(New York,NY) — Reality shows about real estate, such as those about selling homes to buyers and flipping homes, are all the rage. Fixer Upper on HGTV with Chip and Joanna Gaines is so popular that the duo’s book remained number one and in the top ten on Amazon’s book sales chart for many months. Property Brothers, the highest-ranking program on HGTV about the twin Scott brothers who help families buy shabby homes and renovate them, draws more than 14 million viewers each season.
That’s all good and well, but according to a widely circulated and recent New York Times article about the Property Brothers, many viewers and those in the industry learned that the show is almost scripted, with the brothers having to do many takes and re-filming for the producers to get the right shots or the most appropriate reactions from the brothers. And On Fixer Upper, the outcomes are decided beforehand by producers.
IS THERE REALITY IN A REALITY SHOW?
So what is real and fake in real estate reality shows? And is that even a question to mull over in this day and age where many hits have staged scenes to produce conflict among the reality stars in order to make the show entertaining? Even HGTV’s House Hunters, which has no actors or hosts, only voice overs, is strains credibility. The show follows prospective home owners who look at three potential houses and then, as the half hour show concludes, they decide which one to purchase. Who looks at only three homes before choosing?
With all that in mind, consider that the veracity of the hit Bravo show, Million Dollar Listing New York, which has been called into question after the New York Times article was posted. So what’s real and what’s not on Million Dollar Listing?
As in many reality shows, production crews who have ratings and time limitations to deal with, often add scenes to create tension and drama. Million Dollar, apparently, does this all the time. The show even reshoots mundane scenes to compress the time limit or film shots like movies do, out of order.
BEHIND THE SCENES
According to TVOM, the power brokers admitted that scenes where they get out of bed in the morning are actually filmed when it’s convenient. In this case, the moments were shot in the afternoon, not the morning. Once production wraps, the producers of Million Dollar sometimes have to go back months later to add new scenes. In these cases, continuity is important, and so the brokers have to dress in winter clothing during the summer to reenact scenes and to get the best shots. As TVOM claims, one episode even featured a realtor party celebrating the recent sale of a New York City penthouse which had in fact been sold several months earlier.
WHY IS MDL SO POPULAR?
The series, of course, follows three high-end agents selling million dollar listings, to echo the show’s name. In reality, there is little drama in buying and selling real estate. Much of what it takes to be a successful agent looks as if he or she is an executive assistant. So there is a lot of pencil pushing, dealing with paper work, and making and answering calls, for example. All of these things are tedious and boring, which is a surprise that Million Dollar gets high ratings and is one of Bravo’s most notable and successful shows.
But the producers know how to add drama by revealing the personal lives of the brokers, who often have fancy parties to go to. And then there’s the money shot, where the brokers show listings to buyers. This is part of the why the show is a hit: viewers are tantalized to go behind the scenes and see homes so beautiful and expensive, homes many viewers may never have a chance to get a glimpse. In this way Million Dollar is pure fantasy, allowing viewers to leave their humdrum lives—and more important, their homes that are a dump or in disarray—for a moment. They like how the show dramatizes the personal lives of the brokers, or people who lead more exciting lives than they do. In essence, Milion Dollar Listings is no different from a soap opera.
SHOW STAR SERHANT DEFENDS MDL
All of this controversy has provoked Ryan Serhant, one of the stars, to defend his show. Even though sources are reputable and leading newspapers and blogs claim the show is fake, Serhant denies that the show follows no script, has no re-dos and is 100 percent real. Supposedly, Million Dollar’s network, Bravo, ensures that all the agents are forthright and honest about any listings shown on TV. An “intense” check is also made on all the broker’s clients and leasing agreements. In an interview in the Huffington Post, Serhant said,
“Our show is far more real than people probably understand. People kind of feel with shows like the ‘Kardashians’ that it’s [like a scripted reality]. Our show is far more real than people probably understand. People kind of feel with shows like the ‘Kardashians’ that it’s [like a scripted reality]. Everything is real, everything is organic, which is why you see so many deals die on the show. At first, when we started doing the show, I hated it because I was like, ‘I don’t want to go on TV and have it show me lose deals.’ That sucks.”
He added, “But that’s what life is like, you know you probably end up losing more deals than you make and the show shows that. It shows that you think you have something sold and then the buyer pulls out. That’s what happens to us every single day ― it’s uncomfortable ― but that’s what the show is about.”
So who do you believe? Serhant or the articles about his show? It’s hard to say. The show certainly looks real when it films brokers losing sales. And, as suggested, reality shows re-shoot scenes all the time. The lighting is off, the voices of the stars are too muffled and need to be re-recorded. In the wake of these allegations, there is one thing to agree on: the producers have found a way to make a show about three brokers exciting. No wonder it pulls in the high ratings and is a popular hit.