Reality Show Genre Blindness

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"I see at least one woman with a tube top dress, which is freaking stupid. Haven't these people seen enough of this show to know that there's a very good possibility that they're going to be dropped in the middle of nowhere with the clothes on their backs and little else, so they'd better dress practically? Actually, I have a feeling that the contestants don't really get to pick out the clothes they show up in anymore."
Sara M, Television Without Pity recap of Survivor Gabon.

Webb: Once the people can see that all the contestants are idiots, surely no-one will apply?

Mitchell: Idiots will. In fact, it will make the application process a lot easier since we'll only get idiots.
—"The Apprentice Sketch", That Mitchell and Webb Look

Genre Blindness is not relegated to fiction, apparently. Oftentimes, contestants on a Reality Show will display, by their behavior, that they have never before seen the kind of show they are on. How they found out about this particular one and auditioned for it without actually watching it remains one of the great mysteries of the universe. This could perhaps make some sense if it's the first season of the show, but you'd think they'd still have enough awareness of the genre to know what to expect.

Actually, it probably has more to do with Manipulative Editing and/or the producers goading the "appropriate" reactions out of the contestants, or even outright telling them how to act. (Supposedly, on Survivor, the contestants have been told that any time they mention a previous season/contestants, it won't be aired on film, and on Big Brother 2, contestants were told not to mention the first Big Brother.) Or maybe, as the more cynical of us might think, there's just no reality to it at all and the "contestants" are actors. Or, as the even more cynical might think, Viewers Really Are Morons. Alternatively, it may be a Justified Trope in that not everyone watches the Reality Show genre (some find it boring), or the show in question. This only applies, however, when the person on the show is contacted by a third party, rather than applying themselves (in that case, it's Viewers are Morons).

The quote at the head of this article, incidentally, is true in at least one aspect — to simplify editing, contestants are either not given a choice as to what clothes to wear, or are placed in situations where the entire group is made to construct a "uniform" or some sort; if editors decide to "recycle" a clip that was cut from an earlier segment (where the contestant may have been wearing a different outfit), it may not match properly with the more recent footage.

Typically, the casting will try to avoid the Genre Savvy players because an entire season full of them wouldn't seem to be very interesting. It's the people who will fight with each other for petty reasons, ego cases who boast to the Confession Cam, the spazzes who are borderline insane, The Mean Brit, and the I'm Not Here to Make Friends types that make the show worth watching - not the Dangerously Genre Savvy players who'd sit around and keep their mouths shut and set up clever plan after manipulative plan, or the genuinely talented people in talent shows. A common thing with reality game shows is that what makes a good show does not always make a good game; and what makes a good game does not always make a good show.

Examples of Reality Show Genre Blindness include:

General Mistakes[edit | hide | hide all]

  • Perhaps what's the most generic example ever is just not acknowledging that not only do you want to win, but so does everyone else, actually. A lot of people assume that everyone is thinking of Honor Before Reason - if someone expresses desire to take you further, it's because they think they can beat you.
  • One of the most errant examples are in shows about alliances. In several of the first shows to have these, such as Survivor's first season, the majority alliance will often decide to eliminate their own alliance instead of the opposing alliance and cleaning out the floaters. One would honestly think after seeing it backfire so many times that they wouldn't try and blindside their own alliance when the prime target is right there out in the open. This can potentially be justified - the targeted alliance member could be a troublemaker that would undermine the team, or be so strong as to a threat to the other players' chances later on. This is still extremely risky, as rival alliances can (and often will) grow in power given time, as their voting bloc grows more and more the fewer players are left in the game. Or turning on your alliance will get you Rewarded as a Traitor Deserves because the other alliance will put you as the low-man on the totem pole. Or simply that taking out one of your own will fracture the alliance into A House Divided, allowing smaller alliances to slip through the cracks, make a deal with someone, and attack you.
  • On a related note, how about getting into big alliances and thinking they'd gladly take you to the finals over people who've been with them longer/are closer to each other / are vastly incompetent and wouldn't get votes? Because surely after seeing people join big alliances only to be dropped at the first opportunity nobody would think of making any long-term plans or back-ups...
  • Another common one in social game shows is not realizing that if you win competitions, especially solo competitions, people tend to target you because they think you are a threat to their gameplay. A very big part of these games is to encourage the other player(s) to think that you aren't a threat to them so they'll target somebody else over you.
  • Returnees in any show. (Not just ones who have done it and demonstrate this example the best) The returnees have a big advantage because they know how to play the game on the field, you only know how to play the game on TV in your living room, where you've seen all the confessionals/seen what the other side's doing/seen what they're talking about, etc. On the field, you do not get to see these things, meaning it's a completely different game. Not to mention, see also the first bullet point of "They want to win too". You can not count on people to make Honor Before Reason and ride their coattails to the end.
    • Also a more meta example, acknowledging the power that Executive Meddling can have on the show. The producers want to make a good show, which in the case of a Fans vs. Favorites season, showcase the favorites as much as possible, meaning that they can slant the show by putting in a challenge or task that the favorites are familiar with and are much more likely to win. They have even been known to borderline fix a show by introducing convenient set of rules/twists that only seem to benefit the returnees. Naturally, the thing to do is to pretty much deny the producers a chance to slant the show that much and send the returnees out; but time and time again, people seem to get so awestruck at playing with their favorites they lose sight of the goal, backstabbing their own allies and ending up surprised when their new allies decide You Have Outlived Your Usefulness and there's nobody there to help them out of the hole they dug.

