Early 2000s Reality Show Behind-The-Scenes Secrets


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According to Ashton Kutcher, the most amount of money Punk’d lost on a prank gone wrong was $300,000.


Oscar-winning actor Jennifer Lawrence got her start in show business with an extremely early 2000s onscreen debut: a commercial for MTV’s My Super Sweet 16.

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According to MTV News, Lawrence thanked the network when she accepted her Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Female Actor for her work in Silver Linings Playbook. Said Lawrence, “I want to thank MTV. I’ll explain that. I earned my SAG card when I was 14, I did a MTV promo for My Super Sweet 16. And I remember getting it in the mail and it being the best day in my entire life, because it officially made me a professional actor.”


According to HuffPost, the homes where participants on Pimp My Ride were greeted by host Xzibit often weren’t their actual houses, and were instead rented by MTV for the purposes of the show.

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The participants were told that when they opened the door, they would either discover Xzibit, or a lesser prize, like a gift certificate. That way, the element of surprise was somewhat preserved. Additionally, the participants told HuffPost that while the show makes it seem as though the cars are completed within a few days or weeks, in reality it could take six or seven months to get their vehicle back.

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Evan Marriott was the star of the first season of Joe Millionaire, a Fox dating show that tricked the cast of hopefuls into thinking that Marriott, a construction worker, was a millionaire. (Somehow, it got a revival, with contestants attempting to woo two men, only one of whom is a millionaire, without knowing who is who.)

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In 2008, Marriott told Entertainment Weekly that he was paid $50,000 to appear on the show. He said, “They needed a guy that was in construction but didn’t have kids, hadn’t been in jail, wasn’t on drugs. And basically I fit the bill.”

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Unfortunately, appearing on the show was not a positive experience for Marriott. Said Marriott, “In the two years after the show, I went into a deep depression. … One night, a friend said, ‘You can go back to construction — just own your own business.’ So that’s what I’ve been doing ever since.” He added that appearing on the show and being recognized for it “absolutely destroyed” his ability to date.

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Nicole Richie said in a 2014 interview with Marie Claire Mexico that filming The Simple Life with Paris Hilton opened her eyes to parts of the US she had never experienced before, such as the Midwest.

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Richie said, “I had already traveled a lot around my country and abroad, but I had never experienced America quite like when we were doing the show. Before that, my whole world was between Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Alabama, and Atlanta, where my parents come from, and I was also familiar with some of the southern ways and customs, but being in the central states was something completely new to us. Traveling is essential because it helps you grow. Learning about different cultures and beliefs is a wonderful process.”

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Richie also revealed that she and Hilton were filmed constantly, “in the bedroom, in the car, in the living room.” She went on, “That was the most interesting part about The Simple Life, because it was intended to show what we were experiencing in the most truthful way. This changed later on, but at the beginning it was reality at its finest.”

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What Not to Wear host Clinton Kelly said in an interview with Today that as of the last season, he still kept in touch with a large number of the show’s makeover recipients.

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Kelly said, “I keep in touch with about 100 of them, believe it or not, whether that’s Twitter or Facebook or a text message here and there. But yeah, I had some great times with some of them. You know, we really affected people’s lives positively. So it was a good experience.”

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According to Yahoo Entertainment, crew members on Fear Factor tested out the notoriously gross and terrifying stunts featured on the show before the contestants did. They were paid extra for their (extremely brave) participation.

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During one particularly disgusting test run, executive producer Matt Kunitz remembered thinking, “Oh my god, this has gone too far.” That stunt didn’t end up airing.

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Queer Eye for the Straight Guy executive producer, David Collins, told the Advocate that they auditioned “300 to 400 guys, maybe 500” to find the show’s core group of experts.

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Collins said, “The sensibility for it was finding credible professionals who had amazing personalities and could work together. We were putting together groups of five and putting them together and pulling them apart again.”

Bravo TV / Courtesy Everett Collection

This approach resulted in Blair Boone, the initial “culture expert,” being replaced early in the show’s ruin with Jai Rodriguez. Executive producer David Metzler said, “It was Jai’s energy that we really needed for the culture category in terms of being a performer. We sort of found him in the middle of the first episode.”

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One of the mothers featured on Supernanny, a show about British nanny, Jo Frost, helping overwhelmed families rethink their approaches to childcare, told the New York Times that Frost was a hands-on nanny even when she wasn’t being filmed by the crew.

ABC / Courtesy Everett Collection

The mother, who was only identified as Ms. Webb, said, “There’s a lot you don’t see. Jo and I talked a lot off-camera. One time, we were doing an interview, and she got concerned the kids hadn’t had lunch yet. So she had the cameras turned off right then so we could make some food.”

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In a 2019 Hot Ones interview, Ashton Kutcher revealed that he often gave the celebrities featured on Punk’d the opportunity to stop their segment from airing if they didn’t like how it turned out.

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Kutcher said, “We never aired a single episode that a celebrity didn’t sign a waiver to say, ‘It’s okay to air this.’ And in fact, there were many cases where I was like, ‘Listen, I’ll show you the final cut product. If you don’t like it, if you don’t think it’s funny, we just won’t air it.'”

