Proof that reality TV is completely fake

It's really no secret that what we see from reality TV isn't exactly reality. We've always had a sneaking suspicion that the drama was staged. We knew that many of the backstories told were amplified and made bigger. But finding proof of that is a little harder than thinking it.

Sure, plenty of anonymous people have claimed to be on reality TV shows in the past and spoken up about their experiences. Reddit threads have pulled the curtain back on different shows, but, when it comes down to it, most of this is hearsay. We can't really be sure that these strangers are honest, but one genre bigwig seems to concur. Mike Fleiss, the creator of The Bachelor franchise, slammed other reality TV franchises, saying that "70 to 80 percent" are faked (via Today), but he didn't open up about his own show.

The proof is out there though. Over the years, we've had confirmation of staged moments. Producers from shows have told the truth or been caught staging scenes red-handed. Former show participants have opened up, and seriously conflicting information has revealed enough for us to know the truth.

Here is the proof that reality TV is completely fake.

Man-made island with Bear Grylls

Bear Grylls shows have been doubted before. His show, Man Vs. Wild (Born Survivor in the UK), was criticized for allegedly faking many of the survival elements, claims that Grylls owned and apologized for. While misleading, the show wasn't exactly presented as reality TV, so it wasn't all that bad. The Island, however, was.

For this show, contestants were dropped on an isolated island and challenged to survive. Finding food, water, and shelter was priority number one. After a long search, the group found a pool of water and a caiman to kill and eat. But it turns out that wasn't as hard as it appeared.

After fans questioned the show's authenticity, it was revealed that the producers had a hand in helping the contestants in their food and water endeavors. According to a statement from a show spokesperson, "We had to ensure the island's only water supply, a muddy pool, would last through filming in the dry season and that there was enough native animals and native vegetation that could sustain the men for 28 days — as long as they had the ingenuity to find it, catch it and kill it."

That apparently meant digging out and lining a pool of water with rubber and bringing in caiman for the contestants to hunt.

Going to war with Storage Wars

When former participant, David Hester, was fired from A&E's Storage Wars, he didn't go down without a fight. He accused the network of "wrongful termination, breach of contract and unfair business practices" on the show. He then filed a lawsuit which aired his issues out for everyone to see.

According to the lawsuit (via ABC News), Hester was dismissed "when he objected to Defendant's fraudulent and deceitful conduct." The lawsuit alleges that "nearly every aspect of the series is faked." Hester claimed that he got the book after questioning the show's decision to "regularly plant valuable items or memorabilia" in the lockers and even "stage entire storage units." 

According to the blog of attorney William M. Julien, Hester eventually settled with the network and production company "for an undisclosed amount of money." However, a network spokesperson still denied any claims of "staging," saying in a statement, "The items uncovered in the storage units are the actual items featured on the show."

That dicey bit of legalese gets even funkier when taken in combination with show producer Thom Beers confession during a panel discussion about the genre (via Reality Blurred). Asked if the show "salts" lockers, Beer replied, "Nope," but added, "I will tell you this: We have 20, 30 auctions, and so occasionally maybe one piece shows for one auction container, storage locker to another, you know, but that's as far as we'll go." So, it turns out, yeah, kinda.

Alaskan hotel people

The Discovery Channel's Alaskan Bush People markets itself as a reality show about a real family that lived in the Alaskan wilderness. (They've since relocated to Washington state in order to be closer to medical services for an ailing family member.) But according to the show's bio, when the network found the Browns they were "a newly discovered family who was born and raised wild." That claim was almost called into question, particularly after reports from some of the family's neighbors accused them of staying somewhere other than their bush cabin.

In an interview with Radar Online, Jay Erickson and Becky Hunnicutt claimed that the family actually stayed at the Icy Strait Lodge in Hoonah, Alaska. The locals alleged that the bush home is only used during filming, and the family travels between the "cushy" lodge and the wilderness whenever they please.