Show-Specific[edit | hide]

  • The families on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition seem to suffer from this. You'd think they'd be expecting a house that impressive by now, wouldn't you? After being on for five years, wouldn't there be at least one family that didn't include someone crying or jumping up and down like an idiot when they saw their new house? Then again, many of the families were living in glorified trailers before the house was rebuilt.
    • And yes, there have been incidents where the family didn't jump for joy. Several "home renovation" shows have released DVDs focusing specifically on families that hated their new digs. (There was an episode of Trading Spaces where one of the people saw their new room, was speechless, and then left the room and you could hear her crying.)
  • Wife Swap and its derivatives. The families always seem to be shocked by how different the other family is from theirs (in fact, the producers tend to deliberately pick radically-different families). Sometimes they appear to be utterly flabbergasted by the notion that "rule change" will alter their household in ways they don't like and at times a particularly controlling husband will even insist that nothing is going to change in his house. Didn't these people know what they were getting into when they auditioned for the show? They only could've figured it out from watching any episode. Of course, these people are chosen precisely because of their curiously insular views.
    • Heck, some haven't even watched Wife Swap and still know what anyone signing up will be put through just from the regular postings on some fandom message boards. (The producers have tried several times to get someone from a specific fandom activity on their show. The first couple people they asked read the information packet and said "no freaking way".)
  • Doubly true for Hells Kitchen. Not only are the contestants thoroughly unprepared for Ramsay's abuse, but the restaurant's customers both have unrealistic expectations about the food in the first half of the season and are surprised at Ramsay's invective when they complain in person.
    • Reportedly, it's possible the customers are fake and just acting along. Or maybe they're Genre Savvy and go for the floor show rather than the food. After all, who else would eat at Hell's Kitchen? Even if that's not the name given, the restaurant is clearly split up into two teams.
    • A truly stunning number of the contestants seem to think they're hot stuff and will tell Gordon Ramsay (who is effectively one of the top chefs in England if not the entire world) that he's wrong and they know better than him.
      • This was exemplified in Ben from the latest season. While having the stereotypical "I'm hot shit" view can be expected in this sort of reality show, he would constantly respond to any challenge he lost by claiming in his private camera sessions that he should have won, and often responding to the real winner that he felt they didn't have any real desire to win. This included contestants who Ramsay would personally compliment. And when he was brought back to help the final two in the finale, he spent the entire time reminding the camera that he was actually better than the girl who ended up winning the entire season. His fairly obvious sexism aside, he just refused to believe Ramsay at all if the topic was someone else being better than him.
    • Since the menu barely changes between seasons, you'd think the contestants would've tried to learn how to make perfect risotto and scallops in their sleep before coming on the show. Yet, these two dishes are always problematic.
      • Heck, Beef Wellington was so problematic that it was actually dropped from the Season 6 menu, only to be brought back in Season 7 as Lamb Wellington.
      • And Beef Wellington was brought back in Season 10 with predictable results.
    • In one season, the fresh contestants saw video messages of some people who were on the show previously and were told what to do and not do in order to survive the show. Try and guess if any of them actually listened.
    • A related example is the people who go on Ramsay's other shows — Kitchen Nightmares and The F Word — and are surprised by his low tolerance for bullshit and his straightforward manner that can be harsh and abusive.
    • Hell's Kitchen is a rather special case itself, simply because what counts as Genre Savvy for most reality shows (trying to get strong opponents eliminated, forming alliances, etc) doesn't cut the mustard in the eyes of Gordon Ramsay. Unlike most reality shows, on HK you're expected to function as part of a team from start to finish; pulling the usual selfish, conniving reality show behavior earns you nothing but a stern reprimand (or worse) from Gordon.
    • Additionally, many challenges presented to contestants are repeated from season to season, particularly those near the end. Anyone who had ever watched the show would realise there's always one taste test challenge, or that Ramsey has his sous chefs sabotage the dishes when he has the final three contestants run the pass. Very few contestants seem to have caught on to the latter especially, although some seem to have clued in and are beginning to expect it, to the point where one contestant overcompensated at the pass and sent perfectly unsabotaged dishes back to be redone!
