Exposed: Reality Shows That Are Actually Fake

By Jake SchroederLast Updated Apr 2, 2020 5:29:48 PM ET
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Photo Courtesy: Walt Disney Television/Flickr

The truth is simple: Americans are obsessed with reality television. There's just something appealing about seeing the drama of real people's lives played out on screen. Of course, there’s one big problem: Most of the shows are totally fake.

Some shows are obviously scripted — they aren’t hard to spot — but others put on a good show and are a bit more difficult to call. Either way, reality shows continue to be one of America’s favorite pastimes — phony or not. Time to find out which shows are fake!

Keeping Up with the Kardashians

America seems to have an intense fascination with the Kardashian clan. Don’t believe it? Their super successful — completely fake — reality show is all the proof you need. The series has been on the E! cable network for more than a decade and is one of the longest running reality television series.

Photo Courtesy: @KUWTK/Twitter

Over the years, people have questioned the authenticity of the show, and one particular incident definitely confirmed those rumors. Kim was photographed outside an L.A studio with the same hair, makeup and clothes that she was wearing during a scene that supposedly took place in Dubai.

American Idol

Ah, yes, the mother of all talent competition shows isn’t exactly what it seems. The singing show first premiered in 2001 and captivated audiences across the country (and beyond). It lasted for 15 seasons before cancellation and then was recently revived.

Photo Courtesy: @AmericanIdol/Twitter

Many fans once dreamed of being on the show one day, but the chance of a hopeful singer making it was always lower than we all thought. Apparently, scouts searched for the best singers across the country to invite to the auditions, meaning it was always preset for some contestants to go straight to Hollywood.

Hell's Kitchen

Hell's Kitchen is probably most known for the brutal and incredibly harsh honesty of its celebrity host, Gordon Ramsay. The series itself is a competition show with two teams of chefs competing against one another in hopes of winning a job as a head chef at a restaurant.

Photo Courtesy: @GordonRamsay/Twitter

Ramsay's short temper and subsequent blow-ups on the show seem to be real, but apparently it's all scripted, and the customers eating the meals are paid actors. Ramsay also has hidden bodyguards positioned off camera, just in case someone doesn't respond well to his explosions.

Say Yes to the Dress

Say Yes to the Dress is all about finding the perfect wedding dress. The reality series follows soon-to-be brides during all the joys and stresses of preparing for their wedding day. It’s mostly set at the Kleinfeld boutique in New York.

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Photo Courtesy: @syttd/Twitter

Unsurprisingly, the producers play a role in making the show more dramatic and selling the audience a false idea of the process. Apparently, they vet the outspoken family and friends who attend the fitting with the bride to highlight certain comments and make the show more dramatic.


When the reality show Catfish first aired in 2012, online dating was becoming more popular, and people were fascinated by the concept of pretending to be someone else online. The show has continued to be popular and continued to expose the lies and dangers of online dating on camera.

Photo Courtesy: MTV Catfish/YouTube

Even though people really are out there catfishing people, the show isn't as realistic as it might seem. Allegedly, producers accept applications from the people who are doing the catfishing, and they know exactly what's going to happen before the chase even begins.

Jersey Shore

Since Jersey Shore appeared on our screens in 2009, the cast has become infamous in dozens of ways and continue to remain in the spotlight and relevant in pop culture. We don't even associate Jersey Shore with an actual place anymore. Instead, it's that crazy show filled with tanning, hair gel and a lot of fighting.

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Photo Courtesy: Unknown/Flickr

As with many drama-filled reality shows, most of what you saw wasn't real. According to extras and locals, the show was planned in advance, and the casts' walkabouts were rehearsed and often re-shot from different angles. The producers also encouraged excessive drinking. Yikes!

Duck Dynasty

The premise of Duck Dynasty might seem pretty random for a reality show, but the consistent fan base proved that people were indeed interested in watching a family with a thriving business based on products for duck hunters. Of course, the eccentric cast was the main attraction for viewers, but the interactions between cast members weren't completely authentic.

