Every one of us has our own favorite TV game show. Whether it’s Jeopardy! or The Price is Right, these programs hold a special place in our hearts. After all, walking away with a bunch of free stuff sounds like a dream, right? But some of the things which go on behind the scenes with these shows might have you spitting out your coffee. So from drunk hosts to participants Googling their answers, here are 40 secrets that producers would rather keep quiet.
40. You can take the cash instead
You don’t always get the prizes you win – as one Price is Right contestant discovered. A Reddit user claimed that though they won a haul including movie tickets and an iPad, the show’s staff handed them the cash equivalent instead. But that’s allegedly at the discretion of the show’s producers. Apparently, you can’t just ask for cash.
39. No repeat offenders
If you’re lucky enough to win a CBS game show – including The Price is Right and Wheel of Fortune – it’ll be your last for a while. According to Ranker, there’s a whopping decade-long ban on winners appearing on any other program on the network. You can go to a taping, but don’t expect to be winning prizes any time soon.
38. The true meaning of a lifetime: part one
Winning a lifetime’s supply of anything sounds like a great deal, right? Well, that all depends on how you measure a life. One Reddit user who said they’d been a contestant on the Australian Wheel of Fortune show received a lifetime supply of WD40 oil. And it amounted to four whole cans. Apparently, each one lasts 20 years…
37. The true meaning of a lifetime: part two
In some cases, a lifetime supply can mean exactly that. One Redditor claimed that their partner won a lifetime supply of Butterfinger bars as a kid. Hundreds of them subsequently landed on her doorstep. And while many were eaten, most were given away or thrown in the trash. She reportedly never ate the candy again. So, technically, it did last a lifetime.
36. Millionaire family fortunes
Ever wondered why the audience so often gives the wrong answer on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? Well, apparently it’s deliberate, according to one Reddit user who said that they’d been a contestant. They claimed that the crowd is made up of the family and friends of the potential players. So, the quicker the person in the hot-seat leaves, the more likely their loved one will get a shot at a million dollars.
35. Fake cash in a cab
You know that famous traveling quiz show with an instant prize called Cash Cab? Well, while the winners might look like they get to walk away with a wad of green, it’s actually fake money, according to a Redditor. Instead, the winners get a check in the mail after their episode has aired.
34. Pre-judge judges
Auditions for The X-Factor are notoriously awkward and hilarious – often featuring the deluded and disillusioned alongside the more talented potentials. This is how open auditions work, right? Wrong: a Redditor claims that all auditionees actually see a set of pre-show judges before making it onto the celeb judges part. Only the most TV-worthy get to see how short Simon Cowell really is.
33. Pre-pre-recorded laughter
We all know that canned laughter is sometimes used on sitcoms to beef up the reactions. But did you know that competitions including The X-Factor do something very similar? One Reddit user claimed that the Aussie version of the show pre-tapes the audience reactions before any act reaches the stage, and they then use them in the broadcast.
32. Silent jeopardy
While the late Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek was supremely chatty during the episodes, contestants found that he was entirely silent between takes. But that’s not because he was unfriendly, you understand. Trebek was actually banned from talking to contestants when the cameras were off, to avoid even the smallest whiff of collusion. Why? Well, back in the 1950s quiz shows were mired in scandals, and Congress subsequently amended the Communications Act to make cheating an offence.
31. Changing colors
Shows such as Jeopardy! air on a daily basis, though they aren’t necessarily filmed that way. According to one Reddit user, the program’s producers film multiple episodes at a time, and they are broadcast at a rate of one per day. This means that returning contestants must bring different outfits to wear, so that it looks as if they came back a few days in a row.
30. Commercial turn
Something rather unique apparently occurs during the taping of Wheel of Fortune. It’s filmed live, as you would expect, but that also includes the ads which appear during the commercial breaks. But we didn’t get to the odd part yet. While the commercials are playing, one Redditor claimed that contestants have to turn their backs so that they don’t spend extra time looking at the board. Weird, right?
29. Credit car
Being able to drive away in a shiny new car is one of The Price is Right’s most appealing draws. But, as it turns out, you might not get the gleaming vehicle that was sat in front of you during your time on the show. One Reddit user who claimed they’d been a contestant reported receiving a call from a local dealership after their episode aired. Apparently, the person instead received a gift card which amounted to the car’s value.
28. MasterChef made easy
The MasterChef franchise makes its contestants look as though they’re all excellent cooks who can complete intricate challenges in ridiculously small amounts of time. But one audience member watching the Aussie version told Yahoo Lifestyle that this might not be the case. According to Melbourne mom Donna De La Rue, contestants all have assistants who taste the food and clean up after the messy cooks are done.
