The show Room Raiders is an American dating reality show competition that first aired on MTV back in 2004. Even though the show was considered to be a “strip” show, which meant it aired for five days in a row, it was met with such success that it was signed on for seven different seasons. It turns out that everyone did want to see what other people had in their bedrooms.
The premise of Room Raiders is that you start with four people, the first being the “seeker,” with the remaining three being the contestants. All are woken early in the morning, and the seeker gets ready to raid the first room, while the three are kidnapped and brought to the back of a van to watch the whole thing go down. The show watches as the seeker continues through the remaining contestants’ rooms, and they make their choice of person they would like to try to date. Since all of the pictures are either removed or covered in each room, the seeker has no idea what their date could look like. When the seeker is done searching the three rooms, the contestants get to search the seeker’s room. The end of the show either has people going on a half blind date or going home alone.
Through the seven seasons, viewers have travelled with cast and crew to different places around America, while we are shown the rooms of different young adults. Some may hate the show and some people might just tolerate the reruns, but everyone wanted to know what was in those people’s rooms. It was probably just to make sure that whatever they had in their own rooms was normal.
Producer Sara Nichols was the show runner for the first 66 episodes of the show, Room Raiders. In that time, as one could imagine, she has seen quite a number of things, some of which she probably wishes she could forget. At the beginning of each show, a team pulls up in front of a house in a van and “abducts” the person inside. Of course, no one is really being kidnapped and held for ransom, they’re just appearing on the show. The reasons MTV did this was to ensure that the kids in question didn’t have a minute or two to stash or get rid of embarrassing evidence that could have been great for the show. During one such “abduction,” Sara and her crew stole a 16 year-old, who was supposed to be on the show, from her house in the early morning. Being a concerned father, and clearly not in the loop, girl's dad ran out of the house after her, brandishing a gun on his hip. After she was able to approach the man safely, Sara explained who they were and where they were from. After that, he was fine with her going with the crew.
When the tv show, TRL, otherwise known as Total Request Live, was aired on MTV, it did phenomenally. Due to its success, the producers, as well as MTV, wanted to replicate that same audience. In order to do so, they were extremely picky when it came to the types of people they chose to be on the show. Since they wanted an audience of viewers similar to the one that watched the other uber popular show, TRL, the creators of Room Raiders picked out only people who were of middle or upper class. That’s right, you won’t see any poor people on this show. In a way, it sort of makes sense; people, especially the audience they’re looking for, aren’t going to want to watch a show where people go through the rooms of the poor. Not only would the show be really quick, because the poor don’t have as many possessions, but it would most likely be really depressing and not something people would want to watch.
Being as the rooms of the female participants were of the young adult variety, it’s not at all surprising that the young women on this show owned a v*brator or two. Even though they were found commonly in these ladies’ rooms, the ones that were anatomically correct rarely ever made it on air. It’s understandable that the anatomically correct ones look too much like p*rn and couldn’t be shown, not even if they were blurred out, but it is strange that you could include one type or style, but not others. A toy is a toy, and it is used for the same reasons regardless of the color or shape. If you’re going to omit one, it seems like you should be omitting them all if they were such an issue in the first place. Hell, MTV literally had a conference call with a team of lawyers talking about the use of veins and whether or not one being the color blue was acceptable.
There might have been a lot of episodes of this insane show (over 250 actually), but it still wasn’t that easy to be chosen to be on the show; there was a lot of criteria you had to meet. Not only did you have to be part of the middle or upper class (no broke people or ghetto apartments featured here), but you also had to have your own room. While that last one seems like a no-brainer, you also can’t be some sort of outrageous person. No goths or scene kids showed up in these episodes. On top of all of that, all four contestants had to live within fifteen minutes of each other for production purposes. Over 200 people showed up to audition for the role in the first season, but most didn’t quite meet the many stipulations required before getting their fifteen minutes of fame. If you did manage to make it through this intense process, your reward was an early morning and the world seeing how messy your room is. That just doesn’t seem like a fair trade to me.
