Not everyone that has been on reality TV has had a good experience and some have very interesting tales to tell. Some of the shows include home improvement, Dr. Phil, and more. These are some of the most ridiculous and eye-opening details of life behind the scenes of reality TV. The good and the bad. Content edited for clarity.
"I was on Wife Swap when I was 10 years old. My family had to switch with a farming family and we were supposed to be the ‘city family’ even though my family and I lived in the suburbs. There were plenty of quotes taken out of context as you’d expect. They also incited plenty of drama. I was framed as addicted to video games, so they took my Xbox and Gameboy color for the week. A few days in, one of the crew members came in with my Gameboy and said, 'Look I found this,' and handed it to me. It shouldn’t be surprising that they sent the woman staying in our house into my room to ‘catch me in the act.’
To be honest not much has really changed in my life except getting snap chats of my 10-year-old face when my friends catch the reruns. For anyone who was curious about how much money the show gave us. The initial amount was $20k, but after taxes, it came to around $15k as others had expected.
My mom signed us up for it online. I’m not sure the process, but she kinda just dropped it on us like, 'Hey, we're gonna be on TV!' To be honest, she didn’t really give us an option it was kind of just a 'hey, this is happening' type of thing. I was excited about it but afterward, I was indifferent. I don’t have resentment, I honestly forget about it a lot!
Other than the money I enjoyed few good laughs. After the episode aired two of my friends came up to me while I was in the bathroom at school. I was using the urinal and the came up with paper and pens jokingly asking for my autograph."
"A classmate of mine was on my country's Next Top Model. Before getting into the show, she was asked what kind of hair she would never want to get, so that the producers know about it and wouldn't make her have it during the makeover episode. My classmate had long blonde hair which she really loved, so she said she doesn't want them to cut her hair off, and that she also hated strange, unnatural colors like blue or pink.
Fast forward to the makeover episode. The hairstyling team came in and found her hair unfitting for a model, so she needed to get a makeover, and guess what? Her makeover obviously consisted of a pixie cut and green hair to make her look like a 'punk fairy.'
My classmate cried throughout the entire process, so I guess the producers got the drama they wanted out of this.
They have a contract, so I am not sure how easy it is to say 'no' for hair that just grows back eventually. Not to mention, many participants are brainwashed by the show to believe that they'll actually have a modeling career, so they probably think it's worth the sacrifice. I don't know."
"Extreme Makeover: Home Edition came to our neighborhood once. The family lived a few streets away, right next door to my older brother's best friend (his mother is also my mother's best friend, so we were there a lot). The woman getting the new house was a single mother to five adopted sons, most of whom were sick.
This woman was always NASTY. Her neighbors will tell you she was miserable to be around, petty about people parking in front of her house, yelling at us anytime a wiffleball or frisbee ended up in her yard, and shouting at neighbors about being too loud while having a party. Basically every molehill became a mountain. She was a Karen ahead of her time!
When she got picked for the show, the neighborhood was floored. The show made her out to be a saint among heathens, which we all expected, but knowing the real her, it was just so darn frustrating for all of us. I used to play football with one of her sons, and he would say that life was never that great after the new house because they were constantly under a spotlight now. Everyone suddenly wanted to come over, and they had to keep a police car out front 24/7. They lost all privacy.
They flew away to Disney for the week, and Ty Pennington and the crew got to work and built them a GORGEOUS home. She immediately proceeded to try to sell it for profit, and when that failed, she never paid her property taxes and was ultimately evicted, because the town kept putting a lien on her house.
She was later arrested for fraud. She was claiming her sons were sick in a scheme to defraud the government for support. She had adopted a boy years before who was sick, got funding for him, then when she adopted the others she forged the doctors' notes, attesting that they were also sick. They were not. It all went down the drain for her once they got evicted from the property and the State opened the books on her. She went to jail for five years. You could google all of this."
"I can't even remember what the show was called because I was pretty young, but based on my googling, I think it was 'Three Wishes' on NBC.