Their true living situation got a little bit more muddled when the Anchorage Daily News reported another alleged scam that got the Brown family in legal trouble for lying about being Alaskan residents. According to the report, the family admitted to residing outside of Alaska for much of the time between 2009 and 2012 and were not entitled to Alaskan residency dividends that they received. 

Dance Moms fight for fans

Dance Moms is a show fraught with drama and confrontations. Whether it's the young girls fighting amongst themselves or the mothers fighting with each other, the show features plenty or bickering and blowouts. So, when Maddie Ziegler, one of the show's participants-turned-dancing-sidekick-of-Sia, left the show, you would think she would have turned her back on everyone who was a part of it.

Well, that didn't happen. In an interview with USA Today, the young star explained that when she's not dancing she is with her fellow competitors from Dance Moms. "I hang out with my friends, all the girls on the show," she said. "They're my best friends."

When asked about all the fighting on the show, Ziegler explained why it's so pronounced. "It's hard to do a reality show when there's so much crying and drama," she said. "The producers set it up to make us all yell at each other. You know how I said that moms do fight? The moms have a fake fight sometimes. Afterward they just start talking and laugh about it."

Staging South Beach Tow

South Beach Tow may appear to be one of the most ridiculous reality shows ever put together, and it is, but there is something endearing about a show so utterly fake trying to pass itself off as reality. Now, everyone who's ever seen the show understands that it's fake. After all, you can't watch Bernice fall from several floors up in a parking garage and return unscathed without having some questions.

But it was more of an open secret that the scenes were staged, that is, until a video leaked showing scenes actually being staged. According to Radar Online, video appeared to show a production team setting up a scene, making sure wardrobes were correct, and giving a countdown to filming for everyone involved. When the outlet asked TruTV about the staging of scenes, a spokesperson suggested that the show is based on reality. "South Beach Tow features real people and is based on real situations," the person said. "Due to production needs, some scenes are reenacted."

If that wasn't enough proof, a former cast member sued the show for injuries and his claim verified the show was fake. According to TMZ, show star Robert Ashenoff claimed he was injured in a stunt that the producers put together without him knowing.

America's got editing talent

America's Got Talent has been accused of manipulating what fans see on the show, and how they see it, in several different ways. We've heard about the show allegedly altering how contestants are viewed. We've also heard that the judges' votes may not even truly decide who goes on and who leaves. But it took a YouTuber named Captain Disillusionment to really remove the wool from over our eyes.

He used his video skills and knowledge to dissect an aired magic performance by illusionist Will Tsai (shown above). During the performance, the television audience believes that they are seeing what the in-house audience is seeing — Tsai inexplicably making coins appear and reappear, and even seemingly turning into rose petals. Why wouldn't they? Well, it turns out that the video may have been manipulated to make the trick appear more tricksy on the television.

According to Captain Disillusionment, the show allegedly froze "coins on screen for an extra frame to disguise the mechanism that hides and reveals them." He also revealed how the show manipulated another magic trick "by editing out a major giveaway part of it." Apparently, that's just what they do.

Casting for Catfish

While Catfish: The TV Show has been rather open about how they create their show, the truth of the process really takes the impact out of the premise. If you haven't seen it, the show follows hosts Nev Schulman and Max Joseph as they attempt to discover the identity behind online catfishers, or people who pretend to be someone other than who they are in real life. The hosts help unsuspecting people uncover the true identities of the people they've connected with online.

The thing is, according to a Vulture profile of the series, everyone is on board with the process. There's no real drama here. No one is being outed. "We can't do that and won't do that," Marshall Eisen of MTV said. "We're not doing an ambush show." So, prior to filming, everyone signs a waiver. Even the liars are OK with it. In fact, they're usually the first ones who are cast. "It's often the catfish we hear from first because they're looking to unburden themselves," says Eisen. "It's not always the case, but it probably happens more than people realize."