27. Speedy chefs
Producers for MasterChef Australia apparently have some interesting tricks up their sleeves. During the episodes, the contestants frantically attempt to make delicious dishes before time runs out. But, it seems, not all cooks work at the same speed. Melbourne mother Donna De La Rue told Yahoo Lifestyle that some finish in lightning-quick time. Though she claimed that the episodes are edited to make it look as if they all finish together.
26. Don’t forget your taxes
There is one huge catch to winning anything on a TV quiz show. And that’s tax. Yup, any prizes won are considered earned income in the U.S., which means you have to pay upfront before receiving any of your haul. As per E! Online, one victorious quizzer turned down a $10,000 prize because he didn’t want to split it with his ex-wife. You have been warned.
25. Easy games for a new host
Producers on The Price is Right wanted comedian Drey Carey to be popular with the audience when he took over hosting duties in 2007. So they came up with a novel way of doing just that. To smooth the transition, easier games were introduced – leading to more winners. In turn, show runners hoped that goodwill would rub off on the new presenter. There was one problem with that strategy, though. While viewers loved Carey, the show was $700,000 over budget by January the following year, according to E! Online. Popularity, it seems, is very expensive.
24. Nickelodeon’s tasty idea
Over the years, we’ve seen countless kids get covered in slime on Nickelodeon’s game shows. But it’s not just youngsters who’ve had the pleasure of getting covered in neon-colored goo. Thanks to the network’s Kids’ Choice Awards, plenty of adult celebrities have been gunked – including Will Smith, Justin Bieber and Demi Lovato. Though it could be worse. According to one Reddit user, the green stuff actually tastes like pineapple.
23. Trading prizes
Back in the 1980s it seems that game show producers were a little more flexible about which prize you actually took home. One Redditor revealed that their mom negotiated a great deal after winning on The Price is Right. She swapped a two-door Pontiac Sunbird for a four-door Sunfire car, a trailer for cash and a grand piano for a much smaller electronic keyboard. Her sons are apparently both musicians now, and they credit the show with their careers.
22. The host might be drunk
Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak once revealed that there was often something of a party atmosphere in the studio during the show’s early seasons. And that was mostly due to Sajak and co-host Vanna White being a bit tipsy on-set. The former once told ESPN2, “[White] and I would… have two, three or six [drinks] and then come and do the last shows and have trouble recognizing the alphabet.”
Shows like The Bachelor franchise are often accused of being scripted and not real in any fashion. Though that isn’t strictly true. According to Cosmopolitan, while there’s no real pre-written dialogue to speak of, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a specific story that producers want to tell. And they apparently achieve this with clever editing.
20. Google a friend
Contestants on Who Wants to be a Millionaire? are given the option of calling a friend when they get stuck. That pal is then given 30 seconds to come up with an answer. But did you know that they are not prohibited from using Google to help nail down the right option? That’s according to one Reddit user, who claimed that the producers made no mention of banning search engines when he appeared as a lifeline on the show.
19. No broadcast, no prize
Believe it or not, contestants usually receive their prizes only after a game show episode has aired. These programs need advertising revenue, after all. One Reddit user claimed that they were a contestant on a show called Sale of the Century, and it was due to be broadcast on September 12, 2001. They apparently nearly lost out on their winnings after regular programming was suspended following the 9/11 attacks the previous day. Though in their case, the prizes were saved as the program was eventually aired due to a carry-over champion also appearing on that particular episode.
18. The floor is orange sauce
Hit Netflix game show The Floor is Lava – an adults-only remake of a kids’ program – uses a very special goo to represent said liquid magma. Producers have claimed that while the actual recipe is a secret, there is a commercially available product that comes really close to it. And it’s Panda Express Orange Sauce. Turns out you can try this at home!
17. Cold tasting
The judges on MasterChef Australia make it look as though the food they’re eating is straight out of the kitchen. Though it turns out that they are just really good actors. Host Ted Allen explained to Yahoo! TV that the meals in front of them are actually cold – having sat in storage for up to an hour. As a result, judges often try the dishes while they’re being cooked to get an idea of what they really taste like.
16. No babies allowed
This might surprise you, but it turns out that the producers on Survivor have some quite peculiar concerns when it comes to their contestants. According to website The Things, participants are offered birth control during filming to prevent any island-related mishaps. But they only offer it to the female participants. Perhaps they can’t trust the men not to make balloons out of condoms?
15. Judging the judges
Lots of shows make it look as though the judges have the final say during the episodes. Though it turns out that this isn’t always the case. Business Insider claims that it is written into the contracts of lots of shows that the producers can sometimes decide who stays and goes. And it’s pursuant to the most TV-friendly result.
