If you still think reality shows have elements that aren’t fake, congratulations! The time machine worked and you’ve escaped the 1990s. But even if you are aware of the copious amounts of tomfoolery these types of programs gleefully partake in, chances are you haven’t realized just how far some of them are willing to go to fend off viewer boredom. There’s a difference between carefully editing dozens of hours of footage into making it seem like everyone’s just talking about Steve’s dong all the time … and the stuff these fucking shows got up to.
#5. The Cheaters Stabbing Incident
Ah, Cheaters. If you haven’t channel-surfed past its syndicated ass enough times to have an idea of what it’s about, let me enlighten you: A fucker suspects that their significant otherfucker is cheating on them, and contacts a smarmy host and his “cheating investigators.” After a couple of half-assed research scenes, there’s inevitably a huge confrontation/screaming match during whatever the hell compromising situation the show bothers to whip up that particular week. Show business as usual, right?
And then, one fateful night, a particularly irate cheating boyfriend just up and stabs the host, Joey Greco.
In all fairness, this is Joey Greco.
I’m not going to embed the actual video, because, although it is relatively tame, its casual, flailing “Holy shit, what even happened just now?” treatment of the incident actually makes it surprisingly convincing. (It’s here if you want to take a look and aren’t currently at risk of having a really uncomfortable stabbing-related discussion with a boss/teacher.) It certainly convinced me when I first saw it over a decade ago. I never really bothered to research it, because come on, but for years, it was a constant blind spot in my “reality shows are fuckery” spider sense. This was a time before a thousand other reality franchises started jumping their particular sharks, so it was fairly easy to believe something like that could actually happen. “Well, sure, most reality shows are bullshit, but remember that one guy who stabbed a host when the host and a camera crew caught him cheating? It’s only logical something like that would happen eventually.”
Also, again, this is Joey Greco.
But of course a show that’s exclusively about terrible people shouting at maybe slightly less terrible people isn’t what you’d call a paragon of honesty. According to the good people of Inside Edition, who in 2010 saw fit to devote a frankly unhealthy amount of effort to researching Cheaters, the whole stabbing incident was a big fat pile of dog shit. Not only did the area’s police department go all, “Huh? What stabbing?” when questioned about it, their interviews with various cheaters/cheatees associated with the show revealed that several of them were merely paid a few hundred bucks to scream at each other on TV. I’d be tempted to say all of them were paid actors, but let’s face it: We all know at least a few proto-Kardashians saw their chance and threw their relationships to the wolves to score some sweet, sweet airtime.
#4. Amish Mafia And The World’s Most Clearly Fake Criminal Organization
Amish Mafia. Amish mafia.
Fucking. Amish. Mafia.
If you didn’t watch that video, either out of laziness or because you feel literally anything is a more productive use of your time, you’re a better person than I. Not that it will save you. We’re in this together, whether you like it or not. Eat GIF, motherfucker:
Don’t act like you didn’t see this coming.
Look at those unassuming “Amish” men wielding their nasty-ass weapons. Really, really look at them, and realize that these guys apparently broke the rules of their people only once, when they listened to Weird Al’s “Amish Paradise” and took the ass-kicking message of it way too seriously.
Because that’s basically the premise Amish Mafia expects us to swallow. The producers and the stars of the show are completely adamant about their authenticity, even when every single news story about them is centered around the dubious nature of the show’s premise, and even Snopes.com has been annoyed enough by the show to thoroughly debunk it. “These people are a fringe group of outlaws,” the showmakers explain to the tune of describing a girlfriend you wouldn’t know because she totally lives in Canada. “They keep the peace in their community by getting their hands dirty and acting as enforcers, and their leader is called Lebanon Levi, and … what, why are you all laughing? We’re totally serious, you guys!”
“It’d be too bad if something happened to that nice buggy of yours.”
Man, I know that’s supposed to be super threatening and all. Yet, I can’t shake the feeling that if the actual mafia would operate by tipping over carts that look like they weigh 40 pounds max, we would never even have heard of them because they’d still be stuck in Italy, attempting to extort protection money from chickens.
But at least Amish Mafia benefits from the fact that very few people are familiar with the Amish, which is why it’s easy for the kind of person who takes things at face value to believe all sorts of bullshit about them. Surely this kind of thing wouldn’t fly in a more familiar, urban setting …
#3. Lizard Lick Towing Is Basically Pro Wrestling With Cars
Lizard Lick Towing is a show about, shockingly, a towing and repossession company located in Wendell, North Carolina. Either its crew is by far the most inept that has ever operated or they’re putting something in the water around their garage (my guess: They replace it with whiskey), because absolutely every single second of their work life is a goddamned monkey brawl. This is
partially entirely because a) they operate with all the tact and professionalism of a dog that has just seen a butthole it would very much like to sniff, and b) literally every person they encounter is a fucking psychopath that would make Hannibal Lecter go, “Whoa.”
Here are a couple of the Lizard Licks trying to “subtly” tow away a car that they somehow tracked to the middle of the woods, only to encounter a group of murderous hunters that promptly open fire on them:
“There is absolutely no better way we could have handled this!”
In another equally clever scenario, they chase down a guy in true Cops style, because that’s how fucking towing companies operate, and end up on train tracks. Somehow, absolutely no one manages to notice this until the inevitable happens:
“We’re super good at our job and could not have avoided this scenario in any way!”
Or maybe there’s a fistfight and the guy whose car they’re trying to repo just drives it into a lake, because frankly, these guys act like such dipshits that I would probably do that exact thing too after knowing them for 15 seconds.
“SUPER DUPER GOOD AT OUR JOB!”
