MTV started life as the music video network. However, since its creation in 1981, things have really changed for Music Television.
Now, music videos are very much a rarity on MTV, not the main focus. MTV is firmly into the world of original programming having some scripted series, but many more reality shows. Yet despite that moniker, most of MTV's reality shows are far from real.
While they might involve real people (aka not actors) that doesn't mean everything that happens on MTV show is organic. There, of course, exceptions. A few MTV shows, even some of the most popular ones, are authentic.
At the very least they're as authentic as it's possible to be the world of TV with editing and multiple cameras documenting the experience. However, the vast majority of MTV shows are faker than the zombies in Michael Jackson's music video for "Thriller".
The degree to which the "reality" is crafted does vary. Sometimes there's just some manipulative editing involved or the producers have forced the cast into a scenario that they'd never do of their own free will.
Often though every word of dialogue is dialogue or fed from off-camera. At the end of the day, the majority MTV reality shows are the exact opposite of reality.
Here are the 10 Fakest MTV Shows (And 5 That Are Totally Real).
15 Fake: The Osbournes
Before The Osbournes, Ozzy still might’ve been known primarily as that guy in Black Sabbath who ate bat but he was relatively famous. It’s a fame that trickled down to his wife and children but with their reality show, that fame exploded.
Thanks to The Osbournes (and the smash hit it became for MTV) most of Ozzy’s family became more popular than him.
The Osbournes made the careers of kids, Kelly and Jack, and really boosted his wife Sharon’s profile. Viewers were charmed by the expletive-laden but heartwarming dynamic between the family as it all seemed so real.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t. While it’s true that most of the interaction wasn’t scripted, the scenarios the Osbournes were put in were totally manufactured.
In addition, there’s a second daughter in the family who was never mentioned or seen, not because she’s estranged, but because she didn’t want to be on TV.
14 Fake: Teen Mom
A fair bit of controversy has always followed MTV. Yet one of the most outrageous things the network did, for some people’s perspective, was putting on the series Teen Mom.
Teen Mom quickly became a source of great rage as it was viewed, justifiably, as glorifying teen pregnancy.
Stories ran, of varying legitimacy, ran rampant of teens trying to get pregnant to appear on the show. Yet MTV’s argument was that Teen Mom showed the real dangers of teen pregnancy, not it’s benefits.
In reality, the pregnancies on Teen Mom were probably the only thing that were authentic. MTV greatly exacerbated the drama and turmoil of its cast.
Entire halves of conversations were cut out of the show to make it seem like the moms weren’t getting along with the “dads” or anyone else in their family. Things were rough but nowhere near as bad as they seemed on the show.
13 Real: Jackass
If Teen Mom inspired impressionable girls to get pregnant, Jackass inspired impressionable boys to make themselves infertile through bodily harm.
Jackass, born at the advent of the internet, is the forefather of terrible (modern day) YouTube “pranks.” The Jackass crew hurt themselves, each other and generally just appeared as idiots for the amusement of viewers. It totally worked too.
Jackass made superstars of several members of its cast and it was, for the most part, completely real. While some of the spin-offs, like Viva La Bam were manufactured, Jackass was accurate as possible.
The cast really did everything it appeared they were doing on the show. This resulted a lot of broken bones, regrets and hurt feelings but it also made them lots (and lots) of money.
12 Fake: Jersey Shore
Jersey Shore was a complete surprise hit for MTV. It was done as a lark and become a cultural obsesssion, giving its cast way too much fame and money.
The entire concept of the Jersey Shore was it was just a bunch of young (trashy) Italian-Americans living their lives and having fun. The reality was a lot of different.
For starters most of the cast weren't Italian or didn’t even come from Italian-American families. They hyped up a “heritage” that didn’t exist. Similarly, most of what the cast did each episode was designed by the producers.
Not all lines were scripted, though some were, but the situations were completely manufactured. This is especially true in the latter seasons when the cast became way too recognizable, but Jersey Shore still wanted a “hometown” feel.
