The answer to this question is a resounding “yes” for many of their shows, for others, the truth is not quite as clear.
Despite the fact that many of these so-called “reality shows” are heavily scripted, there is not doubt that viewers still love HGTV programming. Viewers can’t seem to get enough of shows featuring house flips, tiny homes, moving abroad or even turning junk into flea market gold. Viewer dedication is so strong that HGTV earned the ranking of number 8 in a list of top 10 cable networks in 2015.
Home and Garden Television, which is its technical name, was launched on December 1, 1994 and has been climbing the ratings ladder ever since. Currently, more than 9.4 million viewers tune into HGTV every week and on average they are spending 85 minutes a week watching HGTV programing. HGTV content is distributed to more than 96 million households in the U.S. and a recent episode of Fixer Upper earned a 1.27 rating which made it one of the highest-rated telecasts in network history.
There is no doubt that HGTV is a hit, but the question remains, is it real?
Is it Real?
While opinions vary depending on the show being discussed, HGTV’s super popular House Hunters has definitely been exposed as fake. Over 2,000 episodes of House Hunters have hit the airwaves and the majority of them are pretty misleading when it comes to the houses they have to choose from and the agonizing over the final decision.
In 2012, a woman named Bobi Jensen from Texas revealed the depths of the deception after she appeared on the show. According to her, the producers changed their storyline (they were buying a bigger house and turning their current house into a rental) because it had been overdone and wasn’t exciting enough.
Instead, the showed portrayed them as “desperate” to get out of their too small home. The kicker is that they producers wouldn’t even accept them until they had closed on their new home. The two “rejected” homes were simply thrown in to round out the story.
Since then, more homebuyers featured on the show have come forward to fill in the details. In some cases, the “rejected” homes were not even for sale and have even been homes owned by the buyer’s friends or family.
In an even more bizarre case, an older couple (in their 50’s) looking to buy a vacation home in Mexico were swapped out for a phony younger couple because the producers were hoping to appeal to a wider (and presumably) younger audience.
Eventually HGTV confirmed the show is scripted, even releasing a spoof video. Despite all of the shenanigans, House Hunter can be an extremely entertaining show to watch and the ratings certainly back that up.
Here are a few House Hunter facts:
- Participants are paid $500 for appearing on the show
- Participants on House Hunters International get $1,500
- The creators of the show came up with the idea when shopping for a new home
- On most shoots there are only three behind the scenes people, a director, cameraperson and audio person
- In general, shooting an episode takes about five days and in many cases different parts of the show can be filmed weeks apart
What About the Other Shows?
The cat is definitely out of the bag when it comes to House Hunters, but what about some of their other hit shows? In almost all cases some scripting takes place (it is TV after all) but the degree of deception will vary. Here is what we know about a few of HGTV’s hit shows.
Property Brothers: The Scott brothers have turned into a real powerhouse on HGTV. While the majority of the renovations are real, there are a number of conditions applicants must meet and in many cases, the property may have already been purchased. Here are just a few hurdles you have to clear before being picked:
- You must have a sidekick to play off, no singletons allowed on Property Brothers. It can be a spouse, family member, friend or whatever but a partner is required.
- You must be willing to spend at least $65,000 on your renovation.
- Four rooms is the max, they never gut the entire house because the shooting schedule doesn’t allow that much time.
- Have a 25 percent contingency budget so when they open up the walls the eventual surprises won’t bankrupt the homeowner.
- You must list the properties you are considering, or may have already bought on the application.
Fixer Upper: Information about this show is not as widespread as some of the other HGTV hits. What does seem to be true is that Chip and Joanna Gaines are genuinely nice people who have fixed up dozens of homes in the Waco area.
It’s hard to determine if the house selection process is real or not but one thing that is fake is the furniture. All of those lovely furnishings that seem to come with the home at the big reveal are just there for show.
The furnishings come from Joanna’s store Magnolia Market and the homeowners are free to purchase anything they fall in love with but for the most part, they are headed back to the store after filming ends.
Love it or List it: It seems almost certain that parts of this show are definitely scripted, and rumors have floated around for years that many of the houses that David shows the potential “listers” are not even for sale, just like House Hunters.
Rumors have also been floated that two endings are filmed, one with the homeowners loving it and another with them listing it so there is no telling where the truth lies.
While Hilary Farr claimed in an interview on About.com that “The show is not at all scripted and the reactions of the homeowners to renovation realities and bad news is very real,” a recent lawsuit disagrees.
According to a lawsuit recently filed by a North Carolina couple who claim their house was destroyed and their deposit was not used for actual repairs, the show is completely scripted.
Court documents make their opinion about the show pretty clear, “The show is scripted, with roles and reactions assigned to the various performers and participants, including the homeowners.” The homeowners say that the renovations were sub-par and most of the money went toward staging. The production company that produces the show has declined to comment.
Flip or Flop: Again, details on the truthfulness of the show can be difficult to track down but for the most part, it appears that much of it is real, except for one detail, they have a financial partner.
In an interview back when the show was getting started, Tarek revealed that they have an investor they work with so all of the profits listed at the end of the show are split with their partner making flipping home not quite as lucrative at it might seem.
In addition, it is almost certain that some of the issues that pop up are exaggerated, its TV after all, but in general, Flip or Flop seems fairly real.
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