I had a neighbor around my age who was pretty sick, and my mom used to give them rides and make the family food and stuff. They brought my mom and me in to interview us, and I remember it just being really awkward and strange. They told me a bunch of stuff to say that I didn't like, and my mom objected to it. Looking back on it now, I realize they were trying to get material for a 'sick kid with only one friend' storyline, but I just wasn't a good enough actor to make it work. They ended up using nothing from us at all.
They trucked snow into their front yard and I got to play in that though, so that was kinda cool as a kid from LA, but then they just left, and between the snow and the equipment they'd used to film, their yard was totally destroyed. They moved away pretty soon after that, so I'm not even sure what happened with them."
"A close friend was on MTV's True Life about having crippling social anxiety disorder (the episode was about different fears people had).
We were a big circle of friends since elementary, and we always knew he was sort of socially awkward and battled with the way he looked (he was super insecure and self-conscious about his looks), and he admittedly got teased the most by the more 'alphas' of the group (the most insecure), but we loved and embraced him and made sure he knew that and that he was equal with us.
Anyway, they filmed us all for a couple of weeks in high school hanging out (this was back in 2001), going out, etc. He was crushing on a girl we knew. In fact, she was part of the larger social circle anyway, and so they convinced him to ask for her number - I guess this was gonna be the storyline they needed. He already had it since we were all one big friend group, but they 'needed something for the story.'
That was like 'the big goal' for his arc. So he asked her one night while we were at the movie theater. She gave it to him, and all was good. They went on one date, but it didn't amount to anything. They remained friends just as they were before.
Fast forward to airing, and I don't know if you remember at the end of each episode, they have just text on a black screen with the final update.
The text for his final update read, 'Despite finally building the courage to ask for her number... She gave him a fake number.' He spiraled after that and it messed him up way more than he was before. He turned to substances to cope (since he was basically humiliated on MTV with hundreds of millions of viewers).
He unfortunately passed away from an overdose a few years later. Miss you goomba!
Coincidentally, MTV has done everything it can to wipe that episode off the internet and pretend it never existed. We've never been able to find it, and a few of us are very google-fu inclined and resourceful with internet-archival retrieval, but it's nowhere to be found. Every other episode is available though. They know they messed up."
"We hired a party planner, and she had worked with someone who did 'My Super Sweet Sixteen' before, and MTV reached out to her to see if I would be on it. I was super excited and wanted to do it, but then they had a whole list of demands:
The party needed to exceed a certain dollar limit (I can't remember what it was, but it was quite high, like 20-30k just for one aspect of it, and my mom immediately shut it down), they wanted someone else besides MIMS to perform (for those of you not familiar, This Is Why I'm Hot was a high school banger at the time) because he wasn't big enough for them, and they wanted confirmation I would basically be dramatic or be willing to add elements of drama. I vividly remember the planner talking about them needing a big moment, like making my invites really dramatic, or me getting upset about something at the party.
We noped out of that, and I remember the planner was really relieved after I made the decision. The saddest part though was a really popular radio DJ came and deejayed for us, and the next Monday on our area's most popular morning radio talk show, he said he did a sweet 16 bday that weekend and the host (who my family loved and I grew up listening to) said any kid who had a party like that was a brat and would never contribute anything too positive to society. So many kids at school heard it too, and everyone was either laughing about it or coming up to me asking me how I felt about it. It sucked.
Thankfully the DJ stuck up for me and brought up that I was just a kid, and he thought I was really nice and liked my family. He also mentioned I had asked everyone to bring something for the ASPCA and ended up donating over a thousand dollars of gifts/checks to them from the party. So that was the good part, but yeah, nothing like a grown man telling countless listeners that you as a child will never contribute anything positive to society because you had one big birthday as a kid."
"I was on a dog training tv show when I was eight-ish. The idea was that the dog trainer came in and helped our family integrate our new puppy into our household, to give us training tips and advice.
The whole thing was basically bogus. The 'trainer' came to our house for maybe 30 minutes tops and gave us extremely basic advice. The producers also told us we had to get changed and pretend that he was visiting us three months later, after he gave us the advice, and how it had made our life better. It's so dumb, because our puppy was clearly the same age in the 'before' and 'three months after' shots, and my family aren't actors, so our reactions were really fake.