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He also revealed the most money he believed the show ever lost on a prank gone awry: An eye-watering $300,000. Kutcher couldn’t “remember exactly” what happened but he said, “I wanna say there was like a special effect that was supposed to go off that didn’t go off and we couldn’t get it to trigger and there was no way to do it.”

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During a 2018 interview on The Howard Stern Show, Johnny Knoxville spoke about how he was offered a weekly recurring segment on Saturday Night Live to do stunts and pranks. Despite the fact that he thought it was a “wonderful opportunity,” he was at the time working on the Jackass pilot, and decided that he would prefer working on the show with his friends and colleagues, rather than going it alone on SNL.

The segments would’ve been between three and five minutes long, and Knoxville even met with legendary SNL boss, Lorne Michaels, about the possibility. But, Knoxville pointed out, he “wasn’t gonna have complete control like we did on Jackass.”

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According to an oral history of Jersey Shore published on Vulture, the cast almost included a gentleman with the nickname “Johnny Fist Pumps.”

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Casting director Doron Ofir recalled, “At one point, there was a guy named ‘Joey Fist Pumps’ in the mix. He was literally called Joey Fist Pumps. He was a union contractor, which is one of the reasons he wasn’t able to do the show. He had arms that were tremendous. He was one of those people that would fist pump on a dance floor and throw down in a dance circle of six dudes. He was a Jersey Shore regular. Girls wore Joey Fist Pumps T-shirts when they walked around him.”

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Speaking of nicknames, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi admitted that at the time she applied, nobody actually referred to her as Snooki. Polizzi said, “They were looking for nicknames on the application. One of my girlfriends used to call me that, just to be funny, so I wrote that down. Then I was like, ‘Oh, shit.’ Now that it’s stuck, I wish I’d put something else.”

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Christy Oeth, a participant on an episode of Wife Swap, was characterized by the show as being obsessed with work and achievement. Oeth told the New York Times that the show didn’t mention that she had actually been a stay-at-home mother for five years prior to returning to the business world. She said, “There is a very big element of unreality to the way they pigeonholed me.”

Nancy Cedarquist, the wife who “swapped” with Oeth, reported similar omissions in service of the show’s narrative. Though the family’s children were homeschooled, they did extracurricular athletics and arts activities in their community. This went unmentioned within the show, which portrayed the family as people who have “dropped out of society.”

Additionally, Cedarquist said that a producer had written the new set of rules for the Oeth family, not her. Cedarquist summed up her experiences by saying, “I really thought reality television was more real than it is.”


Until 2017, for applicants to appear on America’s Next Top Model they had to be under 27 years of age.

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Host Tyra Banks announced that she was doing away with the age requirement in a video posted to Twitter. Banks said, “Every single cycle, we say, ‘You have to be 27 years old or younger.’ You know what I hear all the time? ‘Tyra, come on! Why have an age limit?’ So you know what? I’m taking that age limit off. You wanna audition for America’s Next Top Model? I don’t care how old you are, honey, you just need to know how to smize and be open to learning how to work the runway like a supermodel.”

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Adam DiVello, the creator of The Hills, told InStyle, “We always wanted the girls to wear their own clothes. We never provided hair, or makeup, or wardrobe. What you wear represents who you are. It’s an extension of your personality.”

MTV / courtesy Everett Collection

Cast member Heidi Montag added, “During Season 1, all of my stuff was from thrift stores or hand-me-downs. When I started getting a little more money, I got into the heels and the Birkins. I had a million-dollar closet. It was insane.” Whitney Port joked, “When I look back, I don’t even know how I worked in fashion because my looks were so crazy.”

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Flavor of Love cocreator, Mark Cronin, told Vulture that they could “cast almost anybody” on the show, since Flavor Flav was “completely open-minded about what kind of woman he would date.”

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Flavor Flav didn’t help with or get final approval over casting, though he got to see the tapes of the “finalists.” Said Cronin, “He got very excited. We had found a big group of girls that could have a legitimate chance of making some connection with him. I swear to God, he was that open about this show. He was so in that place in his life.”

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Kristin Cavallari told BuzzFeed that she thinks she was “so obnoxious” on Laguna Beach, and therefore refuses to watch it.

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Cavallari said, “I do not watch the show. It makes me cringe! I was on Access Hollywood this morning and they showed a clip. I was like, ‘OH MY GOD.’ I hate it.”

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She added that while she couldn’t prevent her kids from eventually seeing it, she’s “going to hold off for as long as I can.”

Chelsea Lauren / FilmMagic / via Getty


And finally: According to NJ.com, Cash Cab host, Ben Bailey, worked as a limo driver for five years to support himself and his family as he built his stand-up career. What was once a day job became a stroke of good luck when Bailey had to take a driver’s test during the audition process, and easily passed with a score of 92.

Discovery Channel / Courtesy: Everett Collection

According to Bailey, fans of the show soon recognized the cab’s number and sought it out. He said that the production “get[s] chased by tourists who want to get into the cab.”

Rob Kim / Courtesy Everett Collection

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