    • Time and time again, there will be at least one contestant per season that will continually undermine the whole team by being a complete bitch to the team or going against what the team is trying to achieve all because they want to be the top player or be credited for doing all the work. This usually gets the person a nasty verbal lashing from Gordon since someone who isn't a team player can cause everyone to fail.
  • On Masterchef (US) some contestants do not realize that the rules are different than on a 'popularity' reality show or even a show like Hells Kitchen. There is almost no strategizing to do and being an arrogant jerk will get you nowhere if you do not have the cooking skills of Ramsey.
    • Many contestants fail to realize that Ramsey generally likes tasty, yet simple meals and you will get yelled at for trying to be fancy and screwing up.
    • Even in the later rounds some contestants will fail to check if their meat is wholly cooked before serving it. Serving Ramsey raw meat is unforgivable on the show.
      • This was particularly exemplified in the most recent season, where a contestant who destroyed the palates of the judges with a particularly poor choice of spices was favored over another contestant who undercooked pork.
      • Eliminating contestants for undercooking meat on a reality show about cooking, however, is understandable, if not justifiable. Ever get so sick from food poisoning that you puked interesting colors? More often than not, it was because the cook wasn't carefully watching the meat he was supposed to be dutifully cooking, so of course Ramsey is going to come down hard on contestants for undercooked meat.
  • Contestants on Survivor seem to suffer from this a lot, such as the "car curse", in which a late-game car giveaway contestant has never won the end prize.
    • Subverted when Todd Herzog, after winning Survivor: China, explained that he was a longtime fan of the show and, essentially, that he had watched enough of it to become Genre Savvy.
    • In Survivor: Fiji, ironically, the car-curse became self-fulfilling. A contestant won the car and traded it in exchange for a promise. The contestant who received the car broke the promise, resulting in the original winner's elimination and his progression to the final round...where his actions had so disgusted the rest of the players that he was immediately on the wrong side of the first unanimous victory in the history of the series.
    • There's also the fact that almost nobody knows how to make fire. You'd think more people would look it up upon learning they're going on a month-long campout (especially after seeing tribe after tribe not be able to do it in previous seasons).
      • Hilariously lampshaded by Paolo Roberto, host of the 2009 season of Swedish Expedition: Robinson (the original Survivor), who gave one tribe a big telling-off at the council, essentially calling them a bunch of lazy morons and making it clear that Roberto himself would've made sure to learn such essential things if he had signed up to be a contestant. Then again, Roberto was consistently awesome with calling the contestants out on stupid things they did, and poor excuses they made.
      • Subverted by Jane in Survivor: Nicaragua, who had fire within the first hour of the game. When she was at Tribal council, she literally said "Why would anyone come on Survivor without knowing how to make fire?" and said she practiced for two months. Jeff Probst was actually surprised that someone listened.
    • There are also people who aren't thinking about getting appropriate clothing. Sometimes this is actually justified, because they aren't often told they're going to start the game and are often told they're going to a promo event...which was a big twist in Pearl Islands. (During the final two tribal council, Lilian stated she wouldn't have worn her scoutmaster uniform if she had known they were going to the game instead of a promotional event. In the same season, Savage would've also not worn a bloody tuxedo.)
      • In Palau, Tom's wife suggested that he layer up and put his swimsuit on under his sweat pants. Turns out, she was right in suspecting another Pearl Islands-style deception.
      • Justified in many recent seasons, where the outfits worn by the castaways while on the island are picked/approved by the producers, not the contestants. This is partially used to appropriately color code outfits for the castaway's intended tribe and partially used so the producers can create their character through easily identifiable visual cues (Dan Lembo's $1,600 alligator shoes in Nicaragua spring to mind, as they instantly revealed his status as an out of his element city slicker.) Similarly, Candice Cody interviewed that her personal swimsuit choices for Heroes vs Villains were all declined because they weren't sexy enough.
    • How about those contestants who never learned to swim, or the occasional person who doesn't realize that during the game you can't get cigarettes?
    • Part of the reason Russell Hantz got so far in Samoa was because almost all the other players appeared to be completely Genre Blind — Galu not shaking off their outsider when they had the chance, Shambo voting personally, Galu deciding to vote off their own teammate with a hidden Immunity Idol instead of Pagonging the four players left, players practically being shown a map to the hidden Immunity Idol for the first time ever and not even bothering to look for it, never learning to keep an eye on the Idol-hunting Russell, John changing his vote, etc. (Note we said "almost" — Natalie saw the dumb people voting the smart out, so she used Obfuscating Stupidity instead and ended up with the big bucks. Not only to his dismay but to the Hantz Nation.)
