When it comes to reality shows, there are two basic camps of people: those who get totally invested in them as though they’re real, and those who scoff at those first people because “it’s clearly all scripted.”
But the truth of this kind of TV production isn’t quite as simple as either of those. How much is real vs. unreal is gonna vary a lot from show to show and producer to producer. But in every case, it’s safe to say that what you see on the screen is never going to be an exact representation of the true lives of the cast.
For a little more detail, let’s listen in on some stories from the Reddit folks who know.
1. 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.
2. There’s a surprising amount of booze involved
Good buddy of mine was on a Bachelorette style show. He was drunk 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 drunk 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.
3. 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!
4. 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)
5. 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.
6. 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”.
7. 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.
8. 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.
9. There’s 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.
10. 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.
11. 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 drunk, 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.
12. 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 murder one of his fellow contestants.
13. 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.
14. 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 sexual 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.
What it comes down to is that these producers are trying to make entertainment on a budget.
So they can’t just depend on things happening naturally.
Just keep that in mind the next time you watch one of these shows.
Most likely what you’re watching is just that… a show.