OK, to be honest, this really seems like something they had to do. If MTV didn’t check ahead of time for dozens of people’s schedules, they would have never been able to actually shoot the show! Just imagine one person having three or so activities, like school, work, and music lessons, and then multiply that by four people per episode, and multiply this for 250 episodes. In case you didn’t want to actually do the math, assuming that each person had an average of three activities that keep them occupied and out of the house for most of the day, there were 3,000 instances between the 250 episodes where these people could have been at other places. Yes, that number spans across several years, since there were seven seasons and all, but that still is far too many times to miss that person when you’re trying to shoot a show. Of course, they had to make sure that the person was available, although I doubt that they approached them directly and asked. It was most likely included in the initial questionnaire each person is given to fill out. Although this situation seems pretty plausible, some would chalk this up to another reason why this show was faked from the start.
Remember that magic black light that revealed even the cleanest person’s dirty secrets? Well, after the Super Bowl halftime show where Justin Timberlake pulled off Janet Jackson's pasty and exposed her to the world, the FCC cracked down on sexual suggestiveness on the show. Before this incident happened, the show was extremely suggestive and even showed things like v*brators and d*ldos without the blurred cover. After the Super Bowl, nearly everything was required to be censored. Most often, this was done by simply blurring out the direct image shown to the camera. The difference between the pre-Super Bowl episodes and the post-game episodes are astounding. The incident is now often referred to as “N*pplegate.” The halftime show fiasco never had anything to do with Room Raiders, but since the FCC almost fined MTV half a million dollars for it, they made sure to play it safe from then on out. That’s why you don’t see the famous black light after that memorable Super Bowl moment.
The timing of the show was flat-out faked, and I’m surprised we didn’t find out about it sooner. Even though the kids acted as though they were seeing the footage of their room being raided the day of, the footage was almost never actually shown to them that same day. Instead, they would watch it from inside the van the next day. Even though I believe that the idea of the show and most of the main elements were genuine, things like this really showcase the aspects that are falsified or made up. The show was certainly an entertaining one, but if I had known that the reactions weren’t exactly genuine, I would have probably watched something else. They didn’t see the footage immediately and there’s something off about the fact that they didn’t even show the results the same day, even though they set up the show to look like they had.
Think about this for a second: this show was like a voyeuristic adventure through the private, intimate places of 18 to 22 year-olds. It was also sort of like a social experiment, since the show had you sitting there trying to pair a certain person to a specific room based on their looks, personality, body language, and agenda. Yes, of course, the producer had them sign release waivers saying they had full access to their room and personal belongings. It is MTV, after all, but that doesn't mean it still wasn’t an invasion of privacy. Say one of those people was diagnosed with depression and they sometimes didn’t feel like cleaning their room. They end up on the show and, being as young as they are, they are okay with people seeing their messy room, at the time. However, what if they got bullied because of their dirty room, throughout high school and even later in life, since the show gave a view of their room to the whole world, forever? The effects could have been devastating.
I don’t want to say that they made matters worse when it comes to the depressed and uncertain teen who might or might not have been on the show, but if that’s how you see it, then so be it. According to the “Oral History of Room Raiders,” Noah Harlan, who was the Senior Field Producer for the majority of the show, claimed that “for a lot of these kids, it was the most exciting two days of their life.” That’s a pretty blanketed statement to make. Even though most of them might have seemed like shallow people without much depth to their character during the short time of filming, I guarantee that no one sat with these people for months trying to really get to know each and every one. Of course, this isn’t that type of show, but that means no one knew what these teenagers dreams, goals, or aspirations were. For all Harlan knows, their lives could turn out to be far more exciting than his ever could be.
