For some folks that won’t be a revelation.
But what if the show is a competition and the outcome has been staged?
“The truth is that defendants regularly salt or plant the storage lockers that are the subject of auctions portrayed on the series with valuable or unusual items to create drama and suspense for the show,” Hester says in his lawsuit.
Storage Wars is not the only show accused of rigging the game, of course. TLC’s Breaking Amish and the popular House Hunters real estate show have also been under fire for their authenticity — or lack of it.
There have been so many allegations against the show that a Facebook page was set up by people devoted to exposing misleading aspects of the show.
“If you ask viewers whether reality shows bend the truth I don’t think you’ll get too many people who are surprised that this happens,” says Charlie Keil, a professor of cinema studies at the University of Toronto. “What is acceptable as the threshold of reality is fairly elastic by the audience. But where they may draw the line are in competitive situations. If people thought American Idol was rigged they wouldn’t watch.”
After all, reality is messy, says Keil.
Even the way a show is edited — putting quotes out of context or juxtaposing certain scenes — can be misleading, something that is frequently done in reality TV according to an anonymous reality TV editor on website Buzzfeed.
“As editors we walk a fine line, though in some shows we jump over it,” says the purported editor.
Another popular “reality” franchise, House Hunters and House Hunters International, has also come under fire from former subjects who say they had already made their purchase decisions before being filmed.
One woman who was on House Hunters Texas claimed that producers thought her story of wanting a larger home was “boring” and gave her a more interesting back story. She had already closed on her home and used two houses belonging to friends as the other choices in the show, even though the properties weren’t on the market at the time.
HGTV responded by saying, “Often everything moves much more quickly than we can anticipate, so we go back and revisit some of the homes that the family has already seen and we capture their authentic reactions.”
It’s questionable how “authentic” those reactions are going to be given that it’s likely weeks or months after they’ve already seen the properties, but good on HGTV for at least admitting the process.
However, what’s disturbing — if any of this is true — is that by potentially putting valuations on homes that may not have been on sale, HGTV does disservice to viewers, who watch because they want to know what you can get for your buck.
As for Storage Wars, Keil says most viewers are pretty forgiving, although if the allegations are proven true, producers would have stepped out of bounds.
“It would certainly be unethical if they did this. But most people may accept a certain amount of manipulation. After all, you don’t want them to go into that locker and find nothing. That would really be boring.”