A lot of the relationships, platonic or otherwise, were real but most of what happened on Jersey Shore wasn’t.
11 Fake: Floribama Shore
If Jersey Shore is fake, it stands to reason its shameless spin-off/reboot is as well. Floribama Shore, a relatively recent MTV show, is one of the weirdest decisions by MTV. It takes heavy inspiration from Jersey Shore but has none of the cast nor takes place in remotely the same location.
Floribama Shore follows young people (supposedly) from Florida and Alabama who party on the states' connecting shore. It’s full of the same drunken escapades and obviously fed lines from producers.
Unlike Jersey Shore, there aren’t as many confirmed details about the scripted nature of Floribama because it’s still ongoing.
Yet the producer fingerprints are virtually visible all over every episode. None of the meathead cast are good enough actors to hide what clever lines are being given to them.
10 Real: Laguna Beach
However, not all beach-based MTV shows are faked. Laguna Beach was marketed as The Real O.C., trying to build off the success of the FOX drama. For the most part, the claim was correct.
Laguna Beach did employ the narration of stars like Lauren Conrad, bringing viewers into every episode. This voice-over was obviously scripted and planned. Yet when it came to actual filming, there was an attempt be as organic as possible.
“Scenes” were filmed from very far away so the cast was just allowed to go about their daily lives and activities without too much obvious interference.
There were no cutaway interviews or confessionals either. Conversations happened, or they didn’t. Most of the drama, as unbelievable as it appeared, was really happening.
9 Fake: The Hills
The same can not be said for Laguna Beach’s spin-off and sequel series, The Hills. The Hills followed some of the cast from Laguna Beach as they transitioned into adulthood (and stardom). All the realism was wiped away and replaced with artificiality.
Entire storylines were completely crafted ahead of time, with dramatic confrontations being choregraphed being planned out.
The relationships, such as the close friendships between the primarily female casts, were almost entirely fabricated too. A few stars, like Audrina Patridge, didn’t even know most of the other people on the show before they were cast.
The Hills did end up being much more successful than Laguna Beach and ran more than twice as long. That success, however, came at the expense of the realism.
8 Fake: Pimp My Ride
Pimp My Ride ran for a relatively short time, but it managed to do a lot, including giving host Xzibit more cultural reference than he probably deserved.
The concept of the show was simple. A crew, led by Xzibit, would take the cars of young drivers in Southern California and completely revamp them. At least that’s the way things appeared on the show.
It’s true that the car owners featured in Pimp My Ride did get the look of their vehicles changed but it was just the look.
The changes made to the cars were almost always just cosmetic. The crew of Pimp My Ride did nothing to make the car better or smoother. It was still a piece of junk it just looked better.
Even more disappointing a lot of the customizations, featured on the show, were later taken out. Whether they were deemed too unsafe or just didn’t function, the coolest parts of each car didn't really exist.
7 Real: Rob & Big
In some ways a spiritual successor to Jackass, Rob & Big tried to be just as authentic. Rob & Big followed skater and actor Rob Dydrek and his best friend/bodyguard Christopher “Big Black” Boykin.
The conceit of the show was watching Rob and Big doing increasingly ridiculous things for the thinnest purposes, whether it would be to break a Guinness World Record or just because they thought it would be funny.
Yet the show never pretended or acted like it was anything different. Rob and Big were completely up front about the fact that the situations they were putting themselves weren’t natural or expected.
The show wasn’t following them in their daily lives but following them doing something abnormal.
It’s because Rob & Big was so outrageous that it ended prematurely. The pressure of living day and day out with a camera crew, in his house, got to Dydrek.
6 Fake: Punk'd
The whole conceit of Punk’d was that it took celebrities, actual famous ones not just the D-Listers who usually appear on reality shows, and pulled ridiculous pranks on them.
Led by Ashton Kutcher, at his most intense degree of frat bro, Punk’d was all about stripping away the artificiality of celebrity. The pranks were meant to capture the famous people at their most raw… except they didn’t.