Duck Dynasty
Photo Courtesy: Duck Dynasty on A&E/YouTube

Supposedly, the drama on the show was created by producers to spice up the storylines. Plus, sources claim producers added fake "bleeps" to the show, even when the characters weren't actually swearing at each other.

The Real Housewives

Watching the inner lives of wealthy housewives across the country might not be everyone's cup of tea, but for a lot of Americans, it's the perfect pastime. The Real Housewives is a media franchise that has now sparked numerous versions in multiple locations.

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Photo Courtesy: Gina Hughes/Wikimedia Commons

There has always been speculation that the show was scripted, and some pretty solid proof came from a member of the cast. Real Housewives of New Jersey star, Teresa Giudice, swore under oath that the series is scripted, and the arguments and meetings between the women are planned by producers beforehand.


Considering that Survivor has been on television for what seems like forever, the show is obviously popular. Clearly, there's something about people fighting for their (game show) survival on a deserted island appeals to viewers’ primal instincts.

Photo Courtesy: @survivorcbs/Twitter

Apparently, the cast is never in any real danger. In fact, past contestants have admitted that the producers gave them both food and fire. Plus, producers have admitted to using stunt doubles for some of the contestants' challenges and using re-enactments for some of the footage.

Big Brother

In Big Brother, a bunch of strangers are thrown in a house to compete for a cash prize. The audience gets to act as "Big Brother" and watch their lives 24/7. Yes, that's right, the cameras never stop rolling — at least, that's what they want viewers to believe.

Photo Courtesy: @CBSBigBrother/Twitter

Supposedly, there was an incident on the British version of the show where viewers saw the lights go out for "bedtime" and then come right back on, as though it wasn't actually bedtime. Also, producers have been known to edit the footage to cast certain castmates in a favorable light.

Dance Moms

The chaos on Dance Moms is entertaining and evidently addictive. It's now in its eighth season and follows the training and careers of children in the dance world as well as the interactions between their confrontational — did anyone say crazy? — mothers.

Photo Courtesy: @DanceMoms/Twitter

Unfortunately (or not), it's all fake. In 2015, contestant Maddie Ziegler said, "It’s hard to do a reality show when there’s so much crying and drama. The producers set it up to make us all yell at each other…The moms have a fake fight sometimes. Afterward, they just start talking and laugh about it."

The Jerry Springer Show

If you thought The Jerry Springer Show was real, then the rest of this list must have come as a complete shock to you. This scripted reality talk show was on the air for nearly 30 years and was infamous for its over-the-top fights and ridiculous drama.

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Photo Courtesy: Justin Hoch/Flickr

Of course, the producers encouraged guests to fight and told them when to begin throwing punches — Jerry had to have time to get out of the way, of course. Many participants have admitted they were actors, and the storylines weren't completely truthful. The crowd was always encouraged to get rowdy as well.

90 Day Fiancé

90 Day Fiancé is a pretty wild concept for a reality show. It follows the lives of people who have fallen in love with people outside of U.S. and must apply for a K-1 visa. The purpose is to document the couples' lives for 90 days to see if they end up marrying each other before the visa expires.

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Photo Courtesy: Stocksnap/Pixabay

In order to cause even more drama throughout the couples' journeys, producers tell the cast to say or do certain things to get better reactions for the show. Hopefully, they don’t actually pay them to follow through and marry each other.

Wife Swap

Wife Swap was definitely a favorite among reality TV fans, even sparking spin-offs like Celebrity Wife Swap. In the series, two families from completely different backgrounds swap wives for two weeks, causing mayhem among the husbands and children.

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Photo Courtesy: Pete/Flickr

It has been revealed, however, that producers tell the cast to behave in a certain manner and that the editing of the show is heavily influenced by the families, based on how they would like to be depicted. One contestant even said he was paired with a partner who wasn’t actually his wife in real life.

Dancing with the Stars

There's no denying that Dancing with the Stars is a classic favorite. It's got celebs, professional dancers and British accents — how could it not be legit? Well, it looks as though the amazing dancing might be one of the only real aspects of the show. (Hey, that is the most important part, right?)

