Particle Physics and Reality TV

by Robin Reed

Physicists say that you can’t observe an atom or subatomic particle without changing it. I have begun to wonder, in the cable reality TV shows that I watch, how TV changes its subjects. Is a fur trapper in Alaska in danger when his plane won’t start? What if he has a TV crew with him? Surely they have their own plane and can give him a ride.

The Ghost Hunters were plumbers when the show started, but they haven’t mentioned that for a while. How much does the show pay? Do the American Pickers really need the small profits from each item or is the TV show paying more than their original business ever could?

These shows are low budget and probably start out paying little or nothing, but when one is a hit, they must start paying pretty well. The Cake Boss is building a factory and is going to sell cakes in grocery stores. Did he get the money for that from his show? Or was he able to get a loan because the show made his cakes famous? Either way his business was changed by TV.

I have thought of trying to buy storage units and selling what I find, but is that business really viable or does it just look good on TV?

I have a friend who recently visited the Pawn Stars shop. She said it’s smaller than it looks on TV, and the now-famous cast are only there when the show is being shot. Does the production company pick the customers for the show because they have the most interesting items or look interesting? Does it have to get signed releases from everyone in the store?

Are some of these reality stars now really actors, who pretend to be in their original business, then get in expensive cars and drive home to mansions? I can’t imagine that a reality show doesn’t pay at all, no one would put up with having the cameras there unless they expected to benefit. Sharon Osbourne pushed her way into celebritydom via the reality show about her family.

Do any of these people have agents? Managers? Do they refuse to do the next season unless they get more money? Does someone who wrestles snapping turtles and has several teeth missing have a contract that says he can’t get his teeth fixed while the show is running?

I do wonder about these things. But I keep watching the shows.

Author: Rreed423

Robin Reed is a writer and cartoonist. She has been published in a number of publications and has novels and short stories online at every possible ebook site.

4 thoughts on “Particle Physics and Reality TV”

  1. While I can’t speak to particular shows, let me answer a few of your questions. Let me skip around a bit and answer them for you.


    Most basic cable reality shows pay very little — even to name talent — in a first season. In subsequent seasons, talent can (and usually does) ask for more, though the smart thing to do is to parlay the time you have on TV into branding yourself and doing your own thing, which we’ve all seen Bethenny Frankel do to great success. As with any kind of stardom, it’s probably at least a little easier to get ahead when every person you run into knows who you are and perceives you as a celebrity… and reality TV can give that to you.


    Of course some reality stars have agents and managers. As to toothless snapping turtle wrestlers, there may indeed be a clause in their contract that they cannot drastically alter their appearance during the run of taping. Reality TV is just like regular television in those respects, though everyone’s contracts are different.


    I don’t have knowledge of whether any of the items on pawn shows or found in storage units are planted there to up the ante or keep things interesting, but I think it is within the realm of possibility. It seems improbable to me that following someone through a normal business day would yield so many of the treasure troves and wacky items found in those shows.


    Does everyone in the background of a location need to sign a release? Well, generally, yes. And if they refuse to sign, you’ve got to cut around them or blur their faces. Sometimes an area release is put up stating that the act of entering an enclosed space (arena, department store, whatever) implies your consent to be filmed.


    Mike Fleiss, creator of THE BACHELOR, was recently quoted in interview at BANFF: “I think most of the shows are fake, I think there’s all kinds of bullsh—t going on behind the scenes with, I would say, outside of the talent shows and the Bachelor, where we really kill ourselves and spend a lot of money and time and destroy our staff to make sure its real, that 70 to 80 per cent of the shows on TV are bullsh—t. They’re loosely scripted. Things are planted. Things are salted into the environment so things seem more shocking.” (Full story here: (NOTE: TVWriter™ has shortened the original godawfully long, long link.)

    I don’t necessarily agree with Mike at the level at which other shows are “bullsh-t,” but I did recently state on the TODAY show during the big hoopla about HOUSE HUNTERS supposedly being manipulated that the “how real is it” question in reality is secondary to “is it entertaining?” in most cases. (That appearance and discussion here:

    The best reality shows are the ones where the reactions are real. Is it normal for a man to live in a house with 25 women while he tries to figure out which one he might be in love with? No. But what makes THE BACHELOR such a successful series is that even when the show is chock full of over-the-top date experiences, travel and surprises, the emotional reactions to those things seem genuine.

    Reality producers get into trouble when they try to force participants into molds or guide their responses to things. When you have non-actors acting, the result is never as good as it is when non-actors are allowed to react to things as themselves.

  2. Also, if it’s cool with Larry and, I’ll share that I keep a blog at that supplements “Reality TV: An Insider’s Guide to TV’s Hottest Market”, my bestselling book on the process behind producing and creating reality television.

  3. Everything realitytvtroy says and does here is indeed cool with Larry (and therefore with TVWriter™, get it, munchman?) because rtt, also known as Troy DeVolld, is one of the undisputed kings/geniuses of the reality TV genre.

    Anyone interested in working in “reality” definitely should check out Troy’s personal blog at as well as the one he mentions above.

    But first go to his IMDB page, so you can be properly aware of who has honored us with his presence here today.

    Oh, and Troy, if you can’t find the time to do some blogging for us here, I’m definitely going to be quoting cogent articles from your aforementioned sites. Hell, I’m going to do it even if you do find the time.

    Thanks for commenting, dood. Talk to you later,


  4. I didn’t expect a response from someone who actually knows the answers to my questions. Thanks for taking the time to do so, Troy.
    One sequence on Pawn Stars had Chumley chasing down Bob Dylan to get an autograph, and he just ran into him on the street outside his hotel. That seemed like a clearly pre-arranged situation.

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