6 Reality Shows That Aren't Just Fake, They're Outright Evil
We all know reality shows are fake. And if you didn't, congrats! You've already gained a ton from reading this article. But the shows are "fake" to wildly different degrees -- some merely "massage" outcomes and use strategic editing to make the shows more linear and watchable. Others, however, flat-out mislead contestants and the audience, completely sabotage outcomes, and just willfully inflict suffering on people.
The Prize For Winning The Apprentice Was ... Being The Winner Of The Apprentice
A decade before Donald Trump was within percentage points of becoming the most powerful man on Earth, The Apprentice was a groundbreaking reality show that saw a bunch of ambitious business-y go-getters undertake a series of business-related challenges, culminating in dramatic boardroom yelling-sessions over stock reality show "DUN-DUN!" noises. At the end of each episode, one loser received Trump's elimination catchphrase, "I am afraid we must part ways." (Paraphrasing.)
"Loser" being a slight misnomer for someone who never has to work for Donald Trump again.
Winners were promised the prize of a "top" corporate position in the big boss' company to aid their business careers (thus, the title of the show). Instead, according to the accounts of many past winners, their actual jobs mostly consisted of being a spokesperson for the Trump brand, helping to promote projects by making radio and TV appearances, attending meet-and-greets, and talking to the press. That is, you show up at places as "The Winner Of The Apprentice" and shill stuff for The Donald. Congrats, Business Champions! Now go tell the PIGGY 103 "Morning Asylum" about how Trump Bottled Water "changes the wetness game!"
That's the smile of a man wondering if that's enough water to drown in.
Such little growth opportunity was offered by The Apprentice that Randal Pinkett, one of the early winners, has the same job now that he had before winning the show a decade ago. Winners did receive a nice paycheck and enhanced public visibility -- as well as extremely not-made-up-sounding titles like "Owner's Representative" -- but the actual corporate significance of the jobs they fought for was laughably overblown.
Trump himself has admitted to it, explaining the deception as being "truthful hyperbole" and stating, "It's a little bit too much to ask someone to be the president of a $800 million building when they haven't had that kind of experience." Which actually makes a lot of sense! Except it's also the entire premise of the show. That'd be like American Idol declaring "There's a bunch of professional singers out there, why should we give a record deal to this random amateur just 'cause they sang really well 37 weeks in a row?"
There's a problem when your career peaked at being 1/3 of the Ex-Apprentices Think Donald Trump Sucks tour.
Naturally, Trump has also publicly bashed many of these contestants, calling the aforementioned Randal Pinkett a terrible failure and dismissing six contestants who spoke out against his presidential campaign as "six failing wannabes" who "just want to get back into the limelight."
The "limelight" he's referring to, for the record, was aspiring executives fighting tooth and nail for a made-up position as a glorified timeshare salesperson. Which, in a way, may actually be an invaluable lesson about job searches in general.
Pimp My Ride Basically Just Destroyed People's Cars
Pimp My Ride was the mid-2000s MTV classic that made us all long for Xzibit and his team of customizing cronies to take our crappy old beaters, learn one fact about us ("you play soccer?"), then dramatically over-apply this fact to our vehicles ("now the backseat's a soccer net and the brakes are a jersey that just says 'SPAIN' and we had to blur the word 'SPAIN' for some reason").
Perfect for when you accidentally run over someone and want their final moments to be filled with NBC's Fall lineup.
But alas, outside the editing bay, the show wasn't all it was pimped up to be. For one thing, the show did nothing in terms of actually mechanically improving anyone's car. Pimpee Seth Martino was barely able to even drive his car home after the show -- after all was said and pimped, he ended up having to spend $1700 of his own money to fix the engine. The changes made by the Pimp team were purely cosmetic, and in some cases even damaged the car further -- the extra weight of the new features damaged the wheels and suspension.
"Yo, heads up, those lightning bolts are lead paint."
In other cases, the new features in the pimped cars didn't even work in real life (as in, they functioned just enough to look cool exactly once, for the camera) and some were legitimately dangerous. Some of the LED lights, for example, got unbearably hot if left on too long. And that's if people even got to keep them -- the show often revoked the luxurious features immediately after the episode had finished filming.
Were these haphazard pimpages the unfortunate result of a short turnaround time? Nope! Contestants had to wait six damned months for the show to finish with their automobiles, despite the rigorous editing to make the whole process look as quick as Xzibit's music career. Participants weren't even reimbursed for their rental car during the half-year carless limbo the show put them through.