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Photo Courtesy: Walt Disney Television/Flickr

Hope Solo revealed that her partner purposely created drama for the benefit of the show when they found out they might get cut. Alfonso Ribeiro claimed that the show cares more about personality than dancing, and Wendy Williams was supposedly kicked off the show for refusing to follow a script.

Pimp My Ride

Now, this is what we call a throwback. Pimp My Ride was one of the most popular reality shows in its prime. Fans loved seeing the transformation of a plain, raggedy car to a brand new pimped out ride. The fact that the host was rapper Xzibit made the show that much more legit — or so you thought.

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Photo Courtesy: Phillip Pessar/Flickr

Unfortunately, the show was far from legit. It turns out that the makeover was totally fake, and nothing was actually done to the engines of the cars. Someone on the show even admitted that their car barely ran once they got it back.

The Biggest Loser

Okay, this one hurts a little bit. The Biggest Loser is a super popular competition show with overweight contestants competing for a cash prize by training to lose weight each week. Undoubtedly, the best part of the show is watching the contestants’ journey from the beginning until the finale.

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Photo Courtesy: Pete Thomas/Flickr

Obviously, the drastic weight loss shown on the show is very real, but a lot of the details are very fake. Fans wait to see how much weight the contestants have lost on each episode, but apparently they are weighed two whole days prior, for example.

Project Runway

Project Runway seems like an authentic reality show. It's very popular for those who are fascinated by the world of fashion. The show documents numerous competitions where the contestants must create their own original designs, restricted by time, materials and themes.

Photo Courtesy: @ProjectRunway/Twitter

Unfortunately, sources say the nature of the judging isn’t authentic, and producers tailor the show to sensationalize the contestants to an unrealistic degree. Multiple contestants have publicly confirmed these speculations.

Storage Wars

Storage Wars follows a group of bidders looking to win big by purchasing abandoned storage units. Each of the bidders only gets to take a peek at the unit before deciding if they want to bid on it or not. Sometimes, a unit is worth thousands; other times, it ends up being completely worthless.

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Photo Courtesy: Kenneth Hagemeyer/Flickr

The fakeness of this show was confirmed by cast member David Hester when he revealed that the show was completely scripted. He also said the auctions and the interviews with cast members are staged by producers as well.

Restaurant Stakeout

The premise behind Restaurant Stakeout is to expose bad service workers at restaurants at the request of each restaurant's owner. The scripted series follows restaurateur Willie Degel as he installs hidden cameras in different locations to figure out why a restaurant is doing poorly.

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Photo Courtesy: Unknown/Wikipedia

The catch? It's all staged. An owner of a restaurant from the show's premiere season admitted that he was contacted by the Food Network prior to the show, and he screen-tested his employees before the episode even filmed. Additionally, the customers were actors.

Last Comic Standing

Unfortunately, Last Comic Standing isn't on the air anymore, but during its nine seasons, it prided itself on discovering unknown talent and awarding the deserving winner with both exposure and a cash prize. The series was yet another talent competition, except this time it wasn't singers or dancers — it was comedians.

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Photo Courtesy: EJ Hersom/dvidshub

Like most reality shows, however, the producers had a large influence on the show's content and its winners, but this time without letting the judges or contestants know. The show’s producers contributed to the votes, leaving the judges and everyone else angry at the rigged outcome.

Undercover Boss

Undercover Boss is another reality show that involves money and business, but the twist is that bosses go undercover as entry-level employees in order to find issues within their company. Lies and deceit seem to be the underlying basis of the show, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that the series itself is totally fake.

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Photo Courtesy: Unknown/peakpx

Reports indicate that not only is the entire show scripted, but the employees identified by the bosses as doing things very well aren't actually awarded any of the nice things they are promised on the show. What?

Ghost Hunters

The debate about whether ghosts are real or not has been a topic of discussion for decades, so a reality show like Ghost Hunters was destined to achieve high ratings. It follows a pair of plumbers who act as ghostbusters for clients who claim to have paranormal occurrences in their homes.