14. Food raid!
The contestants on Survivor are forced to live on very little food as part and parcel of appearing on the show. Most participants, naturally, accept this situation without question. Others, though, take a slightly different view. According to The Things, contestants broke into the production camp in season 16 and stole some Gatorade and peanut butter from the crew. And you can rest assured that security has been beefed up since that unfortunate incident.
13. Phoney baloney
While shows like The Bachelor don’t use scripts, they do sometimes film scenes months after the series is essentially over. Former contestant Sean Lowe revealed in his memoir that he filmed his confessional scenes weeks after the dates had taken place. The participant wrote, “I’d say things like, ‘I’m having a blast with Des tonight, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds.’ It wasn’t disingenuous, because I expressed what my true feelings were at the time. Mainly, it was boring.”
12. Internal strife
The physical challenges on Survivor can be pretty extreme. And yet, they’re always safe for the contestants to use. Though how do we know that? Website The Things notes that producers try every single one of them out on the show’s interns. Talk about learning on the job.
11. Voice of drama
Lots of shows – including Survivor and The Bachelor – use a bunch of TV trickery to make situations appear more dramatic. Case in point: Luke Stone and Chris Harrison’s flower incident. In order to make it appear as though the latter offered a rose to the room, producers recorded the plea and edited it in. As Stone later tweeted, “Just saw [the episode] for the first time and I won’t stand by and let that fly. It’s called a voice-over. Nice try, guys. Chris Harrison did not ‘present my rose’ to the group. In reality I got shut down, hugged everyone and left ‒ well done editing team.”
10. Shiny drive
Regardless of who the current Bachelor or Bachelorette may be, there’s always a superstar making a sparkling appearance as the limos pull up on the show’s first night. That’s right, we’re talking about the glossy and glamorous driveway – always shining and shimmering whatever the weather. And believe it or not, there’s no trickery or special bricks. It’s plain old water which is sprayed onto the drive just before shooting, according to E! Online.
9. Frozen roses
The gorgeous roses given out on The Bachelor franchise always look so fresh it’s as if they’ve just been picked. But, as you’ve probably guessed, that’s not necessarily the case. E! Online notes that those perfect buds are left on ice in the so-called “art room”– away from the cameras. Just to further shatter your illusions, the whole lot is kept in a giant garbage can. And if that’s not a metaphor, we don’t know what is.
8. Two drinks per hour
Believe it or not, that first night on The Bachelor comes with some strict rules. And despite what looks like free-flowing alcohol available to the contestants, there is, in fact, a rule of two drinks per hour, according to E! Online. Though any alcohol enthusiasts need not be disappointed; Entertainment Weekly notes that filming lasts around ten hours on the first night. Yep, that’s a lot of cocktails.
7. Bling returns
Of course, if you are lucky enough to make it to the final of a Bachelor series, there’s a good chance that you will get your hands on some pretty serious designer jewelry. A bling-encrusted engagement ring features on every season of the show. But E! Online notes that the diamonds are returned if you and your TV boo break up in less than two years.
6. Pay to play
Despite Jeopardy!’s enormous popularity and success, there’s one thing they don’t tell contestants until after they’ve been chosen to appear. Turns out that you have to pay for your own flight and accommodation, according to BuzzFeed. Though provided that you come in above third, you should break even.
5. Full critique
It seems the judges on Top Chef eat a lot. Like, everything that’s put in front of them. That’s a ton of food. According to E! Online, the secret is a huge amount of fluids. Some former contestants claim that the beverage of choice is water. Others, though, have suggested that it might be something a whole lot stronger.
4. Top Choice
Top Chef judges apparently spend hours in discussion when they can’t agree on a decision. And when this doesn’t work, Entertainment Weekly claims that they call in a very special assistant. A camera operator called T-Bone reportedly tastes many of the dishes, so he has as good an idea as any of the judges.
3. Calorific cuisine
Host Padma Lakshmi once revealed just how much food she consumes during a season of Top Chef. She told The Hollywood Reporter that she typically consumes around 8,000 calories a day during filming. For the presenter, that means up to 17 pounds in weight gain every season.
2. Coming on down isn’t random
One Redditor, it seems, spilled a huge secret about The Price is Right. Although it might look as though those audience names are being called at random, it turns out they may not be at all. Claiming to have been a former contestant on the show, they alleged that all participants are interviewed prior to the taping.
1. Do-it-yourself hair and make up
Perhaps unbelievably, the non-Bachelor/ettes in the show do not have access to hair and make up services. As per E! Online, they’re pretty much left to their own devices right up until the final. That’s right, those contestants are doing their own hair every episode.