We tend to think reality shows end like a fairy tale, where they lived happily ever after. Now we now learn that once the reality show cameras are off and production is over, the fairy tale ends and reality hits hard.
#5. No One from The Biggest Loser Can Keep the Weight Off
The Biggest Loser puts extremely overweight people through an intense diet and exercise regimen to see who can shed the most pounds by the end of the show's run. The first few episodes look like a bunch of circus bears doing jumping jacks, but gradually the contestants lose extra weight like car keys on a roller coaster. For instance, first season winner Ryan Benson lost a total of 130 pounds. Benson's current weight is around 300 pounds, which is just 30 pounds less than what he weighed at the start of The Biggest Loser. Benson isn't an anomaly -- almost every Biggest Loser winner has gained back a chunk of the weight he or she lost on the show. The worst example is Season 3 winner Eric Chopin. Chopin began the show clocking in at 400 pounds, and won after successfully dropping 200. Once the show was over, however, Chopin bounced right back up to 370 pounds.
The unfortunate truth is that people on The Biggest Loser don't do anything but train for the entirety of the season -- the show's producers cover all their expenses during filming. It's not like they're going to work and then driving over to the gym to film some sit-ups. They aren't doing anything except training, under constant supervision, for however many weeks production lasts. Once the show is over, they go back to their normal 9-to-5 lives, which typically do not include controlled diet and exercise.
#4. Almost Every Restaurant on Kitchen Nightmares Goes Out of Business
Kitchen Nightmares is a show where angry celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay goes to failing restaurants to scream at the owners for two weeks straight until their food and service improves.
Oddly enough, restaurateurs who are terrible at running a business don't suddenly become successful. In actuality, only about a third of the restaurants Ramsay "rescues" actually manage to stay open. For instance, in the first two seasons of the show (2007 to 2009), Ramsay rescued 21 restaurants. Only two are still open. Now to be fair, Ramsay doesn't visit a restaurant unless it's teetering on the brink of disaster. So it could be argued that without him and his very expensive intervention (often buying them all new equipment and decor, and even lending them staff), 0 percent of them would have survived. Still, each episode ends with inspirational music, owners who have seen the light, and a restaurant that has undergone a complete renovation with a brand new menu and a dining room full of customers. There's no hint that all Ramsay has done is delay the inevitable.
#3. The People on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition Can't Afford to Keep Their New Homes
Extreme Makeover: Home Edition features the world's most excitable man, Ty Pennington and his impossibly attractive crew building awesome new houses for people who have been shorted in life. The family gets sent on a complimentary vacation while the crew either does extensive repairs and renovations or replaces the entire thing. Truly, there is no aspect of this that anyone could be upset about. Sure, the show's producers may cover all the construction costs, but the lucky homeowners are left on their own to figure out how they're going to cover the utility bills and property taxes that have skyrocketed as a result of their extreme home makeover.
One family, which had a new home specifically designed to help their developmentally challenged son, was forced to put the house on the market after just a little over a year because they simply couldn't afford what it cost in both time and money to maintain a palatial four-bedroom estate while trying to raise three children, one of whom has special needs.
#2. Oprah Makes People Pay for Their Free Cars
Oprah is famous for giving out free stuff to her audience. She started small, slinging gift cards and promotional material from her various guests to "giving" away 276 brand new cars to members of her studio audience.Unfortunately, receiving a luxury item as a prize on a television show doesn't exempt you from having to pay the accompanying taxes, which is the precise situation faced by everyone who has ever been given a car by Oprah Winfrey.
For the purposes of her own tax records, Oprah declared all of her giveaway cars "prizes" instead of gifts. This may seem like a trivial distinction, but as far as the IRS is concerned, anything that's designated a gift is non-taxable, but a prize is basically just like any other income (otherwise Oprah herself would get the tax bill on each of those cars). So, Oprah listed the value of each car at its full MSRP of $28,500, and that money counts as income whether you received it in the form of a car or a paycheck. And like any income, the audience owes taxes on it. This meant that each lucky audience member who received a car from Oprah had to immediately pay as much as $7,000 out of their own pocket for a car they neither asked for nor were expecting.
#1. Storage Wars Capitalizes on People's Misfortune (and Is Probably Staged)
Storage Wars documents the adventures of a group of risk takers who buy storage lockers at auction to (hopefully) sell the contents for a tidy profit. These are lockers full of what were once people's prized possessions that have since been abandoned. The risk/reward aspect of the program has proven to be a huge draw, resulting in two spinoffs and a handful of copycat shows. If you've ever watched Storage Wars, you may wonder why a person would leave a $6,000 coin collection in a storage unit and then default on the rent. The answer is really sad, no matter how you look at it.
Originally the show's producers intended to delve into the background of each locker featured on Storage Wars, but unsurprisingly, all the information they uncovered was pure, unmitigated misery. The reason these abandoned treasures are abandoned is that the original owners of the units failed to make their rent payments. This is because they could no longer afford them due to unemployment, homelessness (hence putting all their belongings in a storage locker), divorce,illness or death and were therefore no longer able to pay.
But don't worry, because according to former Storage Warrior Dave Hester, the show is all rigged anyway. Hester claims that all of the valuable items found inside the lockers are actually planted there by the show's producers, which would explain how the bidders could inexplicably find something like a Rembrandt stashed in a 6-by-12 unit alongside a box full of magazines. He also insists that all of the auctions are staged, meaning every "bidding war" you witness on the show is actually entirely scripted.
But hey, it's entertainment right? True but it makes me think twice about submitting myself for one of these shows and adds credibility that there is no such thing as a free lunch!
Special thanks to columnists Karl Smallwood and Mohammed Shariff for reporting on the reality after the reality shows.