One of the producers also made me say, 'I love you, [dog's name]!' while hugging him for about six takes.
It was a really small TV show in Canada that ran for maybe three seasons in the late '90s.
His advice in the end was good, just really basic. I remember him telling my parents that the kids needed to spend quality time with the dog to bond with him and to give us responsibilities like picking up his poop and taking him for walks. He also mentioned that the kids should spend five minutes a day petting the dog and talking to him.
In the end, it wasn't harmful advice, but it wasn't exactly groundbreaking either."
"A friend of a friend's Mustang was in South Beach Tow. The business (Tremont Towing I think) is a legit towing business.
One of the directors came up to him and told him that his car was being towed for some infraction (it was the friend's fault entirely, so the towing business was in the right). But before that, he was told that if he agreed to be in the scene, they'll have everything set up for his grand entrance, and if he acted all surprised or made a scene, they'll just give him back the car at the pound.
He himself didn't agree to it because he didn't want his face shown on TV, and the director was cool with it. He did allow the car to be in the scene though. On the flip of a switch, suddenly two actors came out of nowhere (a couple), and they filmed the scene. You had these two people freaking out about a Mustang being towed that wasn't really theirs. He thought it was hilarious.
Thankfully, even though he didn't agree to be in the scene, apparently he was so chill with the entire thing and with the crew that they just gave him his car back.
From what I was told, he figured that since it was gonna be towed anyways, they can do what they want, so long as they don't damage it (even if they did, they assured him that they're all insured and that if any damages occur to let them know). He calls it a win."
"There was a family near me that was on a show similar to Extreme Makeover. They had adopted three of four kids with severe disabilities, I think all of them were in wheelchairs. The house wasn't suitable for their care. And to top off the 'good TV ratings,' the parents were a gay couple. This was a good few years ago. From what I gather, the house that was built for them was too expensive to maintain. It was custom created perfectly for the children's needs and even had future care for them as they got older.
Obviously, the production crew just saw a gay couple with a bunch of adopted disabled kids and thought they would make great TV. They gave them a new house and never thought about how they were supposed to afford the bills on that property. It's so sad because I'm pretty sure they had to sell this perfect home in the end. Mind you, since then the family has become a pillar of the local community. They run all kinds of things for special needs children in the area. In one sense, their overnight local fame led to them becoming probably the most outstanding family in our tiny town. That family deserves to win the jackpot lotto for all the good they do for this community."
"Jupiter Entertainment reenacts true stories for shows like For My Man, Vengeance, Fatal Attraction, Homicide Hunters, etc. Much of the acting is filmed with no sound, because the voice-over will be explaining the story.
I was already aware of Jupiter when a young lady knocked on my door. It so happened they were filming next door and needed part of my yard. We got along very well, and that's when it started.
They have filmed many shows at my house. I usually hide in a corner of the kitchen and watch them film. I swear it's more entertaining than the shows!
Let me say that Jupiter has some of the nicest people I have ever met. The entertainment world was totally foreign to me until I met them and the actors, the 'talent.' These people are, for the most part, so kind and charming and funny!
It's fabulous to be so entertained and get paid at the same time.
One scene had two men arguing over a woman. They really got into it with sweat and spittle flying. Then the woman walks down my hallway and confronts them. It's a big scary screaming fight. The thing is, you don't know what they are really saying.
Let me tell you, we were all nearly crying with laughter. It sounded something like this...
'What do you think you're doing with my woman?' said man one.
'What do ya mean your woman! I came here to eat some pizza!' said man two.
'Well I'll stuff this pizza up your __and you'll like it!' replied man one.
'I hate pizza and you can't make me! Besides, that woman is preggers with my baby and we're gonna name it pizza!' replied man two.
'You can't do that because MY name is pizza you stupid pretty boy!' Shouted man one again.
'I know I'm pretty! Do you want to go for pizza when this is over?' Screamed man two back.
The woman walked up and said, 'What the heck is the matter with you guys? My poor pizza baby has its feelings hurt because you don't like it!'
