expert. Unfortunately for the newlywed-to-be, though, the experience is never as glamorous as it looks on camera.
For one thing, the size of the New York boutique is much tinier than most expect. Brides generally are only given about 90 minutes to choose their dress for the big day, too, and they reportedly only get a small selection to peruse. And it’s said the resident expert will often persuade several participants to choose the same dress as a way of saving time and earning more money.
14. Basketball Wives
Basketball Wives has made stars of those who would normally be in the shadows of their sporting partners. Jackie Christie, the spouse of NBA star Doug, and Shaunie O’Neal, the ex-wife of the legendary Shaquille, are just two of the names who have risen to fame on the reality show. But some of its cast members wish they’d never signed up.
Tanya Young, the ex-wife of basketball great Jayson Williams, was one such disgruntled participant. In an article for website The Daily Beast, Young claimed that the constant disharmony on the show was all stirred up by producers behind the scenes. In a chat with Complex, NBA star Matt Barnes also alleged that Basketball Wives is essentially a scripted drama.
13. Love It or List It
Airing on HGTV from 2008 until 2015, Love It or List It supposedly gave homeowners quite the dilemma: buy a new house chosen by a realtor or stick with their current place that the show has given an incredible makeover. However, the decision you see on camera isn’t necessarily the one that was made away from it.
In a revealing Reddit thread, one individual alleged that their uncle and aunt had been asked to film two separate endings for the show. Producers then selected which take made for better TV. In this particular example, the couple decided to stay put – but were shown putting their house on the market.
Bridezillas has become one of the most popular wedding-based reality shows thanks to its never-ending array of participants prone to throwing tantrums over the tiniest setback. You may wonder why anyone would willingly sign up for a show whose title implies they are some kind of monster. Well, it turns out that apparently, some don’t.
One bridezilla, Julia Swinton-Williams, believed that she was partaking in a slightly more refined documentary with the name of Manhattan Bride while filming took place. And she ended up filing a lawsuit against producers for the apparent deceit. Cynthia Silver, another demanding bride-to-be, alleged that she was also subjected to similar trickery.
11. Property Brothers
Property Brothers episodes usually begin with prospective buyers falling in love with houses – only to be informed that they’re way out of their price ranges. Hosts Jonathan and Drew Scott then help them to find other, cheaper properties that can be transformed into their ideal homes. But all this initial heartbreak is all just for show.
Yes, to make it on to the show, a participant already has to be in the process of renovating or purchasing a fixer-upper. So all the footage of them walking around a completely different dream property is only to heighten all the drama. And this means that realtor brother Drew is essentially surplus to requirements.
10. Mystery Diners
Mystery Diners is supposed to shame those restaurant workers who slack off while cooking, cleaning or serving. In one episode, for instance, a man dubbed Chef Dave was shown to be responsible for the notable amount of food and supplies that went missing in Arizona eatery The Grove Bar and Grill. However, this particular chef didn’t need to worry about never finding employment again.
And that’s because the man in question was allegedly never a chef in the first place. Yes, reportedly Dave Germain wasn’t a thieving cook at all – but an actor playing one. And his ties with the showbiz industry don’t end there. He also owns the Tempe-based company known as Disjointed Productions LLC.
9. Breaking Amish
The Amish community has often been a source of intrigue in the genre of reality TV. And in 2012 TLC decided to shine the spotlight on five youngsters leaving their secluded community for the bright lights of the Big Apple in Breaking Amish. However, this wasn’t the massive culture shock that the show claimed it to be.
Online reports claimed Jeremiah Raber, one of the teens featured in the show, had already spent time outside his Amish community. Abe and Rebecca, meanwhile, were supposed to have only clapped eyes on each other for the first time during filming. Yet according to the Daily Mail, the pair were already an item – and indeed parents – when cameras started rolling.