As with any responsible film production crew, the MTV Room Raiders squad made sure to do a sweep of each room before they allowed the seeker in to make their discoveries. Even though I’m sure it happened occasionally, drugs weren’t really the hot ticket item in these bedrooms, although they did feature a girl on the show who was an angel dust addict. The dangerous item most often found was a gun, especially in places like Florida where it is seen as just a normal occurrence. The next most common item, as you might imagine, was a knife. No one can say that these kids weren’t looking out for themselves. The most startling find on the show, in terms of weapons, was the pistol found underneath a guy’s pillow. Harlan was pretty shocked at that one. I would be too. One person’s family even kept a pet bobcat and, even though it was tamed, it was still incredibly dangerous.
Having the contestants on the show actually remove their own photos from the room isn’t something that screams “surprise abduction” to me. It’s understandable that the seeker can’t see even one picture of the owner of the room or they might pick that person on the spot, which would ruin the entire “blind dating” part of the show. The crew that goes into the room to make sure that there isn’t anything dangerous in there should also be the ones to remove or place stickers over the pictures of the people on the show. Even though the idea is sound, since someone could reasonably pick you out from even a baby photograph, it still gives the contestants some clue as to what’s going on and the time frame in which they’re going to be dragged into a van. Since the contestants are given some sort of clue, some people like to think that this is just another one of the reasons why this show is fake.
People certainly don’t want to believe it, but the rooms of the teenagers and young adults that were shown on the MTV hit Room Raiders were 100% really theirs. Just think about that. Do you think that MTV wanted to waste millions making a ton of fake rooms, filling it with a bunch of fake furniture, decor, and knick knacks, just to tear it down again once the day of filming has stopped? Absolutely not, the bedrooms in the different states belonged to real folks, it wasn’t just a fake made up set filled with gross props and p*rn. While that might be the toughest pill these haters have to swallow in regards to this show, there are definitely small tricks the producers used to make the show more appealing to their targeted audience. The people were real, the bedrooms were real, even the stuff inside was real, and some stuff was really gross, but that’s why people watched.
The producers and film crew didn’t add anything to the rooms that were being raided, but they definitely did things to make the person’s room seem more interesting and intriguing. Say for instance that they saw a Playboy tucked underneath a stack of innocent magazines; the crew would re-stack the media so that the dirty secret was toward the top where it was more noticeable to both the cast as well as the viewers at home. During some of these raids, the film crew and producer will point out bizarre or gross items that the seeker might have missed. In some instances, they even helped some teens draw some pretty entertaining conclusions. Seems like it worked. If they had planted any sort of evidence, this show would have to be considered fake, but it seems like the items found, regardless of their embarrassing nature, are genuine things found in these rooms.
I’m not saying that the producers looked only for white people, because that didn’t happen. If you’ve seen a few episodes of the show, you would see that they have included many different races and cultures. What I mean is that they didn’t have anyone on that show that was out of the ordinary. They certainly didn’t have any goths, extremists, or people with distinct qualities on any season of the show. There weren’t tattoos all over a person’s face, nor was there a woman with more facial piercings than a metal detector could handle, and it seems as though body mods were strictly prohibited. This most likely boils down to the audience MTV was trying to attract. Most likely, according to the data acquired, it appeared as though their target viewer basis didn’t care for any of those things. So, wanting to impress the good people, MTV stuck with a vanilla cast of normal folks.
It could be called a different ending or a new beginning, depending on how you see things. When the show was first pitched, there was a whole other facet to it that would have turned the dating world we know on its nose. Well, back then it would have. Before filming began, the original show was supposed to include a fancy sleepover date on the first night of a pair meeting and seeing each other’s rooms! Could you imagine the chaos that would have ensued by having that element included in the show? In the end, MTV nixed the idea, claiming that it wasn’t going to go that route, but I still think that would have been a great way to start 16 & Pregnant. They could have kept the whole group of shows within the MTV cast family. Obviously, it was a poor idea that would have ended in disaster one way or another. MTV made the right decision, although it would have been extremely entertaining.