      • However, while savvy to the mechanics of the game (the front end), Russell was blind to its core (the back end) — games like Survivor are social games; evicted players have to like you (or at least respect you despite what you did) before they vote for you to win. Russell didn't grasp this (while the aforementioned completely Genre Blind players did), and paid the price when he finished in second and then third when he played the game. (Russell still didn't get it by the end of the second game, even claiming that America needed to control a portion of the votes.)
      • Russell had the advantage of players having never seen him before in Samoa and the all-stars not seeing him in Heroes vs. Villains when he had seen them play. This worked well for the most part. However, in Redemption Island, where everyone had seen him play, he told everyone that he would play differently. Unfortunately... he assembled his usual harem of girls who were perpetually at arm's length, started Idol-hunting without making sure he wasn't being followed first, then essentially asked someone to be another third wheel. And he's surprised that he's targeted right off the bat in his tribe?
    • One of Russell's new "concubines", Stephanie in particular, lectured everyone not to vote out Russell (who had a huge target on his back) by saying that everyone else would backstab each other... but Russell wouldn't. And in a tone of voice Natalie White would never use. Apparently she wasn't watching Samoa or Heroes vs. Villains, whereupon he'd backstab all of his allies.
      • This could just be Manipulative Editing, but Krista could actually realize that if she kept her mouth shut that she wouldn't be the first person targeted — heck, it worked for Brett, Natalie, Vecepia, and Fabio.
    • And on the same season, the Ometepe. You're put with two Creator's Pets who know the game because they've played two and three times before. Only one person seems to realize that their Creator's Pet has gotta go or else he'll control the game and win... and she's gone fast, while the other Ometepe turn off their brains and effectively hand Rob the million. The cast was somehow even dumber than Samoa... and that is saying something.
    • With the show waning in popularity, the pool of auditioning contestants has become smaller, and a greater proportion of contestants have come from on-the-street recruiting, meaning that later seasons have actually had more people who hadn't seen the show before being asked to be in it.
      • Tamara Johnson-George (known more as "Taj") has actually lampshaded this phenomenon — she admittedly never saw the show prior to casting and didn't know how to swim or fish. She actually answered casting mostly because they were casting for an NFL wife, which she actually met the description of. She finished in fourth, was from a vast minority alliance, and was voted out simply because she was seen as a social threat because she never backstabbed anyone — a move that isn't uncommon in Survivor when the numbers dwindle to five.
  • To do the "Before" part of the "Before and After" comparisons, What Not to Wear interviews their contestant under the guise of a documentary. You'd think that if, for the previous seven days, a camera crew has requested to see your closet, asked you to describe your daily fashion style, and talked to your friends and family, maybe, just maybe, Stacy and Clinton are going to show up soon.
    • Even better is how, on the second day of shopping, the contestant almost never considers that the hosts are watching, despite the fact that they do this every episode. Some even go as far as to willfully disregard the "rules" laid out earlier in the show for their shopping experience, buying things that fit into their old lifestyle instead of the new look. In fact, once, when a contestant managed to obey the rules on the first day to the letter, she was rewarded with the ability to spend that $5,000 on non-clothing items (she bought a computer). Who doesn't love free money?
    • Not so much on later seasons, since most of the contestants, when Stacy and Clinton introduce themselves, respond with something along the lines of "I know who you are!!" And apparently they don't know (beforehand, that is) that S&C have invaded their closet and/or talked to family and friends, which is why 99.99% of the time one of the people "in on it" lives in the same house (roommate, hubby, daughter, etc.) And I would guess on the second day that the contestants don't know where or when S&C are going to show up...just that they are.
      • At this point, the show's been around for long enough that Stacy and Clinton don't even pretend to sneak up on the contestants anymore. The contestant just waits for them in the store and S&C walk up and say "let's get started!" And in an earlier season, one of the contestants actually snuck up on S&C before they had a chance to sneak up on her. Which was hilarious.
  • Similarly, the home-redecorating program While You Were Out not only arranges for a family member to get out of the house while the team swoops in and helps the rest of the family redo the place, but invariably sends a camera crew along with him or her on some bogus pretense — such as a documentary. Only twice has the stooge figured out what was going on; the first found out because his favorite radio station reported the presence of the show's distinctive vehicle in his town, while the second was told by one of the staff at the hotel he was staying at.