She's less thrilled about the pimped ride, and more that she has a ride, period.
And, for good measure, the show exaggerated the bad conditions of people's cars prior to being pimped, thereby completely humiliating them and exploiting stereotypes. We're talking about filling an overweight person's car full of candy wrappers or adding dozens of cigarette butts to make someone's smoking grandma look bad. It's like they were just exploiting these people for money! What kind of a "pimp" does that?
Last Comic Standing Re-edits Good Performances To Look Bad
NBC's Last Comic Standing claims to showcase the best up-and-coming stand-up comedians and give the winner a cash prize and a TV special. Seems simple enough, right? It's "Default Reality Competition Show" about , where the blank is stand-up.
Unfortunately, the show has been blasted for some really questionable behind-the-scenes practices. In Season 2, a panel of four celebrity comedians was brought in to "rate" the finalists, but the show never explained to the viewers or to the fucking judges that four producers were also voting and carried considerably more weight than the guest judges. After the finalists were announced, Anthony Clark ripped off his headset in disgust, and Brett Butler and Drew Carey left the judges' table visibly angry. Carey claimed the judges "had nothing to do with" the selected finalists.
"Welcome to Last Comic Standing, where the competition is made-up and none of our picks matter."
Oh, and two of the advancing comics happened to be managed by producers of the show, and another made it the following season when the executive producer took him on as a client.
Even if we chalk this up as a classic "all competitive reality shows are really controlled by producers" moment, the show has also taken more deliberate, dare we say "shittier" liberties with their selective editing. Take the case of comedian Ben Kronberg.
Like all the contestants, Kronberg was a professional comic with a resume -- this show isn't for people coming in off the street. He made it to the semi-finals stage of the competition in Season 8. His first joke was an experimental bit where he "flicks through his phone for a few seconds, then through his joke notebook, then looks up at the audience and says, 'What? Like you guys start working right when you get to your jobs?'" He opened a Comedy Central half-hour with this bit, and at the taping for Last Comic Standing, it earned him an applause break.
"Sweet, bonus Candy Crush time."
When the show actually aired, though, the editors added a graphic of a timer on the screen during that bit to emphasize the passage of time. The camera would then cut to the judges looking displeased and cut into the audience reaction to make the reception sound less enthused. Roseanne berated Kronberg for wasting the audience's time. The show cut it so the audience cheered her, followed by Kronberg asking the crowd if that's how they feel and them cheering even louder. What actually happened was Kronberg asking if they liked the joke and the audience cheered. And then, he asked if they agreed with Roseanne and they also cheered. Which makes them seem less like a crowd out for vengeance, and more like every audience pumped to be at a TV taping.
It wasn't a case of editors trying to make huge chunks of reality footage more watchable or to add a coherent story -- they deliberately turned something into the opposite of what it was, with a professional comedian's reputation on the line. Though it did earn the editors a spot on NBC's summer reality show, Last Editor Standing (Or Sitting. The Point Being, Remaining, Like In The Competition, We Mean. Your First Assignment Is To Edit This Title).
Related: Who Was the First Stand-Up Comic?
Britain's Got Talent Screwed Every Contestant With A Secret Stunt Dog
Britain's Got Talent and its U.S. counterpart, America's Got More Talent And We're Talkin' Real Talent Not Like Opera Or Whatever ("U-S-A" Chant) are two of the most diverse talent shows on TV, including not just singers and dancers, but also comedians, magicians, sword-swallowers, and whatever the hell this is. Also included in this show's giant ocean-dragging-net of talent is the ever-popular genre of "Dogs Doin' Stuff," with a dog act named "Jules and Matisse" actually taking the 2015 BGT title.
But then: Controversy. DOG CONTROVERSY. The worst kind of controversy. Besides most kinds.
Son of a bitch.
During the final performance, the winning act secretly swapped in a similar-looking stunt-dog for a high wire maneuver instead of Matisse, the popular dog who people had been voting for the entire competition. This impressive stunt boosted the act to a whole new level, but the show never mentioned on camera that a different dog was being used. More than 13 million unknowing viewers crowned Matisse "Most Talent-Got Organism" (or whatever) and you may think that, really, this is no big deal. A dog still did the stunt, right?
