Reality Dating Show Contestants Are Leaking Behind The Scenes Secrets On Reddit
If, like us, you’re not just a fan of reality TV but you live and breathe it, then you probably spend a lot of time questioning what’s real and what’s fake.
I’ve seen enough episodes of UnReal to know that reality TV is rarely a true reflection of reality, and this is especially the case when it comes to reality dating shows like The Bachelor, First Dates, and Married at First Sight. Rumours that these kinds of shows cast actors — who have been planted to create drama — have been circulating for decades. It doesn’t help matters that these shows keep getting caught out, umm…literally casting actors.
But, as our lord and saviour Oprah would ask: what is THE truth? Take a seat, pour yourself a cuppa, because over on r/AskReddit loads of people who have either taken part, knew someone from, or worked on a reality dating show are leaking all sorts of industry secrets. The tea! The tea is piping!
Reality dating show contestants, employees and friends spill behind the scenes secrets:
(Some responses have been edited for clarity.)
“I was in Netflix’s Love is Blind. What you don’t see on camera is the lengthy talks between candidates (sometimes hours) which are just cut short on TV. There may seem to be no staff around on TV but there are staff behind the scenes telling you what to do, which side you should stand/sit so the camera isn’t 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 second or third shot for them to ‘cinematically’ capture the scene.”
“I was on a reality show about dating and roses (I’m sure you can figure it out) and it was a TRIP. Some things people should know about these kinds of shows: It started with a three-day lockdown in a hotel by yourself just to get you properly mindfucked. They take away ANYTHING that could be distracting: phone, internet, TV, music, games, books, pens and paper. EVERYTHING. You have nothing to do other than go crazy. For the remainder of the show, you are completely cut off from the outside world.
“You’re usually bored out of your mind and drinking. A LOT. Most contestants are stir crazy and drunk. You spend the majority of your time being interviewed by a never-ending amount of story producers, whose job is to make sure they cover their bases on anything that could potentially turn into a story in the future. That way they can go back when editing the show later and better show that particular story. What this means is, you get asked a million questions about all sorts of possible situations that never go anywhere.
“They use these interviews to mindfuck you by planting ideas in your head. These interviews (also called ITM’s or In The Moments) are used to subtly guide you in different directions. They can convince you that one contestant is saying stuff about you, or that other people think this or that about you. Usually, it’s all bullshit. The majority of drama you see on TV has been heavily manipulated to happen by a team of people working together to make you react to something.
“The producers will ask you the same question countless different ways until they get the answer they want. If you don’t give it to them, then the interview will finally end and soon after a new producer will want to do another interview and guess what: it’s the same questions again from a different angle. So basically, you realise to just say what they want so you can end the stupid ITMs, so you can go back and have a drink by the pool and hang with everyone.
“They pick people they know they will be able to control and manipulate. You do a bunch of personality and psyche tests so they know how you’re likely to react in situations. They essentially dream up the perfect characters and then go find them. They decide what character you will be, based on your personality and put you in situations that exacerbate that one note. In my show, people were heavily manipulated this way.
“When you see someone who looks like a jerk and you can’t help but hate them, just know that they were picked to be on the show to be a jerk and they were very likely manipulated in every way possible to get the worst reactions out of them. They are ruthless with the edit of anyone who is considered to be a villain. The deck is stacked against them from day one. The exact opposite is true for whoever wins the show in the end. They will rework the edit to make them the hero and leave out all the bad stuff.
“Anytime you hear audio overtop of random video, it’s almost always a dishonest edit and they are using a comment that was said during another moment and trying to pass it off for this moment. Because you are filmed and recorded at all times, they have tons of ‘down time’ moments when you’re just chilling that they can actually steal audio from. Essentially: you forget your mic’ed and they use that audio against you.”
“My father met the parents of some woman who was on The Bachelor. After some chit chat, he asked how much of it was fake. They said EVERYTHING. She wasn’t an elementary school teacher, she was a model. She was given instructions to be much cattier in a few scenes, which they reshot with all the other hired models who were the girls. In fact, she was currently in a legal scuffle with the production because she was contracted to appear in seven episodes minimum but she didn’t get a rose, eliminating her at five episodes. This was early in the life of the show. I believe it’s probably a spread of fake and real now…that seems much cheaper than all actors.”
“A friend was on the Irish First Dates. She said everything took ages. They had to get there early and wait for hours to be called, they were told to take a toilet break during the date so they could be filmed phoning someone. This took a long time as they had to change microphones and afterwards they had to wait around to be filmed talking about the date. They were given €20 for the meal and had to pay the rest themselves. The taxi afterwards is just for filming purposes and drops them off around the corner, they have to make their own way home.”
“So, I wasn’t on a show, but I really wanted to tell this story! I was one of the final (I want to say 20?) in selection for the first season of Beauty and the Geek Australia, but ultimately didn’t make the final cast. My whole thing was that I was (and still am) a rapper, but also a giant nerd. When we got into the final one-on-ones with the producers, they asked if I had any special skills, and so I told them that yeah, I rap. I actually had a song that had a LITTLE radio play at the time called Sci-Fi Geek, so they asked me to perform it, which I did acapella.