"Oh, you're the guy who's on While You Were Out, right?"

  • Most of the nuts who audition for American Idol fall right into this. Many of the others are actually Genre Savvy enough to know that the really awful auditions get on TV, so they deliberately up their awfulness.
    • The producers actually deliberately let some bad people through, even encouraging them, so they can have the audience laugh at their So Bad It's Good performance.
      • Some have attended auditions and reported seeing good singer after good singer get cut while a few good ones and several moderately bad to hideous ones made it through. Not only that, but contestants have to make it through quite a few rounds before actually getting to the audition you see on TV, which means that these horrible singers are passing through round after round while good singers who just aren't entertaining enough get cut. They probably end up thinking they've got talent because they're getting through each round.
    • Before people can get to the main auditions, they must go through local auditions first. Local auditioners are explicitly instructed to only let through the best and the worst contestants. Average singers would be boring, while horrible contestants are amusing.
  • The Bachelor is especially bad about this, because more than any of the others, this show is exactly the same every time. Yet somehow the late dumpees always end up shocked — shocked! — that the guy who told them he might be falling for them, and with whom they really thought they had a "connection", and who slept with them in the Fantasy Suite, picked one of the other 24 women he was seeing while also seeing them.
    • The blindness has become even more Egregious as the show has been on for years, and yet only one couple has seemed to find true love (Trista and Ryan from Season 1 of The Bachelorette). Two other couples are together, but one had reports of domestic violence. The show might as well be called The Public Breakup Machine, yet every contestant talks about the experience as if they're going to meet their one and only and live happily ever after.
      • The most egregious of all—the most recent season of The Bachelorette as of this writing has a girl who was on it before and who ended up dumped soon after the show ended, so she went on it again to "find her true love". The ads for the season all but say this, saying that the engagement was broken off when "reality set in".
  • People who come on The Jerry Springer Show or Maury because their partner has "something to tell them", and are told they have been seeing someone else. This always comes as a complete shock.
    • It's fairly evident that there's little-to-no actual "reality" happening on Jerry Springer. But then again, there's not a lot on all these other shows, either.
      • Parodied in The Onion in a sidebar article: "Jenny Jones Guest Has Secret, Man-Sized Adam's Apple".
    • This went horribly, horribly wrong on Jenny Jones — a man was brought in to meet his secret admirer on the air, which was another man. The guy murdered his admirer shortly afterwards. For what it's worth, her show's ratings spiked for quite some time after the news broke.
    • A different sort of genre blindness pops up in Maury episodes that talk about specific stuff. For example the "men who abuse women" episodes, you'd expect the guys to realize that at the end they'll probably see their wives and girlfriends "dead".
  • You'd think that the people being chosen to compete in Throwdown With Bobby Flay would have a clue that the Food Network wouldn't just randomly give them a TV show on their network out of the blue, even if it is allegedly a special...but some of them do.
    • Subverted(?) in one episode where Food Network actually was doing a regular special, and a couple of people (brothers, maybe?) assumed that it was a Throwdown. So Food Network turned it into one.
    • During an ice cream Throwdown, Flay said "I'm Bobby Flay, and I challenge you to a Throwdown!" and the contestant replied "You're who?!"
    • Part of this comes from a misconception on the part of some viewers. If you pay closer attention to the lead-in, the person is told they're being part of an episode of a Food Network show, not that they're getting their own series. Food Network does have a lot of shows that feature such chefs (Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives being a good example), so being told you're going to be part of a special/episode of a new series is hardly unbelievable.
  • Referenced right near the beginning of the reality TV pastiche Total Drama Island, where Heather remarks to Lindsay "Haven't you ever seen shows like this?" in "Not-So-Happy Campers, Part 2". Of course, if Heather had paid a little more attention to such shows herself, she would've realized being a manipulative bitch wouldn't win her the grand prize...and it doesn't.
    • Alejandro follows a similar game plan with a similar fault. In his defense, it would take a good deal of Medium Awareness to realize that the fans of the show vote for the winner. However, his current strategy of Russell Hantz-like scheming and elimination of a bunch of well-liked contestants (male and female) due to his charms means that nearly any other character would likely go up against him and win — even Sierra.
    • Heather does wise up to the social aspect of the show by the end of the third season. When World Tour comes down to her, Alejandro, and Cody, she realizes that as the popular one Cody would have the advantage, while Alejandro is the only one potentially less popular than herself. She distracts Cody while he and Alejandro duel for 2nd place, so that Alejandro would win by eliminating Cody, making him even less popular. But she has forgotten the main rule of Total DramaChris is in control, and he decides that the winner will be chosen by a challenge.
  • The British show How To Look Good Naked invariably puts up large photographs of their current subject in their underwear in a public area. Yet the subject is always shocked and embarrassed by this.
    • The first season of the American version had a segment in which the subject was asked which of two photographs showed a woman with a better body, with the big reveal being that they were the same woman. This was dropped for Season 2, as anyone who'd seen the show would say "Well, they're the same woman."
  • At least partly justified on Intervention — the "interviewees" for the "documentary" are usually so stoned that they don't see what's coming, or to remember seeing previous episodes on television. (And that's if the person isn't already homeless or hasn't already sold the TV for drug money.)
  • There is always at least one America's Next Top Model contestant on every cycle who claims that "I'm Not Here to Make Friends" and generally acts in a hostile and self-absorbed manner towards the others. All of this despite the fact that none of the past contestants have had their progress hurt by making friends in the house, the "bitch" of the group never seems to win, and the winner of each cycle always seems to have made at least one close friend, usually having had amiable relationships with most of the contestants.
  • Anderson Cooper actually lampshaded this in The Mole (Season 2, Episode 6), explaining to a few players who didn't quite understand that they are never being told the truth:

Anderson Cooper: Don't you guys know how this game works? If you say you don't like to cook, you're know you're going to end up cooking. You say you like to cook, you don't get to cook.

    • Repeated in Season 5, when players were asked to break up into "a smart team", and "a dumb team". The big reveal was that the dumb players were dumb for picking the dumb team, because it required them to do a harder task. This was actually fairly late into the season.

Jon Kelley: You should know this by now!