Hell's soundstage

Hell's Kitchen fans have long suspected that the show's drama is put on for entertainment purposes. Trained chefs can't make that many mistakes without there being some manipulation going on. But that's not what we're here to talk about. The fakest thing about Hell's Kitchen is the restaurant itself. That posh eatery that fancy cars pull up to carrying C-list celebrities to eat every episode, that's not actually a restaurant. It's a soundstage.

According to TV Guide, in person, everything at the Hell's Kitchen soundstage is more exaggerated than you see on TV. "The only real difference is the lighting," TV Guide's lucky participant said. "It's far brighter than you'd expect in a fine-dining restaurant."

Since this isn't a real restaurant, the guests aren't actual customers either. Well, they are, but they are mainly connected to the cast and crew of that season. In a Reddit AMA, Kevin Cottle from season six of the show, said of the guests: The customers are friends and family of the production crew. They aren't random people."

Telling lies to Judge Judy

If some of the cases on Judge Judy appear too crazy to be real it's because some are faked or exaggerated. This came to light when former participants on the show admitted that they invented their entire case in order to receive settlement money that the show pays (in this case it was $1250, plus a $250 appearance fee), and get a free trip to Los Angeles. Speaking with VICE, the phony lawsuit participants said the Judge Judy production team doesn't get too in depth in their background checks, so, if the story sounds good, they'll invite you on.

So, Johnathan Coward (above) and his friends, Kate and Brian, came up with a "story that was absurd, something that would be good television," and the producers liked it so much they brought them out to LA.

"The thing that was really funny about it was that, in some way, I think the producer knew that it was bulls**t," Coward told VICE. "Because the night before we were leaving, she called me and was like, 'You know, you guys can comp your meals from when you get in, just save your receipts. But if you guys have receipts for the same restaurant, the whole thing is off.' In this sort of wink-nudge way."

But it wasn't all fake. Apparently, Judge Judy was so intimidating, she made a real impact on the plaintiff. "I mean, she really shook Kate," Coward said. "She actually made Kate cry."

What's real in Orange County?

When Brooks Ayers from The Real Housewives of Orange County announced that he had non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, many of his castmates questioned whether he was being truthful. To prove that he was being honest, Ayers showed E! News some of his medical bills and records from City of Hope hospital. But the drama wasn't done. E! News then reached out to City of Hope to learn more about their relationship with Ayers. According to their records, Ayers had never received any cancer treatments there.

Caught in a lie, Ayers addressed the public in a statement. "Words cannot express the deep regret that I have in fabricating documents to 'prove' to the world that I, in fact, have cancer. What I did was wrong and inexcusable," he said. "I never intended to disclose my actual medical records or details about my private and personal medical history, thus the rationalization of presenting documents that weren't true simply for a 'storyline' for the show."

Yet, according to Ayers, only the documents were a lie. He claimed that he still had cancer, but that moving forward "[his] own personal journey with this disease will remain private." 

Haunted by the truth

As fans tuned in to watch Netflix's reality docuseries, Haunted, they were greeted with apparently true stories that have never been properly solved or understood. According to one of the show's producers, Brett-Patrick Jenkins, the stories and the people involved are all "100% real." While ghost stories can get away with straddling the line between fact and fiction, stories with alleged murders cannot.

After the episode "Slaughterhouse," which told the horrifying story of a supposedly unknown, uncaught serial killer, who allegedly claimed the lives of untold victims in upstate New York, fans started asking questions. If people really died from these events, were the police involved? Jenkins insisted that their showrunners reached out to authorities, but didn't receive any feedback. So Mashable did some digging.

According to the New York State Police, there was no report filed. "I spoke with our Bureau of Criminal Investigation and they have not received any information from the producers or Netflix in regards to the alleged crimes that were portrayed on this program," said Beau Duffy, the Director of Public Information. When Jenkins was asked to comment on this, he declined.

While this may not prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this series is fake, it certainly doesn't look good.