Reality TV is almost everyone’s guilty pleasure. From Survivor to Say Yes to the Dress, there’s as many reality TV shows out there as there are people. TLC has been one of the leading reality TV creators for ages now, so much so that we almost consider the terms “reality TV” and “TLC content” as synonymous. Is reality TV as real as we think it is? Many times the answer is actually no. Scripted revelations, rerecording dramatic moments, and re-staging arguments in order to capture those close ups all plague the reality TV world.
There are a few diamonds in the rough, though, which is what we’re sorting through today. Which shows are real? And which shows are really fake? It can be hard to tell, but we’ve found some incredibly juicy details that make it a little easier.
18 Real: 90 Day Fiancé (Kind Of)
Yes, we realize that this is a point of contention amongst TLC fans. While 90 Day Fiancé has some rigging that goes on behind the scenes, Cheat Sheet reminds us that these couples are real. They’ve met once or twice before filming starts, and in some cases were dating. But otherwise these people are just real folks with real relationships, on TV.
17 Fake: Breaking Amish
Everyone has heard about this revelation, right? Breaking Amish is, unfortunately, not the realest reality TV show out there. Jezebel mentions the fact that various official documents told the world that many of these Amish folks leaving their community for the “first time” had actually defected many, many years ago! Why make it reality TV when it’s just an interesting story, is our big question.
16 Fake: Toddlers and Tiaras
We personally wince a little when we accidentally catch a couple minutes of Toddlers and Tiaras, but there are some people out there who really love it. Like many reality TV shows, however, Ranker reminds us that much of it is staged. People are told to reword what they say, and even stir up drama where there isn’t any.
15 Fake: Little People, Big World
Let’s be clear: much of Little People, Big World is real. However, Good Housekeeping quotes one of the children as part of the reason why we suspect a chunk of the show is fake. The youngest son says, “producers have to try to get us to follow the talking points,” and has subsequently dropped the show.
14 Real: Say Yes To The Dress
Yes, the boutique is real. Yes, the dresses are real. Does this mean every aspect of the show is the same as it is in real life? Not quite. Say Yes to the Dress is about as real as reality TV gets, but there are still aspects that are staged and reconstructed before airing on the show, like testimonials and revelations.
13 Fake: Long Island Medium
Long Island Press recounts their very interesting (and slightly disappointing) experience with the Long Island Medium herself, and we have to be honest: it doesn’t help us believe in the “realness” of the show. According to the article her psychic powers weren’t exactly on point that day. Could this be a sign the show itself is fake? All signs point to yes, in our opinion.
12 Fake: Sister Wives
There are entire articles written about the fakeness of Sister Wives, but we want to specifically quote Nicki Swift’s.
Swift writes, “the Browns stirred up their own controversy. They weren't exiled. They're inviting scrutiny for ratings, and controversy was the point.” AKA the whole thing was constructed! Not to mention some obvious timeline issues. Definitely less reality than it is TV.
11 Fake: Cheer Perfection
This is one show that we’re not personally familiar with, but follows the same path that many other TLC shows have. Outside of some very questionable actions of some of the parents, the show itself offered unrealistic parenting and constructed narratives. The cheerleading was more of an afterthought, in our opinion.
10 Real: My 600-lb Life
You can’t fake something like that, and that might be part of the reason why My 600 lb Life has been so compelling to so many people. Watching these folks triumph over their physical issues reignites our faith in human perseverance. Sure, some of the dialogue is trimmed and the show is edited, but there’s no way these results are fake.
9 Real: Here Comes Honey Boo Boo
How many people thought that this show was some sort of elaborate comedy sketch stretched out into a handful of seasons? We certainly did, but Cosmopolitan mentions that the show is actually (and unfortunately) very real. This TLC cultural touchstone is a real family full of real...let’s just call them characters, shall we?
8 Fake: Extreme Couponing
Our coupon dreams dissipated once we read that this show was more staged than we thought it was. Time tells us that, “one of the couponers featured on the show had used counterfeit coupons,” and others have gone so far as to ignore the terms and conditions printed on the coupons as well. It’s just not practical to hand over 100 coupons, either.
7 Fake: What Not To Wear
EOnline reminded us of this show, and we were surprised to learn that it’s not as real as we thought it was. Stacy and Clinton are the quintessential style icons, but who knew they didn’t actually do much of the styling. EOnline says they were “accompanied by a stylist who actually did most of the styling work,” while Stacy and Clinton were the personalities.
6 Real: 19 Kids And Counting
It feels like there’s been so much coming to light about the deeper issues hidden in 19 Kids and Counting that we almost want to put it into the fake category. However, this show is as real as some of the other TLC family reality shows. Sure, their lives are heavily edited. But the 19 kids? That’s definitely accurate.
5 Fake: Counting On
For those that don’t know, Counting On was one of the spin-off shows from 19 Kids and Counting. In Touch Weekly mentions that it’s much more scripted than the initial 19 Kids, however. They discuss how, not only are certain scenes written and performed, but the show has even hired actors before!
4 Real: The Healer (Yes, Really)
This is the only TLC show on this list that’s been backed up by science. Life and Style Magazine mentions that folks are convinced of this show’s realness due to “the medical backing [The Healer] received, including that of Dr. Ramsey Joudeh, who has praised the healer after seeing the results.” Believe it or not, this is a show that’s actually real.
3 Fake: Jon And Kate Plus 8
Those who haven’t heard about the Kate drama must be living an excellent, stress-free life. We’re absolutely certain that this show was constructed in such a way that we didn’t see any of the gritty underbelly of their family life. While the premise (and kids) wasn't fake, their personalities seemed to be. That’s enough for us to claim it as false.
2 Fake: Gypsy Sisters
What else can we say about this other than “big surprise”. Another show that featured outlandish characters and events, the Gypsy Sisters were more of the “I can’t believe they did that” entertainment rather than serious reality TV. The sisterhood is real, but everything else? Not so much. Reality just isn’t as exciting as it is for the Gypsy Sisters.
1 Real: Cake Boss
Everyone loves cake, and luckily for us Cake Boss fulfills our confectionary expectations. The cakes are real, and the cake boss is truly a boss when it comes to building towers of treats. While there was a little bit of a legal issue that happened behind the scenes, it doesn’t affect how real this show is; it’s arguably the realest of them all!
Sources: cosmopolitan.com, lifeandstylemag.com, eonline.com, ranker.com, cheatsheet.com, nickiswift.com, time.com, jezebel.com, goodhousekeeping.com, intouchweekly.com