All Reality Shows Are Forced to be Fake

Especially the ones where people scavenge around “abandoned” storage lockers.
This is what I know to be true: the biggest thing in any tv production is insurance. Without insurance, you can’t sell it to a network, can’t get union workers, nothing.
The insurance companies will not insure a production company doing one of these shows if they are not scripted…they cannot take a chance on an episode not being delivered because of boring content or anything going wrong.

And a casual observer can spot a dozen phony elements in each episode…such as, how come nobody “wins” a bid other than the “stars”? Lots of other bidders standing around, smiling.

What are you asking? :confused:

This belongs in our Cafe Society forum. I’m reporting it for a move.

I’m asking (but forgot to write) why have I wasted my time watching fake tv?

firstfalseNero, which reality TV programs are you referring to? Scavanging around abandoned lockers? Stars winning bids? Huh?

yes, I should not have posted this here.
administratorshould delete it.

There’s nothing seriously wrong with your original post (OP), even if people might quibble about the details. It’s just that it’s probably in the wrong forum, but it can be moved to the right one by a moderator. And welcome to the Straight Dope!

Seems like you are referring specifically to Storage Wars on A&E, and though I don’t doubt that some level of coaching or scripting occurs, you have to understand that there’s a lot of editing that goes into these types shows. You don’t see any of the other bidders winning because it’s not of interest to the “plot” of the show. The units the main characters don’t bid on (or win) aren’t shown. Otherwise the show would be four hours long and have no focus.

Even documentaries and other “real” depictions of events/people are heavily edited to best tell a story.

I get the impression that there is often fake surprise when coming across an “unsuspected” gem. It’s like they buy the locker, quietly spot the goodie, then shuffle through the old junk, and then “stumble upon” the Hope Diamond. They may not have known it was there when they bought the locker, but they aren’t really surprised when they do the reveal.

“Well, we went through just about all of this old locker and it’s not looking good. OH WAIT!!! A huge safe (that I actually spotted 20 minutes ago).”

For sure in all reality shows, from Storage Wars to The Apprentice, unless there is a live component to the show, there is an awful lot of filming that is not shown. That’s the boring stuff. Editing is done ruthlessly to make a segment interesting. No doubt specific scenes are also planned, rehearsed, refilmed, and added to the non-scripted parts to create extra drama, conflict, or humor into the shows. I actually enjoy Storage Wars, but I’m not so gullible to believe that everything happened exactly as shown without some creative editing. Note that the main characters in SW are real people who actually have stores or businesses that are related to stuff that they find in the storage lockers. Well, maybe not Barry Weiss who seems to be a loose cannon, but also an amusing, essential part of SW.

The typical half-hour reality show episode is cut from 20 to 40 hours of footage. More if it’s a competition show like Survivor.

Perhaps it would help to think of it this way: reality shows are scripted, but they’re scripted *after *they’re filmed. A writer (or more often team of writers) reviews the hours and hours and hours of footage to figure out what kind of story he can make out of it. Then they work with the editors to tell the story that they want to tell. Little to no care is given that what ends up in the story is what happened, which is why you sometimes have “conversations” that never happened.

Say you have some footage of Picker A finding a Great Old Thing. Two days later, you got some footage of Picker B making a weird face as he stepped in a cow patty. The following day, they discussed how they picked up a set of lead weights 5 years ago and how heavy they were. The final scene could very well be Picker A finding a Great Old Thing and Picker B making a weird face 'cause he thinks the Great Old Thing is too heavy to load on the truck! That never happened - each element happened, but they didn’t actually relate to each other at all in real life.


The lemmings were pushed.

I’ve wondered about this with Scrapheap Challenge (AKA Junkyard Wars in the US). The machines they build sometimes fail spectacularly during the playoff, but the teams never completely fail to finish their design. Sure, they have ‘tinker time’ occasionally, but it just seems unlikely to me that the whole thing is happening within the fairly rigid purported timescale.

Unless there are a load (like 50%) of failed episodes that they abandoned because one or other team fell hopelessly behind on their build.

IME they are quite fake, yes.

I had a close relative get to the finals of Britain’s Got Talent. They basically made up a backstory for him – I don’t want to be too specific because I don’t want it to be obvious who he is but he was basically made out to be shy and that he’d never shown his talent to anyone before, which obviously wasn’t true.

For other acts the lies were worse: a dance group was depicted as being a bunch of young friends who’d get together and dance on the street. In reality it was a professional dance group that had already done a number of music videos.
And one of the winners was supposed to have a spinal condition, and took up breakdancing to remedy it :rolleyes:

Oh, and the other thing, which should be obvious: the televised stage was not the first stage. There’s an audition before, where they green-light the very best and very worst.
So all the self-deluded, possibly mentally ill guys you see in the early rounds have already got through one round.


A friend of mine was tangentially involved in some kind of “My Kid’s Outrageous Birthday Party” type show on TLC. She said the whole thing was pretty much staged. The show paid for the whole she-bang but they made it sound like the parents did and even filmed bits where they “fought” about how much everything was going to cost.

I learned about that one a few years ago and it was confirmed when they [American Idol] were in Milwaukee and the local news was all over it. Now that I know it, I’ll notice that on shows like American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance during the initial audition round the host (Ryan Seacrest or Cat Deeley) will occasionally slip and call it Round 2 which is what it really is.

Here’s a hint for you -

Bill Dance does NOT catch a fish on every cast like he appears to in his 30 minute show.

I always imagined that the Storage Wars-style shows were slightly staged…in that, I believe that all the contents of the lockers we see were legitimately purchased by whoever we see buying them, but it might not be the specific locker we see them buy, on that day, the same day the other guy also purchased a locker.

So they maybe have a couple weeks of them buying stuff, getting a couple good ones, some duds, and then move the stuff they want to have in the show into one storage facility and have them “re-do” their bidding and inspection of the lockers, so it appears that Dave got the unit with the rare coins at the same time Brandy got the unit with fake purses, which is the same time Barry got the unit with whatever weird thing Barry likes to get.