Speaking of “fake”: What about all those fake scenes in National Geographic’s “Meet The Hutterites”?

From ABC News:

Former ‘Storage Wars’ Star Files Lawsuit Claiming Show Is Fake

Dec. 13, 2012

One of television’s most popular shows, the A&E reality series “Storage Wars,” has come under fire from one of its former stars who claims the show is nearly entirely fake. The lawsuit has prompted questions about just how “real” reality shows like this one are, and if viewers will turn against shows accused of lying….

“I don’t think that, in the immediate, claims of fraud will make a huge difference in viewership,” Michael O’Connell, an editor at the Hollywood Reporter told ABC News. “‘Storage Wars’ gets huge, huge ratings, and this lawsuit probably won’t turn people away.”

As reality TV in all iterations has become more and more popular, with reality programming on just about every channel, people have adjusted what they expect from such shows.

We accept that there will be a certain amount of staging – mostly for logistical reasoning – but if you take even more liberties, it can become an ethical issue,” O’Connell told ABC.

People also have different expectations for reality shows based on which channel airs them, O’Connell said.

People gauge the believability of these shows based on what network they are on,” O’Connell said. “With A&E, History Channel, Discovery Channel, TLC, people are more inclined to believe you are getting things at face-value, because of the educational premise of those networks that has sort of been ingrained into the psyche.”

In related news: The Hutterites of Montana’s King Ranch Colony were featured this summer in a National Geographic Channel “reality” series called American Colony: Meet The Hutterites. Before production began, National Geographic made a contractual commitment to the Hutterites to shoot a “documentary,” but in the weeks and months that followed, the Channel failed to deliver on that promise. Instead, the producers fabricated entire scenes not for “logistical reasons” but for dramatic effect. Drunk Hutterite teenagers accidentally burn down a barn (completely staged)… Colony member has a “heart attack,” and is rushed to the local hospital’s emergency room (all faked for the cameras)… and much more. (Read the behind-the-scenes details, along with personal testimonials by Colony members, here.)

In early September, Hutterite Elders demanded to speak directly with David Lyle, CEO of the National Geographic Channel, to express objections and concerns which they had already communicated in writing. According to our sources, Mr. Lyle (in Washington, DC) showed up for a video conference, and listened politely as the Elders (in Montana) described the full backstory to David Lyle’s own TV production. In response, Mr. Lyle said he was shocked — shocked! — at the alleged deceptions by his producers, and promised to investigate and then report back to the Elders.

What’s happened since that teleconference more than three months ago? Nothing. Mr. Lyle works for Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, which owns the National Geographic Channel. As one of the biggest and most powerful media companies in the world, News Corp has plenty of cash on hand to pay battalions of lawyers to handle exactly this type of… unpleasantness. With that sort of legal muscle on his side, David Lyle is simply ignoring the Hutterites’ complaints and moving on.

Meanwhile in Montana, the Hutterites are pondering their next move. They still have their good name, their farm, their faith, their history, and each other. They also have the collective hope that the National Geographic Society — and its Chairman & CEO John Fahey — will publicly acknowledge what went terribly wrong on this “reality” series, and then step forward to find a way to make things right again.

John Fahey National Geographic


  • Jan Adkins

    “Storage Wars” is not the worst of reality television, obviously, but it’s typical. It’s edgy – just on the edge of conflict and just over the edge of anger and resentment, with obviously manufactured feuds and arguments. The most disturbing thing about the report above is the network’s lackadaisical attitude about facts, that they don’t really matter, do they? It’s doubtful that the audience will fall off even if they know that it’s all fake. But they won’t. Some hotshot TV VP will mention that a few details were pumped up for drama and the audience will nod, of course, and watch. No one will say “This dreck is choreographed and plotted in nearly every detail, and its viewers are being played as fools.” This is nearer the truth. But, as the VP says, truth doesn’t seem to be the issue.

    • Guest

      Facts (and therefore quality) don’t seem to be that important to NGS at all. Take it from someone who deals with quality control.

    • The issue is: How do we get people to watch our channel? Fact, fiction, some blend of the two — it doesn’t really matter, at least to the people producing, and perhaps watching, these shows.

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