If it's not already obvious, reality TV is far from realistic, at least not in the sense of capturing unedited and spontaneous events. Although this genre may not be fully scripted like a sitcom, there is a lot of manipulation that takes place in order for the show to arrive at a certain conclusion.
On competition shows like The Bachelor (2002) viewers are led to believe that the contestants are competing for an equal chance to win the grand prize – in the case of The Bachelor, the prize of a husband. Although this formula is enough to gain some people's attention, if producers feel at any point that viewers might predict who will win, they will interject either in the production or the editing stages to alter the narrative. Chris Harrison, host of The Bachelor and The Bachelorette (2003), revealed to Entertainment Weekly, "I’ll be the first person to tell you we edit the show. We try to throw people off."
Often times because production on these type of reality shows are kept secret and contestants are sworn to secrecy what really goes on behind the scenes is anybody's guess. But over the years several contestants from The Bachelor and The Bachelorette have come forward to expose what really goes on behind the cameras.
Sean Lowe on The Bachelor, Season 17 (ABC)
Sean Lowe, who was on the eighth season of The Bachelorette and the 17th season of The Bachelor, recently wrote a book that goes into detail about how manipulative producers can be. His book, For The Right Reasons, revealed that not only do producers offer suggestions on how a contestant should look – he was told to grow out his hair – but they are also given a list of things not to wear. In an interview with Mic, Dana Weiss who runs Possessionista, said that the women must provide all of their own clothing and are only allowed to bring two suitcases. "They often 'front-wear' their good clothes, so by around week six or seven, they start wearing their old ugly dresses from high school," Weiss said.
Sharleen Joynt, a former contestant, runs her own blog on the show and says that while the show is very much focused on your looks there are very few mirrors in the mansion for the contestants to use. She writes that she and a few other women complained for days before they received "one of those flimsy—but functional—small-ish full length mirrors."
In addition to limiting the resources available to each contestants, producers will stage shots, like the order that contestants exit the limo or that time a former contestent supposedly crashed the set, while editing others to make it look as if something happened when in reality nothing occurred. Occassionally fans are able to pick out where producers made a big deal out of nothing. In a recap of an episode from The Bachelor, Joynt pointed out how it was made to seem that all of the women watched the bachelor on his date, when in reality the women had simply been staring out a hotel window.
In the end, reality competition shows like The Bachelor are as much a drama as a reality show. Many who work behind the scenes of a reality competition show will go to extremes to contrive situations and storylines in order to make good TV.