If you hit YouTube, you’ll find scene after scene of these situations, and the more you watch them, the more they start to seem like those dumbass skits WWE likes to air between matches, with all the acting ability that involves. Upon closer inspection, this is because — gasp — that’s pretty much what Lizard Lick Towing is.
Its Wikipedia page, which I refuse to believe is not operated by the showrunner’s nephew, hilariously labels the series as Cinema verite, a form of semi-documentary filmmaking that, and I quote, “combines improvisation with the use of the camera to unveil truth or highlight subjects hidden behind crude reality.” Sure, dude. That’s exactly what your show about people getting attacked in mobile shithouses is, especially as the very network explicitly states that the show mainly features real-life-inspired situations. That’s a fun word, “inspired.” It almost sounds like it could be used to present “real” events in a dramatically different light if you felt like it. Luckily, TV and movie people are a respectful crowd that would never let something like that happen. Oh, wait.
#2. South Beach Tow Star Is Thrown Off A Building
Look, I don’t know what it is with towing companies and reality shows. The sum total of my experiences with towing are from GTA V, and those missions were the gameplay equivalent of a commercial break you can’t skip because some malicious entity has strapped you to your chair, Clockwork Orange style. But apparently there are enough people out there desperate to see as much hot car-hauling action as possible, because it takes multiple shows to cover it all.
Then again, maybe it’s just a super handy plot device to get people screaming at each other, provided you have the right kind of people. Speaking of whom, this is Bernice from South Beach Tow.
You know the stereotype she plays on the show without watching a single episode.
Now, Bernice is a real person with thoughts, feelings, and bills to pay, so far be it from me to start attacking her, personally. That being said, to me, she’s also the point where I realized that reality shows have completely thrown in the towel. It’s not because of her many and invariably unrealistic confrontations. It’s because the show just decided to fucking throw her off a building.
I’m starting to understand why truTV wasn’t allowed to use the “e” in their name.
Again, if you didn’t watch the video, allow me to ruin your good sense of self-preservation with the magic of GIFs. At first, we’re just looking at your average reality TV car repossession scene that naturally devolves into a screaming match between two uncomfortable stereotype characters:
They thought of adding a Buddhist monk urging peace but couldn’t fit him in the frame.
The situation escalates to the point where the car’s owner attempts to forcibly retake the vehicle and drive it away. Bernice, of course, just happens to be standing right behind the car. What happens next is …
The collective groan of special effects teams everywhere is still circling the globe.
That fucking stumble! That fall! The fact that Bernice has mysteriously been replaced by a stuntwoman/doll roughly half her size! And yes, before you ask: Of course the woman is up a minute after that neck-breaking fall and a catfight ensues.
I’m almost glad that this absolute turd of a dramatized reenactment exists. Now, any time some dipshit starts talking up the “reality” aspect of reality TV, all I need to do is show them that clip and … watch them go on thinking exactly the way they did before, actually. If by this point in the article you’re still a believer, seeing a woman straight-up get hit by a car, fall off a building, and then walk away without so much as a bruise isn’t exactly going to convince you otherwise.
#1. Just … Every Damned Thing About Urban Tarzan
And then we have Urban Tarzan.
For a long time I believed that this show was an elaborate joke, even with all the YouTube clips and Deadline.com articles and the fact that the show was very sensibly canceled during/after its very first season. I’m not even sure how many episodes were actually made. Five? Ten? The show was made in freaking 2013, and there’s barely any information about it online, almost like the Internet is slowly but determinedly trying to drink its memory out of existence. That might be why, apart from some Internet commenters, short media critique stories, and the occasional community college newspaper, very few institutions have bothered to “officially” label Urban Tarzan as fake.
To his credit, UrbanTarzan is a far better name than Tommy Wiseau Jr.
Together with his sidekick, a “reptile expert” called Caveman (probably not his real name, maybe), UrbanTarzan embarks on animal-themed adventures. Armed with terrible dialogue seemingly supplied by a writing team consisting entirely of 4-year-olds and the acting ability of a sloth on Valium, they tackle whatever “it could happen to you” scenario the show decides to dong-slap its viewers with that particular week. And that would be fine, if the people coming up with their tooooootally real missions weren’t three of those screenwriting toddlers in a trenchcoat. The entire series comes across like urban legend-themed Mad Libs on cough syrup. Some absolutely true examples:
“This week, we’re TRAPPED with a BULL … in a MAZE!”
“‘Maze,’ ‘maize,’ whatever. Pass me that cocaine.”
“Oh shit, a GIANT ALLIGATOR has randomly turned up in this SWIMMING POOL!”
Or even, “Motherfuck! There’s a DRUNK CHIMP that has a GUN!”
Note that at no point does the chimp actually wield a gun, because that would be good entertainment.
All of that is awesome on paper, but Urban Tarzan manages to suck the fun right out of it like a zoo-themed Dementor. Which is a shame. I’m actually pretty pissed that this show went the “reality” TV route. UrbanTarzan could’ve Reno: 911‘d his namesake show with nary a change to the format and given us the best absurdist mockumentary in TV history. Drunk chimps with imaginary guns!
So, to whatever Ed Wood-ian genius is behind Urban Tarzan: If you happen to be reading, please, please go get your camera back from the pawn shop it inevitably ended up in after this abomination of a series was canceled, and go shoot a bunch of new episodes. Then, we can have a real camera crew follow you and these two doofuses around, and make a show about you painstakingly setting up and attempting to act out these scenarios. There’s no one on Earth who wouldn’t watch a show about a bunch of dorks trying to dress weaponized chimps in human clothes and smuggle alligators into people’s swimming pools.
Find out how all reality shows are rigged in 17 Depressing Things Popular Reality Shows Don’t Tell You, and check out the reality show contestants that transcend reality in I Was A Reality TV Judge: 5 Secrets I Shouldn’t Tell You.
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