8. Jersey Shore
Jersey Shore was undoubtedly one of the defining reality shows of the 2000s. The MTV series launched the likes of Nicole Polizzi, a.k.a. Snooki, to worldwide fame – and even spawned a British spin-off, Geordie Shore. But the wild and rowdy behavior you often saw on screen wasn’t exactly spontaneous.
According to a Daily Beast interview with a Jersey Shore extra, everything about the show was scripted to within an inch of its life. Remember that dramatic showdown between Vinny Guadagnino and Pauly D? Well, the pair were apparently coerced into fighting directly under a streetlamp to create a perfectly lit scene.
7. Storage Wars
Storage Wars might not be the most glamorous of reality TV shows. But it’s struck a chord with nosey viewers who have always wondered exactly what kind of things people like to hoard in such giant lockers. But some skeptics believe that the contents shown aren’t entirely what they seem.
Perhaps worried that the lockers opened may not contain anything remotely of value, producers have allegedly taken to planting items inside them. This would then ensure that those attending the auction have something to bid on, ramping up the drama. However, publicists for the show’s network, A&E, have denied that such interference takes place.
6. Undercover Boss
It’s hard to imagine that anyone being followed by an unconvincingly disguised recruit on camera doesn’t realize they’re on Undercover Boss. The CBS show has been on air since 2010, after all. But it’s not the employees’ reactions that have been questioned when it comes to the authenticity of the series.
At the end of each episode, the undercover boss typically claims that they will make positive changes within their company based on what they’ve witnessed. Unfortunately for their employees, though, these promises can turn out to be empty. According to reports, many bosses will end up completely forgetting what they said once they go back to the day job.
5. South Beach Tow
You perhaps can’t blame producers for trying to stir things up a bit on South Beach Tow. It would undoubtedly have been tough to make four seasons of a series about a car-towing company without a little creative tinkering, after all. But if reports are to be believed, the makers of the truTV show surely went a little overboard with their interference.
Allegedly, there was hardly anything real about the day-to-day running of the Miami Beach-based towing company featured on the show. According to reports, each storyline, including the dramatic rivalry with a neighboring firm, came from a script. You may also be surprised to know that one of its creators was none other than all-singing, all-dancing Hollywood star Jennifer Lopez!
4. Cake Boss
Running for no fewer than ten seasons, Cake Boss followed the fortunes of Carlo’s Bakery and its owner Buddy Valastro. The TLC show featured a mouth-watering array of wedding, birthday and other celebration cakes during its lengthy run. But although the cakes were very real, it seems the same couldn’t always be said of the events surrounding them.
Yes, many of the occasions for which the Valastro family were shown busy preparing were staged purely for the series. And although Buddy is indeed the head honcho at the family establishment, he’s not exactly as involved as the cameras portrayed. In fact, it’s claimed he’s barely at the cake shop when the crew isn’t around.
3. Pawn Queens
Airing in 2010, Pawn Queens lasted just ten episodes before being pulled by its home network, TLC. Perhaps viewers could sense that the whole thing was a sham? Apparently, the two women portrayed as long-time aspiring pawnshop owners had never had such a dream. They reportedly auditioned for the show without knowing anything about what it entailed.
In fact, it seems one of the two main stars had been a dental assistant who had no experience or knowledge of the pawnshop industry. To try and get audiences invested, then, producers allegedly came up with an entirely fictional backstory for her in which she’d always been fascinated with opening a store. But viewers evidently didn’t buy it.
2. Duck Dynasty
It would probably be quicker to list the things that are real about Duck Dynasty than those that aren’t. Even the Robertson family themselves have freely admitted that they regularly talk over storylines with producers before filming begins. It’s a process that the hirsute duck hunters have described as “guided reality.”
But perhaps one of the Robertsons’ most surprising acts of deception is their appearances. The men of the family are renowned for the long beards that would put even ZZ Top to shame. And yet pictures taken long before they ever graced the A&E network show they were all once preppy-looking and entirely clean-shaven.
