The Learning Channel, TLC, started in 1970. It was sponsored by NASA and the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare in 1972. The 1990’s led to a lot of home improvement shows as learning documentaries. In the 2000’s TLC decided to get rid of the educational programming, besides its home improvement shows, and decided to air dramas and reality shows.
TLC has become very well known for some of its show's causing controversy, from Here Comes Honey Boo Boo’s GoGo Juice (part Red Bull, part Mountain Dew) to Jon and Kate Plus 8’s Kate spanking one of their daughters on camera. But how do you tell which reality show is real and which ones are fake?
A reality tv show is a television program in which ordinary people are continuously filmed. It's designed to be entertaining rather than informative. The magic word in that sentence is entertaining. In order for TV to make things “entertaining” to some audiences, they will use 'TV magic' such as editing and scripting.
This list is going to look at the 8 Most Fake TLC Shows. When I say fake, I do not mean scripted or edited. I mean fully fake. They have lied about the main element of the show.
16 Some Truth: Cake Boss
In Hoboken, New Jersey there is a shop called “Carlo’s Bakery,” that first opened in 1910 by Carlo Guastaffero. Cake Boss first aired in 2009, showing the bakery making its now-famous cakes. According to Market Watch, the most expensive cake they have made to date was a $30 million cake for Devorah Rose for a 2011 Gala. It had diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, and rubies studded all over the cake! Buddy says in one interview that his favorite cake was a 12-foot tall 7,000-pound Transformers cake.
The family works 8-10 hours a day. Although their cakes are internationally known, most visitors leave with Lobster Tail pastries and Pignoli Nut Cookies!
Buddy Valastro brought some controversy when he was arrested for a DUI in November 2014. He told the cop “You can’t arrest me, I’m the Cake Boss!” Buddy apologized and pleaded guilty getting his license suspended for 90 days and had to pay a $300 fine.
15 Most Fake: Ghost Brothers
Dalen Spratt, Juwan Mass, and Marcus Harvey make up the best friend trio that are the first ever all-black paranormal investigators of Ghost Brothers. Like any ghost haunting show, this one uses TV magic and the gear the Ghost Brothers use is a bit lower tech than we are used to. They use a laser grid pen, IR cameras, and their own smartphones.
The quality that separates the Ghost Brothers from other paranormal shows is how they talk to the “undead.” Other shows have a tendency to try to upset or anger spirits to get them to say something on their EVP- electronic voice phenomena. However, the Ghost Brothers talk to the “ghost” with more empathy and warmth.
“I feel like we’re the most polite ghost hunters out there. We go in with a sense of reverence and deference. We have respect for those who came and went before us.” Dalen said in an interview.
Although this show uses TV magic, like any paranormal show, I fully enjoy the freshness of how the three friends interact and bring comedy to the show.
14 Some Truth: 90 Day Fiancé
90 Day Fiancé started January 12, 2014. It is still airing on TLC along with its spin-off: 90 Day Fiancé What Now.
In an interview with Anfisa Arkhipchenko, from season 4, she reports that couples have been together for a long time and already have met at least once prior to them putting in an application for the K-1 Visa. The K-1 Visa requires that couples to have met at least once prior to moving to the United States. 90 Day Fiancé also has no say in or help with getting the participants Visas. The show starts filming once the international participant lands in the U.S. They continue to film until the wedding. Participants also have 90 days to get married, but they do not have to wait the full 90 days to get married, they just need to be married by the 90th day.
Some of the participants that are not still together are Cassia and Jason from Season 2, Chelsea and Yamir from Season 2, and Danielle and Mohomed from Season 2. Couples that are still married range from Season 1 participants Aziza and Mike, Louis and Aya, Paola and Russ, and Kirlyam and Alan. From Season 2: Amy and Danny, Daya and Brett, and Evelin and Justin. From Season 3: Carolina and Fernando, Loren and Alexei, Melanie and Devar, Noon and Kylie, Mark and Nikki, and Aleksandra and Josh. From Season 4: Alla and Matt, Nicole and Azan, and Jorge and Anfisa.
13 Most Fake: Jon and Kate Plus 8
Julie Gosselin, sister of Jon Gosselin, stated in one of her blogs that everything is fake. According to Julie, Kate made a wish list of things she wanted (a carpet, hair plugs, teeth whitening) and they would trade for free advertisement or it would come out of the budget from the show. To make themselves more relatable they wanted to look like a struggling family.
Jon and Kate Plus Eight aired April 2007. The show was about how Jon and Kate raised twins and sextuplets.
The show started off great until Kate would belittle Jon on TV and then in Dec 2009, we find out that Jon was having a three-month affair with Deana Hummell. The show made it look like Jon and Kate were living together for months until Kate’s brother opened up about how Jon was sleeping in the apartment above the garage. The show then had an episode about them splitting and the title of the show changed to Kate Plus Eight, showing her as a single mom. However, the rantings decreased and the show ended not too long after the change.
