After the OJ Simpson murder trial, American television was forever changed. Viewers were less interested in their daytime soap operas and more interested in true crime stories. TV networks were also thrilled with the ratings bonanza of the all-consuming trial. The networks realized that moving forward with more “reality shows” was also a much cheaper alternative to producing scripted TV. As a result, the airwaves were flooded with reality shows in every conceivable genre: competition (Survivor), adventure (Naked & Afraid), celebrity (The Osbornes), situational (Celebrity Rehab), informative (House Hunters), business (Shark Tank), dating (The Bachelor) and many, many more.
The most shocking thing about the rise of reality TV might be how long producers have managed to keep a lid on how fake the programming actually is – which begs the ultimate question: how real are reality shows? While producers sometimes acknowledge that some aspects of reality shows stretch the truth, they are hiding some truly massive lies. Our list of 12 reality TV hoaxes will shock you!
8. The “House Hunters” Aren’t Hunting for a House
House Hunters is one of the most popular reality shows of all time. It has aired close to 600 episodes and is responsible for almost half the programming on HGTV. House Hunters might seem like the most innocent reality show of them all. The format follows real estate buyers as they search for a new home. The buyers view three properties, weigh the pros and cons of each one, and then choose a new house. How can that be fake? Let us count the ways.
The TV show begins with a fake premise: that a buyer is searching for a house. The buyers have already purchased the house before they are accepted for the show. An anonymous former home buyer wrote that HGTV won’t consider anyone for the show unless they have already signed a purchase agreement, have access to the new house and the old house for the duration of filming.
In 2012, a controversy erupted when buyer Bobi Jenson told Hooked on Houses all about her episode of House Hunters. “The [houses] we looked at weren’t even for sale… they were just our two friends’ houses who were nice enough to madly clean for days in preparation for cameras!” HGTV claims this was a rare circumstance, but others have said it happens frequently. If there aren’t other houses available, producers will scramble to get a property to show on TV.
Sometimes, even the home buyers or realtors are fake. In 2014, a realtor named Tim Hurley gave an interview with a New York City radio station about his experience. He said the buyers had already purchased the home before being accepted for House Hunters. Once filming started, scheduling conflicts prevented Hurley from seeing the properties. A stand-in (also known as a professional actor) replaced him during that specific episode. HGTV vehemently denies ever using actors on the show.
House Hunters is obviously scripted. Since the participants know which house they already bought, the conversations and deliberations they come up with are totally false. The dead giveaway is often that the house the buyers wind up buying is empty – or has some furniture with sheets thrown over them – whereas the other properties are fully furnished. Buyers who already moved into the house have to move back out for the cameras.
In case you were wondering how much money participants get for appearing, several buyers say they get $500 an episode, or $1,500 for an episode of House Hunters International. Not a lot of money!
7. Iron Chef: Contestants are Warned Ahead of Time
The whole deal on Iron Chef is that the chefs face off after being told they must use a surprise ingredient. The viewers and judges are then completely amazed that the chefs came up with such creative ideas. But the ingredient is not a complete surprise. Contestants are notified of the category of the ingredient, and sometimes the actual ingredient if it is rare, so they can plan it out.