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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.

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.

Generating Genre Blindness is often baked into the DNA of reality shows. First, contestants are selected for personality traits that will cause them to act emotionally and impulsively. Once on the show, it is standard practice to isolate contestants from their friends and family and place them in high-stress situations with little sleep for weeks or months on end. Several contestants across several different reality shows have also reported that the producers are more than happy to ensure that there is plenty of alcohol to go around on the set, setting up great conditions for a lot of Alcohol-Induced Idiocy. If all else fails, producers will use Manipulative Editing, goad 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 the American Big Brother 2, contestants were told not to mention the first Big Brother.)


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 very interesting (one of the reasons recruiting is the go-to tactic for casting). 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 Brits, and the I'm Not Here to Make Friends types that make the show worth watching - not the players who'd sit around and keep their mouths shut and set up one clever plan after another, 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.



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    Reality Shows 
  • While most contestants on The Amazing Race have watched the various versions of the show, there are still contestants who show a fundamental lack of knowledge for a franchise that's two decades old.
    • There are three things that show up every season and have since the beginning: Driving Stick, a swimming task, and a thrill task. There are still teams who come on the show without being able to do the first two well and unprepared for the third :
      • In season 14, sisters Kisha and Jen got put behind because the detour in a non-elimination leg involved two swimming tasks and neither knew how to swim. They couldn't make up the time the next leg and got eliminated. Notably when they came back for the 18th season (which they won), they knew how to swim and did several water tasks just fine.
      • Mika in Season 15, Leg 6 is a prime example of two of these —thrill task and swimming. She stopped dead in her tracks upon facing a waterslide because she was afraid of both water and heights. She refused to do it even after the last place team arrived and threatened to pass them, eventually quitting the task to come in last place.
      • Stick shift was a problem in season 17, when the contestants had to drive in the UK, at least one person said "Uh oh, Stick shift!" Turns out 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.
      • A team got put out in fourth place by a matter of minutes in season 27 (!) because one of the partners wasn't a good enough swimmer and spent several hours trying to do the obligatory swimming task.
    • Don’t expect your allies to stick with you past the 2/3 mark or so, especially if you’re a stronger team. In season 10,note  physically fit brothers with Master’s degrees, Erwin & Godwin, were in an alliance with two other teams (couple David & Mary and friends Lyn & Karlyn) who weren’t as fit or smart. Once they got to the top five, David & Mary had been eliminated, leaving just two of the teams. Lyn & Karlyn, who made up for not being a physical threat by understanding the game very well, were willing to throw the boys under the bus and had fully expected them to be willing to do the same thing but they weren’t. The guys finished the task well ahead of them but waited around on them to finish despite the fact they were fighting for last place. The guys made a wrong turn into the area of the finish line and Lyn & Karlyn passed them up and they got eliminated.
    • 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.
    • Taking a risk on a connecting flight with less than an hour layover or where you have to make multiple connections for a minimal lead is way too big of a gamble. As late as season 21, the top team made the former mistake and got over 12 hours behind everyone else because they ended up missing their connection which would have given them only an hour lead on the other flight. They got so far behind in leg 7 that they missed equalizers and it took them three legs to catch up with the pack and got eliminated. In season 23, Chester and Ephriam made the latter mistake. Their booking agent made a mistake and they tried to rush her to fix it, she got so flustered that she suggested the two stop layover instead of the one layover. They weren't in last place and a later team did get on the one layover flight. They missed their second connection and got a Mercy Kill once they finally got to the destination.
    • Vicki in Season 17 didn't even know how the Fast Forward works, even though it's worked the same way since Season 1 note . 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.
    • For the love of God, don't pick a task that's dependent on the weather. In season 27, engaged couple Justin and Diana who were super fans of the race note  took a huge risk when they got to the fast forward (which most teams consider too big of a risk, even if it's not dependent on the weather) first to do a hang gliding task in the very first episode. They wasted precious time and money taking a taxi to the location, only to find out it was too windy to do the challenge and had to go back. The only reason they were spared from elimination was that another team had a complete meltdown.
    • Sometimes teams are given the chance of either taking a taxi or the metro. 9 times out of 10, it’s smarter to take the taxi because it’s a straight shot. The only time it’d make sense to take the train is if you’re traveling at rush hour on a weekday. In season 21, the teams got to Istanbul on a Sunday morning with no traffic on the road so most teams went with the taxi. Jaymes & James and Rob & Kelley decided to take the train to the last stop on the line. The guys got to talking to a guy on the train who pointed out that since they were there on a weekend morning that they should just get off and take a taxi. They listened but Rob & Kelley decided to stay because they “weren’t followers”. Anyone who watches the show should know that splitting off from the only team who you definitively know where they are is suicide. Rob & Kelley got to their destination in last place and couldn’t make up the time and got eliminated. Front runners Matt & Redmond made this mistake in season 29 and got eliminated in Seoul on the penultimate leg.
    • In season 29, Shamir didn’t come prepared to do a rappelling challenge (there’s always one) and had a complete meltdown because of how uncomfortable the harness was. The host, Phil, straight up told him on the mat at the end of the episode that all the other guys did it with minimal complaining because they knew it was coming and had learned beforehand how to sit and land properly to not make it hurt.
  • 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.
  • 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.
    • Let's not forget the girls who go in knowing that they will eventually get makeovers and there is a possibility of their hair getting cut short. Cue some girls being shocked, throwing tantrums, and one even quitting. (This is possibly due to arrogance. Some girls believe they already have what it takes to be a model and that they have the right look before entering the competition. And in the past Tyra has left some girls with minimal makeovers like a trim or a slightly lighter or darker dye job. And she has given other girls extensions.)