“Anyway, I didn’t make the show because I don’t think I was ‘book smart’ enough (like, most of the cast had multiple doctorates) which I was bummed about, but I got over it. Anyway, when it aired, I received multiple text messages saying I urgently had to watch it! The very first week — on THE FIRST FUCKING EPISODE — the challenge for the Geeks was to write and perform a rap song for the beauties. They essentially distilled my whole pitch down to use for one episode. It felt like I’d slightly been wronged by that one!”
“I don’t speak Spanish fluently, but one time I appeared on Doce Corazones (12 Hearts), which is a Spanish language romance show where a woman has to choose from 12 men to date. (Living in Southern California, where it’s filmed, and a Spanish speaking friend of mine dragged me to the set when they had a last-minute cancellation and needed someone to stand in lol.)
“Anyway, the gimmick of the show is that each of the 12 guys has a different zodiac sign, and I guess that’s part of the host/matchmaker’s recommendation to the woman. I didn’t really understand what was going on, but they didn’t care what my actual birthday was. They just told me to pretend to be a Sagittarius for the show. I made it to the second round (the woman didn’t kick me off immediately, much to my surprise lol).
“When she asked me to describe myself, I just kind of said ‘you know, I’m a nice guy who likes having fun’ or something ridiculous in my high school level Spanish. It was a silly but memorable experience.”
“Had a non-actor friend on MTVs Next in the early ’00s 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’.
“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.”
“I did a car dating show when I was an actor in LA. It was fun and we did a lot of fun trivia games and such. After two hours they took me aside and asked if I was in love with the girl. I honestly said that I wasn’t but I’d be happy to be friends. For a long time I couldn’t figure out why they wouldn’t use my episode because I thought it was really funny. Turns out they only use the episodes where people actually fall in love with each other in two hours. That’s a little fast for me.”
“So I’ve had the liberty of dating a girl (now an ex) who was on a dating show and here’s what I can relay from what I remember: 1. There are planted actors/actresses who act outrageously for added production drama in practically every show like this. 2. A large portion of fights/drama that happens are the cause of spread rumours from production to once again spice things up. 3. Lots of it is artificial. Even when the chemistry seems to go well between two people on these shows, they rarely end up together once it’s over.”
“I was on First Dates, last September. They told me the date was at 7pm, but I actually ended up in a waiting room till about 10pm for the actual date to start. Had to do the walk up to the restaurant twice and was waiting outside with no jacket which was annoying. They’d also told me that I couldn’t wear a white shirt (something to do with the cameras and lighting?), so had to go with a backup outfit. The producers definitely tried to stitch me up though: When I went to the bar, the girl who I was talking to wasn’t actually my date, it was her sister who was in the bathroom. But I had no idea initially, so I was chatting up the wrong girl, yikes.”
“I worked on the American version of First Dates that aired on NBC back in 2017. I was an assistant editor working in post-production so I never went to set, but my job was helping come up with the post-production workflow. A fancy term for getting the recorded footage from on-set to your TV.
“All the daters were told that they would have to pay their food bills and the dishes were quite expensive. The production was going to pay for everything anyway after the fact, but they just wanted to see if the guys or girls would pay for their dates as a story point.
“There was a little bit of direction and scripting of the daters… Oh, and Ellen Degeneres who was a ‘producer’, didn’t do anything on it except giving the show her name… But that’s how celebritism works and things get made.”
“I worked on a season of a relatively popular dating show once and there were some interesting moments that I thought were smart of the producers to do in order to make good television, but also I remember walking away from that show thinking to myself ‘none of this is technically wrong but it leaves a bad taste in your mouth’. A few things I remember: Bachelorettes and Bachelors could absolutely not meet each other under any circumstances before the cameras were rolling and ready — security on this was practically tighter than the President. It was so essential for the producers to capture the real authentic first reaction that the Bachelor had to be seeing each Bachelorette for the very first time.
“Producers never stop trying to bullshit their way into getting free stuff for the show — locations, product placements, free admittance to things for filming. They genuinely believe that just because we show a restaurant on TV that people will flood it later because they saw it on [insert show title]. This goes for all reality TV really.
“Crews bet on everything. If it’s a competition in any way crews have money flying all around it. Only producers keep out of the betting rings. This goes for basically every reality show. Surprisingly little is fabricated outright compared to what people think about reality TV in general, at least for bigger shows with larger audiences. Most of what you see is real choices, decisions, and outcomes — the planning and manipulation people think happens comes all in pre-production based on extensive interviews with contestants on things.
“As an extreme example, someone’s afraid of heights? Congrats your date is now bungee jumping and [going to] a glass floor restaurant dinner. It’s always about eliciting strong reactions from vibrant people which kind of leads to the last big pillar I learned across several shows: the contestants don’t matter. Nobody on the show actually ends up caring about the contestants because they are just the driver of story. Everything is done for the audience watching at home.”
Ooft, UnReal eat your heart out.