'That baby's father is taco bell and not me! You're gonna have a burrito, not a pizza!' Said man two.
'Waaaaaa! You are so mean! Can we have salad for a dinner break? Oh wait, how about a poke bowl? There's a great place just a couple minutes from here!' Wailed the woman.
'I think that's a great idea because I hate pizza!' Replied man two.
....and so on.
Vicious on camera, hilarious in real life!"
" A friend of mine was on 'Don’t Tell the Bride', the one where the Husband gets like 12 grand and has to plan every aspect of a wedding without the bride's involvement. Typically the weddings end up being some selfish bull all about the husband, which the wife sometimes ends up enjoying. My buddy said when they went into the initial planning sessions with the show's crew, he and his missus were separated and grilled about their first, second, third all the down to like the ninth or tenth choice of weddings. Any ideas which matched the other persons were instantly thrown out, as were his top three ideas. Basically, they forced him to come up with about ten different plans for a wedding and pick the one they believed she’d like the least, just for drama. They only went on the show because they were super short on money and hoped that they’d get a decent wedding on the show's dime. They ended up having another wedding they funded themselves a few years later because the one they were forced into on the show was so bad.
I was also working as a shift manager for Burger King when they filmed an episode of 'Back to the Floor', a show about high-up managers coming back to work a couple of days as a basic staff member in their company. The dude involved was super chill, but the production staff wouldn’t give us any real time to work with him, so it messed us over on that shift, because we basically had a dead station in the kitchen. They also filmed a montage of him running a closing shift and they did a, 'will get the restaurant cleaned up and closed down in time?' theme. They ended the montage with us all turning the lights off and leaving with a cry of success from the manager, then the film crew left and we had to go back into the restaurant and finish the job."
"I was on wife swap when I was 11 or 12. The show gets hours of footage for two weeks and then puts it into a one-hour episode. So you can imagine they can try to make the narrative whatever they want. They really try to emphasize what makes your family different and often exaggerate or encourage the participants to exaggerate. Due to only one or two cameras, you often enter the same scene multiple times, so we actually met the swapped wife for the 'first' time three times to get different angles.
They also often pushed the mom to make new rules based on the narrative they want to tell and ask you questions that could fit that narrative. My family, for example, was portrayed as uneducated hicks that didn’t take work seriously. It always left a bad taste in my mouth, and I think it hurt a lot of my self-confidence in high school. They also hired people to take care of the kids off set, and the guy we had was borderline abusive and threatened to throw us in the snowbanks when we weren’t quiet and often got too physical. There was little to no oversight on this."
"Producers told you which songs to sing. First, they would make you sing in line, and if you were really bad or really good, you were put through to the producers. And the producers would set people up who were bad. If you sucked, they would tell them you were so good, they would build them up to break them down
My friend made it through (honestly, she was an incredible singer). She had been singing one song the whole time and made it to the judges. She sang the song that got her that far, which was 'My Hero' by Foo Fighters. Then, before she goes to the judges, the producers say she’s going to sing 'Creep' by Radiohead, as Foo Fighters aren’t on the list of approved songs.
So she sings Creep, doesn’t impress the judges, and doesn’t make it through. We then watch the show when it’s aired, these mother truckers edited her into the opening and said, 'the good, the bad, and the just plain creepy!!' And showed her singing Creep—she was this gothic girl who didn’t fit in with the usual pop star image. She was so humiliated that she never sang again."
"I was on the 'Long Island Medium' in 2013. Theresa came to my house to do a private reading, and it was voted on as one of the best readings of the season.
The problem was, she’s full of it. The production crew were awesome folks, and not to mention I was borderline blacked out at three in the afternoon for the reading, but you wouldn’t be able to tell watching it. The episode was called 'Diving Right In', and she addressed my father's passing in 2010. She pulled on my heartstrings and I cried my eyes out. I’m 18 months sober now.
My mom actually found out that the producer of the show went to the same high school as me and my mom LOVED the show and emailed them, giving them my name and high school on Long Island.