12 Some Truth: Unexpected
Unexpected follows three teenagers, McKayla Adkins (17) and her boyfriend Caelan, Lexus Scheller (16) and her ex-boyfriend Shayden (17), and Lilly Bennett (17) with her boyfriend James, as they get help from their families as they get ready for the baby to be born.
The mothers of the girls also were teenage mothers themselves. Lilly’s Mom, Kim, was 16 when she had Lilly. McKayla’s mom, Shannon, was 19 when she had McKayla. Lexus’ mom, Kelsey, had Lexus at 16. Lexus’ grandmother was also a teenage mother. The show is really good at showing how naive the girls are at the beginning. In one episode of Unexpected, Lilly states that her baby is the size of a zucchini, and later admits she has no idea what a zucchini even is. MaKayla gets a Prom Dress for $150 even though she knows her boyfriend Caelan has never had a job.
Lilly ends up dropping out of high school during the show due to being bullied. Her Boyfriend, James, also ends up drops out of high school so he could work more hours at Target to support the baby.
11 Most Fake: Honey Boo Boo
Here Comes Honey Boo Boo started in 2012 introducing us to child beauty queen Alana Thompson, Mama June Shannon, and other redneck family members. Honey Boo Boo, Alan Thompson, uses the catch phrase “A dollar make me holla.”
The family enjoys redneck events like mud sliding and bobbing for pigs’ feet at the Redneck Games.
The reason this goes on the fake list is that The National Enquirer reported that Anna “Chickadee” was left at her grandmother’s (Sandra Hale) house while June moved in with her then-boyfriend. Child Welfare jumped in to grant sole custody to Sandra Hale. Anna lived with Sandra until June bribed her with $500 a month. June thought that Anna’s illegitimate teenage pregnancy would bring good story lines for the show.
Of course, the editing of the show reminds us there isn’t just an economic but moral difference and that they’re loosely reality shows.
10 Some Truth: My 600lb Life
My 600lb Life follows morbidly obese participants for a year while they are seeing Dr. Younan Nowzaeadan (or Dr. Now, for short) in Houston Texas. Dr. Now performs general and vascular surgeries including gastric bypasses on patients that most doctors are not able to. Most X-Ray machines do not go over 450lbs. Most house scales and scales at doctor offices do not go over 300lbs. Dr. Now has specialized equipment that can accommodate the minimum weight for the show, 600lbs.
My 600lb Life just follows the participants on their journey. No one forces them or watches them like they are watched on shows like Biggest Loser. So, many people look at gastric bypass as a magical weight fixture, but in reality, they either do not lose that much weight or they gain more weight.
Also, many of the participants have food addiction due to something terrible that happened in their childhood. It could range from sexual abuse to mental or physical abuse. Dr. Now suggests therapy for these participants.
9 Most Fake: Toddlers and Tiaras
Toddlers and Tiaras aired from December 2008 until October 2013. It launched the careers of Honey Boo Boo and Eden Wood. Each kid competes in three different categories.
In an interview with Radaronline.com, Devin’s mother, Darci McHenry states that Devin had to retake a scene of her “Singing a song spontaneously” six times. She goes on to say how some things are completely recreated while some things are real.
“You’re mic’d the whole time. You can be addressing one person and editors can come in and splice it to make it look like you’re addressing someone else with those comments because it makes for better television.” Darci McHenry continued.
Staging half-dozen pageants for Toddlers and Tiaras, Maxine Tinnel says much of the drama is manufactured and manipulated. In August 2016 a sequel to Toddlers and Tiaras, called Another Toddlers and Tiaras, aired August 2016.
8 Some Truth: Little People, Big World
This was a tough one to judge, but I ultimately decided to place it on the 'some truth' side. Little People, Big World is a documentary about the Roloff family from 2006 and is still a show today. Matt and Amy stand at 4 feet tall. They were raising their four children when the show first started, Jeremy and Zach (twins), Molly, and Jacob.
They owned and operate a 34-acre plot of land in Oregon. They used to have tours of the property until a woman fell over the picnic pavilion and claimed to have had several injuries. She sued for $1 million dollars. Her lawyers stated that she sustained injuries as a direct result of the negligence of the Roloff couple.
One of the reasons this was hard to decide where to put was because TLC had used a cliffhanger at the end of season 5, where Matt had collapsed on the floor. Fans were so worried that they went to social media trying to figure out what had happened to him. Some had speculated he had died. Matt ended up going to Twitter and showing he was fine. When the next episode aired, he had been months free of having any passing out issues that were caused by his Vertigo.
7 Most Fake: Breaking Amish
Breaking Amish is a reality TV show that follows one Mennonite and four Amish as they experience the outside world (New York City) for the first time. This show has a spin-off called Return to Amish. However, one of the 30-year-old members, Jeremiah Raber, stated he needed to figure out who he was by leaving his family’s farm for the first time at the age of 18; however, there is proof that he left several years before that. He was married Naomi Stutzman for 6 years with three children. She filed for divorce for “Gross Neglect of Duty” and “Extreme Cruelty.” She stayed in a shelter for victims of domestic violence and got a restraining order.