1. Naked and Afraid
Naked and Afraid is one of the most revealing reality shows out there – literally. Yes, as its title implies, those who are transported to a remote, isolated setting are then stripped bare in the ultimate survival challenge. However, it turns out that participants aren’t left to fend for themselves as much as the show claims.
Although contestants are supposed to live off the land entirely, producers are apparently all too happy to give them certain supplies. Tampons, vitamins and prescription medication are just a few of the items that are allegedly dished out to wannabe survivalists away from the cameras. So participants may be naked, but it seems like they don’t necessarily need to be afraid. The episode featuring Seth Rogen and James Franco was a hilarious spoof of the whole scenario, too.
What about other reality shows? Well, over the years, the History channel’s Pawn Stars has carved out a reputation as one of the most popular reality shows on U.S. television. What’s more, Rick, Corey, the Old Man and everyone’s favorite, Chumlee, have been propelled to superstar status off the back of the series. But for everything this landmark show reveals about the pawn store business, there’s still plenty more going on behind the scenes.
20. The crew enjoyed a private Lynyrd Skynyrd gig
It’s no secret that ’70s rock legends Lynyrd Skynyrd wrote and performed the show’s theme music for season four onwards. What you might not know, however, is that when the band went to Las Vegas to meet the guys, they also performed an impromptu gig in the store’s parking lot.
19. Olivia Black wasn’t actually fired
Olivia Black started working the night shift in season five, but afterwards it was revealed that she had done a nude photoshoot for the website Suicide Girls and so was hastily removed from the show. As it turns out, however, it was the network who had an issue with this and not Rick and company. In fact, even after leaving the show Black kept working at the store, before eventually leaving of her own accord.
18. The store was sued for melting down antique coins
Melting down coins for gold is far from uncommon and perfectly legal – provided the coins in question aren’t stolen. But in 2014 a woman traded in a coin collection at Gold & Silver, and the guys did the standard thing and melted them down. It transpired, however, that the seller had actually stolen the coins from her uncle, who later claimed they were worth $50,000 and sued the store.
17. Pawn Plaza isn’t doing so well
To capitalize on the sheer volume of tourists and fans who visit the store, Rick decided to expand, and so the Pawn Plaza was assembled nearby. The plaza offers a variety of shops and eateries and is primarily built from shipping containers. And while initial expectations for it were lofty, four of its stores had to close in 2016, and the future of the ambitious venture remains uncertain.
16. Rick Harrison is something of a bookworm
Some of Rick’s interests, such as his car collection, aren’t all that surprising. But did you know that the businessman is also an avid reader? As it turns out, Rick is extremely well read, and he has a more refined taste in literature than you might expect from a pawnbroker, too.
15. Somebody once pawned a sack of human skulls
Pawn shops take some fairly bizarre inventory at times, and Gold & Silver probably has the best line in weird wares of any pawn shop in America. At one point, for example, somebody brought in a sack of human skulls, which must have been pretty difficult to process. And another customer brought in some Japanese porn that had been doing the rounds for 250 years.
14. The store is full of merchandise
By far the biggest money maker in the Gold & Silver Pawn Shop nowadays is the merchandise, and Chumlee’s line is particularly popular. During filming, however, the cameras are deliberately angled away from all this to make the business seem more authentic. But since the store gets so many fans visiting on a daily basis, the outgoings on merchandise are far greater than from people actually pawning things.
13. Sometimes the trade you see on TV isn’t what it seems
We all know by now that reality TV doesn’t necessarily reflect reality, and even when things seem real, there’s usually a certain amount of massaging going on. For instance, some of the trades you see in the broadcast version of Pawn Stars have happened at least once already. Indeed, if someone brings in an unusual item, they might be asked to come in again at a different time so that the trade can be filmed in more detail.
12. Stolen items have been brought in on several occasions
The melting coin fiasco wasn’t the only time that Rick has taken in stolen goods. In 2009, for example, a man traded in a pair of diamond earrings for $40,000. Barely a day had passed, however, when it transpired that the earrings were actually stolen, and the seller was arrested. The pawn shop isn’t liable when this happens, but they don’t get the money back. Crime doesn’t pay, and it doesn’t hand out refunds, either.