  • Some have stopped believing in Date My Mom as Reality TV. Every single time the daughter/son says to her/his mother what not to tell the date, the mother ends up saying it anyway without even being pressed on it! This might be a case of don't think about the white elephant.
  • This is pretty much what killed Joe Millionaire. There are only so many times (turns out it's just two, and even then they had to go to Europe the second time) that you have a guy pretending to be a millionaire and the girls believing it.
    • This probably also would have killed the reality Deconstructive Parody show The Joe Schmo Show, but they stopped at two seasons (each with a completely different reality show formula being deconstructed). Even so, one of the stars of Season 2 figured out the hoax and had to be replaced.
  • Jamie of Top Chef: New York averted this during her season's Restaurant Wars. Knowing that whomever's made executive chef for that challenge has basically a 50/50 shot of being eliminated, she intentionally lost the challenge that would decide who got to be executive chef of each team.
    • Yes, but the show plays the Trope straight with the season finale. Every year there's a twist. Every year, the final chefs are surprised by it. You'd think they never watched the show before.
      • Which is finally averted in Season 6 as Brian, Michael, and Kevin all expected to have to make an extra dish long before it was announced they would have to do so.
      • In general, the "cheftestants" are getting increasingly Genre Savvy. (Everyone in Season 6 seemed to assume that they'd be forced to make dessert in at least one challenge too, which is something many previous contestants had been unprepared for.) It's probably hard to find people who are simultaneously nationally-ranked chefs and Too Dumb to Live...
  • You'd really think that every political figure would make it their business to know what The Daily Show correspondents and Stephen Colbert look like. Ali G pulled it off for years, but he never had the same size audience.
    • If not the political figures, at least someone on their staff or in their immediate family...
    • The Daily Show is so big, most people they interview just run with it.
      • In a January 2010 "Written By" interview, a Daily Show writer said that many interview subjects know what they're in for and figure as long as they get a few licks for their cause in, they're coming out ahead thanks to publicity. And with Daily Show and Colbert wielding legitimate clout, they almost certainly are.
    • Most, if not all, attendees are expecting to be mocked, and it's not a particularly unusual setup — Presidents have been sitting in for Correspondents' Association Dinners for over 30 years now and even adding jokes themselves. You'd think they'd have better material for The Daily Show, given the speechwriters otherwise...
    • According to Rob Corddry on an NPR interview, guests are told what to expect and frequently try to play along with the correspondents and be funny, only to be told off-camera "You're very funny, but this is all going to be edited out. Act like this is a real interview."
  • On The Colony, a show about a 10-week experiment where several people are placed in a simulated After the End environment, the volunteers are often portrayed as taking the setting completely seriously. Many of these scenes are obviously coached or outright scripted (especially obvious in the last episode), but some may not be, and the experts that occasionally comment on the show bring up cases such as the Stanford Prison Experiment where volunteers begin treating the experiment as real. Fridge Brilliance kicks in when you realize the show is supposed to be a simulation, and actually acting like it's just a reality show would be Metagaming, and no fun for anyone.
  • Tests of courage and loyalty or not, you'd think the contestants of Who Wants to Be a Superhero? would realize that a reality TV series can't legally have them meet and interact with real prisoners who were arrested for murder. Or let the host be kidnapped. Or budget a giant monster version of said host attacking the city. Plus, considering the fact that most contestants bragged that they were huge fans of Marvel and comics in general, they missed following superhero rules like helping others in trouble or not giving away their secret identity. On the other hand, one cast member was Genre Savvy enough to figure out the twist when they were asked to pick who should be eliminated — that they were supposed to choose themselves. She even said to the camera later that "Stan's going to have to be a lot smarter than that to trick me."
  • While many teams on The Amazing Race demonstrate that they've watched previous seasons, a couple of teams from time to time demonstrate a surprising lack of knowledge as to typical challenges on the race:
    • Mika in Season 15, Leg 6 is a prime example — there's virtually always a physical-thrill task on the race. She stopped dead in her tracks upon facing a waterslide, refusing to do it even after the last place team arrived and threatened to pass them, eventually quitting the task to come in last place.
    • Season 9 had the Jocks (Eric & Jeremy) saying that "We didn't know the last task was gonna be brains." Half the time, there's a Final Exam Finale puzzle on the final leg after arriving back in the US that requires relying on brains. It's such a staple of TAR season finales that teams have been known to spend the flight back to the US reviewing for it, and Nat & Kat in season 17 actually took detailed notes throughout the race.
    • The multitude of contestants who never learned to swim or to drive stick-shift. (Even in season 17, when the contestants had to drive in the UK, at least one person said "Uh oh, Stick shift!")
      • The Season 17 contestant application form actually asked contestants "Can you drive a car with: (a) manual transmission; (b) automatic transmission (check all that apply)" and "What is your swimming ability? / Excellent / Medium / Poor / I can't swim." This means the producers are intentionally invoking this.
    • Not to mention the contestants who take taxis when they're supposed to walk, leave something they're supposed to bring with them behind, or basically forget in any way the most basic rule of the Race — "Read the entire clue, do exactly what it says." Season 17 alone saw five 30-minute time penalties for taking a cab or having one guide them when they weren't allowed to.
    • Remarkably few teams have bothered to do the math and realize when the time penalty for skipping a task will be less than the time it takes to do it. Only one team has ever taken advantage of the fact that by definition you can't be eliminated due to a time penalty if you can convince a team behind you to accept the same penalty.
      • That's because, at four hours for quitting a Roadblock and 6 (formerly 24) for quitting a Detour, there have been only a few times in the show's entire history where quitting a task was actually beneficial. At any other time, quitting a task is suicidal at best. Plus, oftentimes the penalty for quitting a task is tacked upon reaching the mat, meaning teams don't have a chance to get others to quit as well.
      • In the case mentioned above, the racer doing the quitting was a Survivor alumnus and knew exactly what he was doing and how to pull it off. Other racers wouldn't have that much experience with manipulating others.