Another issue was when Jessica and Abe met. They said they had never met before, yet there is proof that not only had they met prior to the show, but also they were in a relationship! They also have a child together.
Since 2011, Andrew Schmucker has been in and out of probation and jail. He recently was sent to prison for seven years because he violated his parole.
6 Some Truth: Dr. Pimple Popper
In 2015, Dr. Sandra Lee, a board-certified dermatologist, started an Instagram account because she wanted to explain her world of dermatology in visual ways. She would show pictures from consults, surgeries, and in-office procedures. Procedures range from Mohs surgery, Botox, keloid removals, ear surgeries, blackhead extractions, and dissections of lipomas and cysts.
She now has a following of 2.6 million fans on Instagram and 3.2 million fans on Youtube. On her Youtube channel, it states she does her videos to “educate you about different diseases of the skin, hair, and nails, and give you some skin care advice.” She even uses tools like the comedone extractor and curved blackhead tweezers to get blackheads. This show started January 3, 2018.
5 Most Fake: Sister Wives
Polygamy is when one man marries multiple women at one time. Polygamy is illegal in the United States, but some states don't pursue these families, like Nevada.
Sister Wives was first started in September 2010. Kody Brown was married to Meri and had three “Spiritual Wives” Janelle, Christine, and Robyn. However, in February 2015, Kody announced he was divorcing Meri, whom he had been married to for over 20 years. He wanted to marry Robyn so he could adopt her three children for health benefits and stability.
Prior to the first season ending, Utah’s police had started an investigation into the Brown family because of their bigamy laws. The Brown family made it appear that due to the police investigation they were forced to move. Or were they? Radar Online interviewed Christine’s Aunt, Kristyn Decker, who stated they had been talking about moving long before the investigation. They used the drama with the state to get ratings.
4 Some Truth: Say Yes To The Dress
In 2006, filming began for Say Yes To The Dress with TLC. This show is real. There are also spin-offs, like Say Yes To The Dress Atlanta, that is filmed in the Atlanta location of the dress shop. However, I do have to warn you, due to the popularity of this show, if you go to the store during non-production days and do not have a 90-minute appointment with them, you will have to fight 20+ other brides to be looking for dresses, platforms, and mirror space. Also, with camera magic, the storefront looks bigger than it actually is.
However, if you do get a 90-minute appointment, you can inform them of a budget, get a personalized consultant, the owners will give you their personal numbers in case of issues, and you are not obligated to get any of the 4 dresses you try on.
3 Most Fake: Long Island Medium
Long Island Medium follows the business of Theresa Caputo. With the help of TV magic, she can make anything happen.
During her live shows, she uses obvious cold readings. When a “reader” (like a psychic or medium) uses a person’s body language, age, clothing, hairstyle, gender, religion, race, level of education, and manner of speech to assume a lot of information about a person.
However, Theresa took it a step further. According to magician and skeptical investigator Mark Edward, who did an expose on her in 2012, says “At one point Theresa asked a woman, ‘Why am I picking up baby clothes?’ To which the woman replied, ‘Oh that’s weird. I just put up a bunch of pictures of baby clothes on my Facebook Page.’ Not weird at all, really.” Why isn’t this weird? Well, Edward goes on to explain that Theresa uses credit cards from Ticketmaster, Facebook, Foursquare, Twitter and whatever other social media she can find. Our society overshares, which means you can find anything out on a person.
2 Most Fake: Extreme Couponing
Extreme Couponing started in December 2010 and ended in December 2012. It followed extreme couponers as they collected and used coupons to get a large number of groceries for close to nothing, if not free. The reason this is on the fake side is that the scenarios were scripted, stores’ coupon policies were fixed for the show, and some conducted unethical coupon procedures.
In real life, extreme couponing is made into a full-time job. 40+ hours a week. Collecting coupons and matching them to sales and to the stores' coupon policies. Many will also go to the store first thing in the morning so they do not miss out on any of the items that were advertised.
One episode had a store in Arizona that allowed one of the couponers to double up on all of their coupons. However, that store at that time had a policy that you could only double up on your first three coupons.
1 Some Truth: My First Home
My First Home is a half-hour reality show that follows families, couples, singles, or even best friends as they go from searching for their dream home to owning their dream home.
Not only do you have to learn new lingo, such as contingencies are when a home seller receives an offer from a buyer, but the buyer needs to meet conditions before finalizing. Or, Escrow, which means after the seller accepts the offer, escrow can start depositing monies, documents, and instructions into an account until all sale is verified and complete. You get to see a large variety of homes from a two-bedroom condo in LA to a two-story colonial in Tennessee.
Some of the stages are searching for a home, making a bid on that home, and getting an inspector, who may find things like faulty wiring. After that, and if the Escrow doesn’t fall through, you receive a lot more paperwork prior to receiving those dream keys.