10 Secrets of Filming Reality TV Shows

Competition Shows Don't Alter the Results
Darius (left) and Cameron (right) of "The Amazing Race" must build the frame of a 'torito,' a paper mache bull rigged with fireworks, hoist it to the top of a 15-foot pole and light it. Competition shows are not usually rigged because of strict federal laws. Robert Voets/CBS via Getty Images

Reality show fans are often suspicious when a not-that-talented person keeps making the cut and advancing, or when a popular — or unpopular — person remains on a show. According to Hollywood blogger Nicki Swift, producers of "The Bachelor" sometimes step in and decide which lucky girl will receive that season's rose if by doing so they will make the show more compelling. But things like that typically don't happen on competition series such as "The Amazing Race."

Competition shows are subject to strict federal rules and regulations, many of which came about after the quiz show scandals of the 1950s. Back then, several of the popular shows, including "The $64,000 Question" and "Twenty-One," routinely helped certain contestants win. When the deceit became known, the public was so outraged Congress stepped in and outlawed the rigging of any game or competition show.

While the law was aimed at traditional game shows, a former "Survivor" contestant sued on those grounds in 2001, saying producers unfairly booted her off the island by interfering with the voting. In 2013, a star of "Storage Wars," a show which involves professional buyers bidding on the unseen contents of abandoned storage sheds, sued the show's network and producers, alleging they hid valuable items in some of the sheds to make the show more interesting. Both cases were settled. One legal expert said the quiz show statute didn't apply in these cases because no real intellectual skills are required to win on these shows. However, most competition shows play it safe by employing a compliance expert who makes sure all contestants are competing on a level playing field [source: Etter].