    • Vicki in Season 17 didn't even know how the Fast Forward works, even though it's worked the same way since Season 1.[1] She wanted to go for it because she was "pretty sure everybody did the Fast Forward". Once a team claims the Fast Forward, it's off the table for everybody else. Secondly, when Nick & Vicki got to the Fast Forward and saw the "Fast Forward Taken" sign, Vicki wondered if they're supposed to wait around.
  • People from the American Big Brother don't seem to have watched the show that often and expect to somehow win. Justified in Season 2 — they didn't know what they would be facing, which is part of why Dr. Will was so revered and why Monica got so far. But that still doesn't excuse the rather ignorant mistakes, and it is in fact mind-boggling to see people make the same mistakes every single season.
    • Perhaps the biggest is "Let's get rid of our own alliance before cleaning out the other side, especially when they're on the block!". This is perhaps one of the dumbest things you can do in Big Brother, unless the situation is like the Final Four of Big Brother 6 (the one member of her alliance remaining, Janelle, had won Head of Household and was exempt from nomination). Only once has the "Let's remove our own alliance before finishing off the other side" move worked, and that was because of the most Guide Dang It Final Four Head Of Household question ever (the one involving the guinea pigs being the third preexisting relationship; had Sharon gotten it right, she would've won). Yet every other time? Janelle had no shot at the Final Two short of winning the final Head Of Household because Will & Boogie weren't planning on taking her, especially since Boogie was going to pick Erika. Zach was right there on the block with a huge "Evict me, I'm a floater!" sign on his face, but because they evicted Amber, he flipped the game around on the little Julie Chens. Then recently, Jeff decided to blindside Russel before removing Kevin and Natalie who had a 50% chance of winning the next Head Of Household over Jordan and Michelle because he thought that Russel would be a bigger threat than Kevin and Natalie. Except that the same mistake was made at least three times before, and not once did it work without suspected Executive Meddling.
    • For such a big fan of the show, Ronnie of Season 11 didn't seem to show it...what with his constant flip-flopping during week one and making himself a massive target. Kevin seemed to know more about the game than Ronnie did.
    • Matt in season 12 of the American Big Brother said he was in the game for his wife with a rare bone condition that could potentially destroy her leg, hoping that the sympathy would get him far in the game. Say, Matt, didn't Johnny Fairplay try the same thing in Survivor? Last time, it only worked until he got called out on it at the finale, and even then he didn't survive Sandra warning people not to trust him. (When he came forward, he indeed got Kathy mad at him because she was a survivor of ovarian cancer.)
      • He also knew both not to throw any challenges and that his alliance was starting to turn on him. Yet he threw the HOH competition, didn't warn Britney about the Brigade to try and save himself, and instead threw his only ally under the bus. He should have realized this wasn't ending well for him. His wife seemed to lampshade this because she said that he didn't have that much common sense.
    • In the thirteenth season, there was an immediate split between the six returning players and the eight new players. So far, nobody has thought to count the votes. Porsche can't vote, Keith can't vote, and Daniele, Jeff, Jordan, and Rachel only makes four - meanwhile, the other six? The only reason they got what they wanted was because Shelly and Kalia flipped and voted out Keith.
      • Brendon even continues this. While trying to get Daniele on his side, he tells her that if one of them (Brendon or Rachel) goes to the final two, they'd win. This is the exact opposite thinking you want to encourage people thinking, because thinking you can beat them is typically why you get evicted in the first place.
    • A more generic example. People tend to make ballsy moves or do stuff to put a target on their back...and are surprised when they're nominated for eviction. Or they are surprised that people who don't try to make ballsy moves (Especially for the first couple weeks) wind up going further.
      • Jeff is even guilty of this. He's complained that "nobody has been doing anything" and has been complaining about himself being targeted - when he already has a huge target on his back by being a returning player and a ratings machine (Smart people know producers have the power to slant the show and place safeguards up for ratings machines.) Nobody's been "doing anything" Because they're not trying to get themselves targeted, of course. Given how they keep talking about people were "Floaters" who "are bad at the game", one could only wonder if they would start accusing Dr. Will of having poor gameplay (with his zero competition wins in both his seasons) despite that he was taken further because he was thought of as being easily beaten and worthless.
      • Adam and Shelly apparently thought that aligning with unbreakable pairs who had known each other outside of the game and would never vote against each other unless they wanted to commit gameplay suicide would bring them to the finals over pairs that were easily swayed and not as iron-bound. Shelly at least realized that the pairs had to be split up but Adam apparently thought he'd be brought to the final two no matter what.
    • Generically, volunteering to go on the block. It's normally pretty risky.
  • Whenever the advertising task comes around in the UK version of The Apprentice, one of the teams will pour all their effort into a TV advert that looks slick and polished but says absolutely nothing about the product. The other team will put together an advert that looks sloppy and amateurish, but says enough about the product to allow them to win the task.
    • Subverted somewhat in Season 3, where the winning team's advert was deliberately produced in a cheap-looking way to go with the theme of their product, although the opposing team fell into the usual trap and produced a slick but meaningless advert.
    • Averted for once in Season 5, where the losing team's advert just outright sucked.
  • Just about all the time in the British Big Brother, there'd be one or two people punished a season for discussing nominations, which is against the rules.
  • While not exactly Reality TV, children's game shows would often have players who just couldn't figure out what to do during a certain challenge or endgame, no matter how many times it aired up until then. The most Egregious ones include the team's complete inability to put that stupid Silver Monkey statue together, contestants who can't spell or give directions worth a damn, and teams who can't seem to get it through their heads that the nice and clean-looking room they're in is supposed to be demolished by them in order to find the hidden object.
    • Simon! Sidestep to your left!
    • But some of those may be a tad justifiable considering pressure — several teams in Knightmare died because the dungeoneer didn't act fast enough (but the instructors were plenty quick on their feet) or in Legends of the Hidden Temple, they're trying to get out of the temple as fast as they can and wind up getting klutzy. (Some people have spotted that in the Shrine of the Silver Monkey, the pieces are switched around the room but it's still a three piece puzzle.)