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Photo Courtesy: Seattle Underground: Ghost Hunters/Flickr

Multiple shows (and movies) have been inspired by the series, but there has been a lot of speculation about whether the show is scripted or not. Former case manager Donna LaCroix provided a convincing case against the authenticity of the show in an interview.

Cupcake Wars

You might be wondering how an innocent, drama-free show like Cupcake Wars could be included on this list of fake reality shows, but even a simple show like this is never as sweet as it seems. The show starts with four contestants hailing from bakeries all over the world who go through several rounds of competitive cupcake making.

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Photo Courtesy: Bailee Darbasie/Nellis Airforce Base

In some of the rounds, a mystery ingredient must be included, but it's really not much of a mystery to the contestants. They are told the secret ingredient beforehand! They still have to act surprised for the cameras, of course.

Britain's Got Talent

If you've seen America's Got Talent, then you already have a good idea how Britain's Got Talent works. The infamous "mean" judge on American Idol — i.e. Simon Cowell — created the show, but it was all proven to be fake in a very public scandal back in 2015.

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Photo Courtesy: Paris Hilton Just Me/Flickr

When a dog act called "Jules and Matisse" won the competition, the truth came to light. During the final performance, the canine star, Matisse, was too scared to perform, so the producers used a similar looking dog instead. Viewers were furious to learn it was all rigged.

Fixer Upper

House makeover shows are pretty popular among reality TV fans. Apparently, everyone secretly wishes it was their house getting completely re-done or at least fixed up. Well, it turns out that the homeowners on the show aren't really getting the fixer-upper the show leads us all to believe.

Photo Courtesy: @FixerUpperFans/Twitter

First, the homeowners don't choose between three houses in the beginning, as the show depicts. They have already bought the house prior to filming. Also, none of the decor is included in the budget, so if they want to keep it after the show wraps, they have to pay for it — and fancy furniture comes with fancy prices.

Pawn Stars

Apparently, the ins and outs of pawning items is fascinating to the American population, considering Pawn Stars quickly became the highest rated show on its network and the No. 2 reality show behind Jersey Shore. The premise is pretty simple: You watch the interactions between staff and customers who are selling and pawning different items.

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Photo Courtesy: G Sloan/Flickr

Despite its popularity, the show is almost completely scripted. Plus, the show's stars aren't even allowed to work the counter during regular hours, according to Nevada law, and all the pawned items are researched and priced beforehand. Much less interesting, right?

The Apprentice

Before he became the President of the United States, Donald Trump was the star of the reality business show The Apprentice. The series basically shows a number of contestants competing for a spot in Trump's company, which none of them ever actually win.

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Photo Courtesy: Toby Jagmohan/Flickr

Not only were the contestants used as promotion for Trump's business, but they admitted that the firing segments were for dramatic effect, and they knew prior to filming whether they were being "fired" or not. The actual "reality" behind the show was that Trump believed it would be irresponsible to allow the winner to lead a business based on a competition.

Teen Mom

It seems like Teen Mom has been on TV forever, but that's simply because people love to see the drama-filled lives of pregnant teenagers. Weird, right? It's actually a spin-off of the popular reality show 16 and Pregnant and shows the lives of the teens after they give birth.

Teen Mom
Photo Courtesy: IMDb

MTV producers are known to manipulate many of the shows on the network, and Teen Mom is no different. Although the drama and break-ups were real, a lot of the conversations between family members were edited to make the show more entertaining.

The Hills

The Hills actually decided to do things a little differently by outing itself as yet another fake reality series. In its dramatic finale, Brody Jenner stands on a Hollywood set with the cast and crew rolling back the entire set in the closing scene, creating a deliberately dramatic response.

Photo Courtesy: Done and Done Productions/IMDb

The show was a spin-off of the popular show Laguna Beach, and despite rumors that it was fake, it remained very popular. After the show was over, producers and cast members admitted that most of it wasn't real and that it was scripted.