I was a very prominent high school baseball player on the island, and if you googled my name at the time a bunch of stuff would come up, ESPECIALLY if you googled my name and high school specifically. Anyway, they were scheduled to arrive around 10:30 a.m. until they told me they’d be a little late. It turned into three or four more calls saying the whole crew got hung up, and they’d be there around 3:00 p.m.
I was nervous already as it is, and them pushing it back did not help. So I got wasted.
The stuff Theresa hit on could have been googled fifteen minutes before she got to my house, and if you went on my Facebook, there was stuff about my dad everywhere, as people loved to talk about him, share pictures, swap stories, and reminisce.
The amount of stuff she got wrong compared to what she got right was about 85/15, although the editing would show my face at certain times after she said something that made it look like I reacted to what she said right then and there specifically.
Like I said, I was borderline blacked out, BUT I wasn’t officially blacked out, and I remember the entire thing. If you’re just an innocent observer, the reading is honestly very touching and will probably get you to let out a tear, but it was mostly fabrication. They wanted me to do a follow-up episode about six months later, and they aggressively pursued me to be on 'Behind the Reading', which was to show any and all mental and emotional progress I’ve made since Theresa's visit."
"My boyfriend and I filmed the pilot for a show. The show features us and another couple going on cheap dates with a fixed budget. The couple with the best cheap date wins an expensive date package
There were a lot of weird moments. When engaging with the host, she kept messing up her lines and would sometimes say something several times before getting it right, and we had to react like she didn’t spend three minutes stuttering. None of the conversations with her were natural, because she would pause to reword her lines a lot while we sat there with a frozen smile on.
We were prompted what to say frequently and did a lot of re-takes. It took all day to film 'two hours.'
Everything had to be set up. EVERYTHING. We were mic’d at each location change, and the business owners had to agree to us popping up.
Sometimes we’d say something and the director would ask us to repeat it. The cameras are hard to ignore. It was fun though, I really liked talking to the sound guy about his experiences. He was telling me some industry horror stories. Also, my boyfriend and I lost, so we went to a bar and laughed about it. We went paddle boating, walked to a bakery, went roller skating on a wharf, and we got brews at an outdoor spot. The opponents' date was similar, but they did an outdoor dance class, and I think they stole the show with that!"
"There used to be a home makeover show that had five different designers that would get their own episode on a rotational basis, and my mom was one of them.
For one of her episodes, she actually did a makeover of our own house as she was selling it. She made my brother and I stay with her for the week of filming (out parents are divorced), which I thought was weird, but whatever. She roped my teen brother into making some art for the show, so he got his little bit of fame, and I just hid in my room the whole week.
I remember I thought I had caught my mom alone, and we had a conversation where I expressed how uncomfortable I felt with people in our home, and why did I have to stay that week at her house, as there was no arrangement ever on which house my brother and I stayed at. Anyways, some camera guy snuck up on us and filmed the whole thing (without me knowing), and then asked me if I could repeat myself, but to be more angry at my mom. I felt so violated.
Also the fact there were four mid-20-year-olds hanging out right outside my bedroom the whole week (I was 16/17) was just so creepy now that I think about it years later.
It was a super small (non-US) show. I doubt anyone would have heard of it. However, one of the designers (who also did multiple co-hosts show with my mom) is now a big designer in LA. So I’m very happy for him, he’s a really great guy."
"My family was on Dr. Phil maybe 15 or so years ago. They definitely dug up as much drama as possible and didn't bring any of it up until on stage. It was actually very traumatic for all of us. They picked us all up in separate SUVs the evening before filming and took us to a very nice expensive hotel for the night/ We weren't allowed to leave the hotel and were picked up by the SUVs in the morning, I'm assuming so we couldn't really speak to each other or chicken out. In the end, everything just felt so much worse. The problem was that we went in for help and ended up far worse. I guess it wasn't really the fault of the producers or Dr. Phil himself, but it definitely didn't help. 15 years later and everything is a million times better, but definitely no thanks to the show.
They made my mom look like an absolute villain. They painted her in such a horrible light, My mom isn't a saint, but watching the way they portrayed her in the edits broke my heart. It was about her having an affair and a bunch of other family drama, so she definitely wasn't innocent, but they definitely did her wrong."