    • The Bozo Show occasionally would have a child who just didn't understand the fairly simple Grand Prize Game (where you stand and toss a ping-pong ball into a row of buckets) and would instead walk over to the bucket and drop it in, causing Bozo to keep repeating the rules of the game. Many times the child was often somewhat slow mentally, and it called for increasing patience on Bozo's part to deal with the determined young contestant.
  • Justified in Space Cadets, where prospective contestants went through a long (televised) audition process in order to try to determine which were the most gullible, most suggestible, and had the lowest knowledge of the genre. (Strangely, though, the actors that were mixed in with the contestants occasionally forgot they were on a reality TV show as well...)
  • Obstacle course show Wipeout. The real game begins after the first round and you have a pretty good idea of what it contains, so before making a fool of yourself on television, make sure you can at least clear that round. If you doubt it, you probably can't, and you're on the show to be made fun of.
    • While most of the obstacles are simply Nintendo Hard, if you watch a few episodes you start to notice which strategies work and which ones fail miserably every single time. None of the contestants seem to have done this, because they always tend toward "run like mad and hope for the best" or "tiptoe and hesitate until you fall".
    • Given that even the best contestants are going to fall into the water several times throughout the game, just being a strong swimmer is very likely to get a contestant to the final round. This is helped by the fact that obstacles slow down and get easier to cross after repeated failures, so huge amounts of time can be saved by shortening the inevitable swims.
  • Undercover Boss. Similar to Joe Millionaire, you'd assume that after Season 2 that people would pick up on the presence of cameras following around this new employee and begin to put on their absolute best behaviour. The producers have gotten out ahead of this one; the employees are now told that they're participating in a reality show to see if the "contestant" (actually the boss) has what it takes to make it in the organization. Presumably they'll think up a new cover story for Season 3.
    • It's possible that they could have gotten some clever concealment. What they might have been able to do in the episode about an indoor resort/water park was hide the cameramen in a crowd and disguise them as customers filming their family vacation. (Ask anyone who works at a resort; people do this all the time.) Heck, depending on the crowds they could easily do that for a lot of the ones where they follow somebody into a resort of some kind.
    • Recent episodes seem to have the cover story thought up on a case-by-case basis; for example, a waste treatment company had the CEO go undercover as an employee from a company closed for pollution codes violations being the subject of a documentary on him working as various "clean" industries.
  • Inverted on a FOX reality/talent show where the contestants were "dared" to do something like recite a scene of a Shakespeare play with no errors or learn to play or sing a song in key by a certain timeframe. Naturally, they never fully expect what the dare was going to be, since it was rarely the same and often wasn't a hobby they did.
  • Game Show example: Anybody who watches The Price Is Right on a regular basis would know that in "reorder the digits" games like Safe Crackers or Ten Chances, if there's a lone "0" digit in a price, it's almost always the last digit. After all, manufacturers tend to price their products at round numbers (or And 99 Cents, which Price rounds to the nearest dollar). Yet far too many What an Idiot! moments occur when a contestant puts the 0 in the second-to-last slot (such as $607).
  • In the latest series of I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here, Gillian McKeith so far seems amazingly genre-blind, apparently unaware that the contestant who makes the most fuss about the Bushtucker Trials will inevitably be voted by the public to do every single one (and that anyone who goes on this show risks being covered in snakes, insects, etc. at some point). Not to mention the news that the next trial is called "school dinners" — as disgusting food challenges are one of the most famous parts of the show, the rest of her team make the obvious (and correct) guess that this challenge would be an eating one. McKeith suggested that maybe she'd be asked to plan a school dinner.
  • Fictional, but averted in Sims Big Brother. Most of the characters actually seem to know very well what they're doing or how the game works. The closest example would have to be Keri, who didn't really know what she was getting into, but this actually became Character Development as she became scarily competent later on.
    • For that matter, a lot of Machinima based on reality TV shows aren't full of outright stupid players because they're all made up by fans of those shows.
  • Many a Bridezilla has expressed surprise at how bad the show makes them look. One Bridezilla even said the producers asked her to insult her husband on national TV, then couldn't figure out why strangers on the street hated her.
  • Laguna Beach and its spinoffs are a very interesting case. The first two seasons of the series had the conversations between the cast become increasingly scripted (due in part to Manipulative Editing and staged scenes), and the best moments were often found in the off-script and spontaneous improper behaviour - lead cast member Kristin Cavalieri was a major cause of this; she danced on a pole while drunk in Cabo, continually whined to her father to buy her a new car and had a relationship with just about every male character on the show. She was far from the only one - Jason Wahler cheated on several girlfriends, with the evidence of his guilt caught on camera. After this, you would figure that future cast members would be on their best behaviour for the cameras - however, Kendra and Cami in season 3, Chrissy's father and Allie in season 4 (and several others) make complete fools of themselves because they're apparently unaware that their actions are being broadcast on national television.
  • Most of the brides in "My Fair Wedding With David Tutera" who complain about him changing up their original wedding ideas, when they know that's the entire point of the show.
  • Cameron left The Glee Project because he couldn't kiss a girl while acting because it felt like he was cheating on his girlfriend. It looks like he had no idea that in a show about teenagers that focus a lot on their sexuality problems he might have to kiss a person other than his girlfriend.
  • On Time Commanders, it was a given that the each week's contestants have no experience with neither videogames nor with battle tactics. This was first partially subverted with a team of 4 "experienced" videogame players - though none of them had any experience with anything remotely like Rome Total War. On another occasion they brought in a team of 4 military officers - who were promptly given a much more challenging scenario to beat. Both these teams lost.
  • It looks like many people who go to The Steve Wilkos Show have never seen an episode. Many don't realize that if you're not a "victim" then you'll probably get yelled at horribly and you won't be able to sit down on stage.
  1. (except when paired with an Intersection)