In a few cases, the pranks were real and the reactions were completely genuine. However most of Punk’d was heavily manufactured, if not before the prank than definitely after the fact.
The celebrity could always refuse to appear on the show, and many did, and could control how they appeared during the prank.
A few celebrities, like Pamela Anderson, even knew they were being pranked the whole time and just went along with it, merely acting surprised.
5 Fake: Paris Hilton's My New BFF
Explaining that Paris Hilton’s My New BFF is fake is a little bit like explaining the sky is blue or water is wet. It’s obvious to anyone with at least half of their senses.
However, this competition show was still marketed as reality TV and Hilton used her scant acting skills to try to convince people it was real.
After a falling out with former best friend and Simple Life co-star, Nicole Ritchie, which was itself faked, Paris looked from a new BFF on TV.
It was a ridiculous conceit for a show and somehow felt more exploitative than the dating show format it was based upon. The contestants were looking for fame not to be Paris’ best friend.
Shockingly none of the relationships lasted beyond filming. Hence why it continued over and over. Eventually moving from MTV, to international waters as Paris tried (and conveniently) failed to find a new bestie.
4 Real: True Life
Obviously just because MTV called the series True Life doesn’t mean anything in it was true. However, this docuseries which has covered pretty much every lifestyle under the sun is, for lack of a better word, true.
The longer True Life has gone on the more ridiculous matter MTV has tried to find for subjects. After all, episodes like “My Parents Are In Porn”, “I'm An Adult Baby”, or “I'm Living Anime” aren't meant to be normal and relatable slices of life. There meant to be heightened.
However, there’s very little that goes into interfering with those situations. Instead True Life tries to look at the things in the most organic way possible. As the name implies True Life is concerned with documenting the lifestyles and habits of its subjects, not creating them.
3 Fake: A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila
MTV’s supposed network rival, VH1 is the home of some of the rankest trash and dating shows in existence like Flavor of Love and Rock of Love. Yet MTV got in on the craze with their own dating show with a quasi-celebrity in the form of A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila.
The hook of A Shot at Love was that it involved 16 straight men and 16 gay women all competing for the love of (alleged) musician and bisexual Tila Tequila. The show, which lasted two season, was a disaster built on a house of lies.
The winner of the first season, a man named Bobby Banhart never got a chance to communicate with Tila after filming wrapped.
Tila later claimed that she was forced to choose by Bobby by producers and she’s not even bisexual, being interested only in women. Though it's probably more accurate to say that her only true love is fame.
2 Real: The Real World
The attention that MTV (and America in general) has paid to reality TV can be traced back almost entirely to The Real World. The Real World started a phenomenon and completely changed the course of MTV’s programming. Against all odds, The Real World does appear to be real.
In the early seasons, The Real World was completely genuine. The show was just about documenting what happened “when people stop being polite... and start getting real.”
In the more modern season there is some producer interference but not much, none that really has an impact.
The Real World tends to look for certain types of people, not just anyone they can grab, nowadays. This is all to create storylines, drama and interest but otherwise the cast is given free-range to act normally. The revolving cast of The Real World truly are themselves.
1 Fake: Catfish
Catfish does get its name (and host) from a documentary of the same name. Yet the show isn’t quite as realistic as the award-winning movie that spawned it.
The way Catfish is set up it usually involves someone wanting to meet a person they’ve started talking to over the internet, usually in a romantic setting. Typically the person on the other end is tricking them and is a Catfish, but the story is all from the (maybe) victim's side.
However, it’s usually the Catfish that contacts the show first and is the one initially cast. It’s through the “mystery person” that the story is created.
Hosts Nev and Max are reportedly kept in the dark. Yet the producers know exactly who is on the other side of the internet communication. Catfish presents itself as investigative series, but the end result is always known.
Are you surprised to learn that some of MTV's reality shows aren't real? What other reality shows on TV do you think fall into the same camp? Sound off in the comments!
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