Reality TV: Hollywood's Sweatshop

Producers make contestants suffer to bring out the drama
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 1, 2009 3:32 PM CDT
In this image released by ABC, Jason Mesnick, left, selects Melissa Rycroft to propose to on the season finale of "The Bachelor," airing Monday, March 2, 2009.   (AP Photo/ABC, Matt Klitscher)
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(Newser) – They work up to 20 hours a day, often without breaks, and usually for no pay. Sometimes they're a little tipsy. Welcome to the secret lives of reality TV contestants. With no union to represent them, these “performers” suffer grueling conditions, the New York Times reports. “They locked me in a hotel room for three or four days,” recalls one Hell’s Kitchen contestant, who had any means of entertainment or communication confiscated. “It was like I was in prison.”

Sleep deprivation, alcohol, and hunger are other common means of keeping contestants on edge and thus more entertaining to watch. One Bachelor contestant recalls being forced to wait in vans for hours, then being taken to a “party” which offered little food but loads of booze. When things still weren't entertaining enough, producers sent out a tray of shots. “If you combine no sleep with alcohol and no food … people are going to be acting crazy,” she says. Producers say contestants know what they’re in for; most have seen the shows before.