How real is reality TV? We go behind the scenes

How real is reality TV? We go behind the scenes

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by MICHELLE BOUDIN / NewsChannel 36 Staff

Bio | Email | Follow: @MichelleBoudin

WCNC.com

Posted on August 8, 2012 at 10:48 AM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 8 at 10:48 AM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Pretty much every network has reality television, and people of Charlotte are often front and center.
 
It has become a big part of our reality.  The shows are the ratings grabbers that we often are embarrassed to admit we love.

But there are plenty more reality TV shows you've probably never heard of.

Heather McDonnell, the owner of Fort Mill's Cupcrazed, made her fiery debut on The Food Network’s ‘Cupcake Wars’ last September.

“You have different producers looking at you—look this way, look this way,” McDonnell said.  “People come back to us (and ask) ‘How did you mix up the flour and the sugar?’  If you had five people screaming at you, you're really not paying attention.”

McDonell says her reality experience was, well, pretty close to reality.
 
“If you do something well they edited it like you did a good job. If we did something stupid, they made sure you looked stupid,” the lifelong baker said.

And she's ok with that.

“I'm always myself, I'm unfiltered.  What you see is what you get. It doesn’t bother me,” she added.

There are other shows, though, where producers take a few liberties  In a scene from ‘Wife Swap’ you can hear a voiceover say, ‘In North Carolina, as well as having to take over all the domestic duties, Sgt. Bill also has to babysit little Charlie.’

On the show moms swapped families for a week.

“I think it’s cool to be on a reality show,” the now grownup Charlie said.

Except Charlie didn't really need a babysitter.

“They needed a stand in baby. The woman that was based here in Charlotte normally babysat and that baby was out of town and they just needed another baby and I had one,” said mother Gwen Poth.

“I don’t know if it was real or not real because I wasn’t the real usual baby,” Charlie added.

Frankie Gunnell used to be a photographer with News Channel 36. We worked together on an interview with ‘American Idol’ winner Fantasia Barrino at her Ballantyne house.

Production crews were also there shooting the short lived VH1 show ‘Fantasia for Real’ and tried to make it look like we were angry she'd kept us waiting.

Photographers asked to shoot us looking at our watches, even though neither one of us wear watches.

“It wasn’t real at all,” Gunnell said.  “They saw an opportunity to build something, which is their job.  They're producers.”

The clip didn't make the cut—that time.

Gunnell ended up back at Fantasia's house when she made national headlines for an alleged suicide attempt.

“I was doing my job. [We] went up to the house, had an encounter with Fantasia’s mom.  The crew was right there and you could tell her mom was playing into it,” Gunnell said.

He now works as a photographer and producer on reality TV show ‘Cops.’

“There’s no script.  We just follow these officers and whatever happens, happens,” he said of his work.  “We pick one officer—one or two—we ride around with them on an eight hour shift and whatever they get, they get.”

Gunnell said it's the real deal and that's why people love it.

“I think people realize how real it is and that’s an attraction to them.”

Because really, we all just want to see that our own reality is pretty OK.
 

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