11. The amount of Subway the guys eat is no accident
Clunky product placement is always jarring, but Pawn Stars takes it to another level. Subway is one of the show’s main sponsors, and as a result, you will often see the guys munching away on Subway sandwiches with the logo on the wrapping clearly on display. Even worse, if someone talks about a Subway sandwich on the show they will call it by its proper, branded name. Cringe.
10. Pimps buy jewelry from the store
Some customers are great for TV, others just don’t pop, while others still pop a little bit too much. From time to time, for example, local pimps come into the store to buy jewelry, since they can take it back in later and get half the price as a loan against it. It’s a loophole that allows them to pay bail, since their cash is confiscated when they’re arrested. Interesting, but not entirely suitable for family TV.
9. Deanna’s previous marriage wasn’t plain sailing
Rick got hitched to Deanna Burditt in 2013, but she had been married before, and it didn’t exactly end amicably. Her ex, Richard Burditt, was convicted of forced sexual abuse, but he hasn’t ever served any time for it. Rick cites “bureaucracy” as the reason for that, and the topic is clearly still a sore subject for both him and Deanna.
8. Corey is a keen biker but not always a safe one
Rick’s son Corey is often vocal about his love of motorbikes on the show. What he doesn’t often bring up on camera, however, is his history of bike accidents. One particularly nasty incident occurred in 2014, when Corey was thrown from his bike after a fender mount fell off it and sent it into a tailspin. Unbelievably, he walked away from the encounter with only a fractured hand.
7. Rick reached out to a young fan in the most adorable way
Pawn Stars has plenty of younger fans, and one in particular was given a very special surprise. The boy in question, an autistic child nicknamed Little J, posted a letter to the shop along with his Game Boy in the hope of trading it in for $30. Not only did Rick send the money, but he also returned the Game Boy to the child. Plus, he penned a letter back to Little J thanking him, encouraging him to keep playing and to listen to his mother, along with a signed photo of the cast. Class act.
6. You won’t find the guys behind the counter
When the show started, Gold & Silver was like any other pawn shop – most, if not all, of the business was done over the counter. But now, because of the filming schedule, if you actually go into the store you won’t see Harrison and Russell at work. They’re far more likely to be by the merch stand signing autographs.
5. The store was on TV before the show started
Although Pawn Stars kicked off in 2009, the store had actually already appeared on TV twice. The first time was in 2001 when PBS aired a full-length documentary about the business. And two years later, comedian Dave Attell also turned up at the store to film a segment for his show, Insomniac.
4. The store has a Greek artifact dating back to 325 B.C.
People bring plenty of antiques into Gold & Silver, some of them centuries old. But one coin in particular was on a whole different level. The antique coin proved to be a didrachm from around 325 B.C., which was the ancient Greek equivalent of about two dollars if you don’t adjust for inflation.
3. Between 3,000 and 5,000 visitors call at the shop each day
For most pawn shops, getting 5,000 visitors in a month would be pretty good going, but Gold & Silver get that in a day – sometimes more. The store is inundated with tourists on a daily basis, which is why the way the guys do business has changed so drastically since the show started. In fact, some fans will even go as far as to try and sneak around the back to get a peek at the cast.
2. Rick can’t browse garage sales anymore
Fame can impact on people’s lives in strange and unexpected ways. In Rick’s case, his now well-recognized reputation as a canny, keen-eyed negotiator has meant that at garage sales and swap meets, he’s regarded with suspicion. Some people even hide their wares away before he gets the chance to examine them.
1. The guys got a special invite from Bon Jovi
As if the private Lynyrd Skynyrd show wasn’t awesome enough, the cast were also personally invited to a show by Jon Bon Jovi. According to Chumlee, Bon Jovi’s son wanted to meet them, and so the free gig was bartered in exchange for the meeting. It was a haggling approach that the guys can certainly understand and probably appreciated.