You would be wrong; complaints poured in to Ofcom (the UK version of the FCC) from thousands of viewers who had paid money to vote (half a pound per call!). The government was forced to look into it and came to the conclusion that, in fact, the show had misled viewers via the kind of wacky shenanigans you'd expect in a talent competition held inside an '80s teen movie. They were forced to apologize, and had to refund the money of everyone who voted.
Even the dog looks ashamed.
Basically, the entire rest of Britain's talent-having hopefuls were put at a disadvantage by an unannounced stunt-pooch (the contestant said the other dog had to perform the high-wire stunt because -- and this is not a joke -- the main dog was afraid of heights). Looks like Britain's Got Talent doesn't "got" INTEGRITY.
House Hunters Basically Makes The Contestants Produce The Entire Episode
HGTV's House Hunters, if you've never flipped to HGTV at any second of any day, follows a person, couple, or family on their search for a new home. They tour three options with a realtor, and we get to watch them navigate the highs and lows of the home-buying process (including fake fights over "man caves" and "popcorn ceilings" that producers told them they care about) until they ultimately pick one of the three, move in, and we flash-forward to them two months later, cutting up bell peppers and saying how happy they are.
Any cries of "We've made a terrible choice" are punished by immediate foreclosure and releasing of the hounds.
The show is entirely fake, but not just "producers pull some strings" fake. Like, "none of the stuff ever happened and it's on the contestants to fake everything" fake.
House Hunters actually rejects contestants who are genuinely in need of a new house, and only builds episodes around people who've already bought one. The show then makes participants do all the work in terms of constructing a deception that they're still house hunting, and it's the participants' job to find the two other houses they're "considering."
If this were truly reality, every episode would end with the realtor being told to go to hell after House #1.
One such indentured contestant was Bobi Jensen, who not only had already bought a house with no help from the show, but she also ended up having to ask two of her friends to let them use their houses to pose as houses on the market which they were "considering" buying. The friends had to scrub their places for the TV cameras so Bobi could walk through them and explain exactly why she wouldn't want to live there. Needless to say, Bobi left owing two friends future rides to the airport / help moving / endless any-favors.
True friendship is letting your BFF go on TV and tell millions that your house is the steaming shits.
None of this is even secret. The show has admitted to it.
You may be thinking, "Why not just not go on the show then?" Which is fair. But who could possibly turn down the chance to say "I could see us having coffee out here, or a glass of wine," on a fake patio of a fake home $600,000 above your budget, on basic cable? That's bucket list territory.
America's Got Talent Begged An Act To Come Perform ... Then Told The Audience To Boo Them
America's Got Talent has all the variety and star-power of its originator from across the pond, with an even slimier secret.
AGT's producers and crew members tell the audience when to boo a performance, and they reportedly fill the audience with "plants" who are employed to do the bidding of the producers and lead the boos or cheers as instructed. People are also encouraged to follow suit if they see others giving the "X" gesture, which cruelly denotes that they want the judges to press their "X" buttons and eliminate the performer:
It looks like they're saluting some Emperor in a dystopian movie.
So in effect, the show is galvanizing the audience to brutally humiliate any acts that the bosses don't want, and influence who the judges keep or dismiss during the audition phase. Producers are essentially pre-eliminating contestants. But again, that's borderline-ish standard "questionable reality show" meddling. Here's where it takes a darker turn:
One of these booed-off-the-stage performers was a circus act. The mother of one of the members was in the audience during their failed audition, and from her vantage point, she witnessed firsthand that the audience was told to boo her (and other acts) by producers on the floor. What makes the story much worse is that this circus act had been recruited by the show to perform. They begged them.
A show starring Howard Stern brought people in just to publicly humiliate them. Imagine that.
In fact, the show spent seven straight fucking years persuading the group to audition before they finally agreed and it turns out, the show's only aim was to shame them and coerce the audience into booing them off the stage. That's way more evil than Britain's wimpy little Stunt-Dog-gate. U-S-A! U-S-A!
Insane but true facts can be found on Markos' Twitter account. Wes Corwin is a stand-up comedian currently residing in Memphis, TN. You can follow him on Twitter here, or listen to his jokes and/or podcasts here.
For more reality TV bullshit, check out 5 Depressing Realities Behind Popular Reality TV Shows and 17 Depressing Things Popular Reality Shows Don't Tell You.
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