  • 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.
    • Also, there's always at least someone who tries to bring back their enemies/rivals into the boardroom rather than the people who actually caused them to lose the task. This isn't being Voted Off the Island people, it's Sir Alan Sugar who chooses which contestant gets the boot. And so the people who actually messed up get off scot-free, the project manager guilty of bringing back people they don't like usually ends up fired and everyone finds out the hard way that this isn't like the X-Factor or Survivor.
  • 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 — one season of The Bachelorette 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".
    • And you really should not expect any Bachelor to be squeaky-clean. Ever.
    • Generally speaking, when the partner takes you on a nice safe date, he/she actually cares about you. When the partner has you (ahem) swim with sharks or go bungee jumping, the TV station wants cheap ratings, and the partner isn't saying no. The risk does not make it worth it, and they usually get dumped after this. Also, the first to arrive always thinks they're the one the bachelor/bachelorette really loves, but in fact, they're the ones to get ditched (often for no good reason).
    • Inevitably, during the hometown episode at least one contestant's family will express concerns about the Bachelor/ette seeing other people. It's understandable that they might want to check how likely their particular family member is to get the proposal over the others, but often these doubts are more about other people being involved at all. What show did they think this was, again? (Of course, the producers probably encourage them to ask certain questions off-camera—reality TV often does have predefined "story" beats, no matter what it tries to tell you. And this is always a good one for putting the Bachelor/ette on the spot.)
  • Beadle's About. People apparently don't look around or assume that some outrageous accident is possibly being filmed. Averted at one point when someone spotted that the parking lot she parked in had apparently become a showroom and every other car was replaced by identical cars. She simply looked at this and said, "Is this Beadle's About?"
  • The geek makeovers on Beauty and the Geek inevitably involve a full body wax, and yet, this is a surprise to the contestants every season.
  • 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, 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.
    • In general, 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.
      • Pretty much all you have to do in order to survive week one is not be stupid. Nobody knows each other yet, and the Head of Household will look for any reason to nominate someone. The logical thing to do is lay low and keep quiet for just one week. And yet year after year, you have people who decide week 1, when nobody has any set-in-stone loyalties, is the perfect time to try and take control of the house and draw tons of attention to yourself. Every single year this person goes home, and yet people keep trying it.
    • Anybody who volunteers to go on the block is guilty of this. It doesn't matter if you have the votes. It doesn't matter if the Ho H is your strongest ally in the house. It doesn't matter if it's part of a brilliant plan to get the biggest threat out of the house. Putting yourself in a situation where you are one of two people eligible to be evicted is never a smart idea. If anything, when people find out you asked to be nominated they'll want to evict you more. There's a reason people always say "Pawns go home."
    • In more recent years, there have been several events that have become Once a Season, and yet people still don't prepare for them. Starting with Season 15, every season has had a competition where the evicted houseguests are eligible to return to the house. Maybe you should try not to screw anyone over while evicting them until after this happens so that you don't have someone returning to the house hell-bent on getting their revenge against you. Subverted in season 17 in which Johnny Mac's immediate return appeared to not really cause any waves.
    • Matt had a strange case of this despite also being a large fan of the show, he 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 that 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.
      • 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.
    • Much like Survivor, evicted players have to like you or at least respect you. This has resulted in several cases of someone who played a "dirty game" winning simply because they came clean about it and took time to bond on a personal level with members of the jury.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In Canada's Worst Driver, the water tank challenge is included in every single season. Only three people (not counting Andrew) have ever thought to bring a change of clothes to the set: Eric in Season 2, and Michael and Yolanda in Ever. And every person in Ever was a returning participant!
  • Celebrity Rehab with Dr. Drew had many patients go on the show assuming it was a more scripted production and less a "real" rehab. Even after a few seasons made it clear it was a real show.
  • 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.
  • 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 in 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."
  • 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".
  • The number of oblivious celebrities who go on The Eric Andre Show thinking it’s a real talk show is downright staggering, almost disturbing at times. Generally speaking, the smarter/more self-aware guests usually either figure out what’s up and play along (like Tyler, the Creator and Tom Green did) or openly call Eric out on-camera (like Eric Balfour and Lance Reddick). Everybody else is either terrified (or infuriated) into fleeing the stage or, even worse, will try to ignore the Elephant in the Room and keep the interview going “normally”, which usually just makes Eric and Hannibal act even crazier. The example is muddled a bit by the fact that the show goes out of its way to confuse, annoy, shock, or terrify guests, so even if they figure out what’s going on they’re often unprepared for just how nuts things get. That being said, if there’s one rule this show abides by, it's that something weird will happen, it’s just a question of what. If you don’t realize that, you’re playing right into their hands.
  • Zig-Zagged in The Glass House - while the contestants were all well aware that they needed to be popular amongst the fans if they wanted to stay in the game, some contestants were more Genre-Blind than others, while others managed to piece together a strategy. The way the game works is that the house is broken into two teams each week, with the team captains being people who received the least popularity votes that week. If the team captain loses, they and one player from their team are sent to Limbo where the players vote to eliminate one of them. Some of the players like Gene figured out that since you pick your teams, you have to find a balance between trying to pick people who can win at the competition versus people you can beat in Limbo.
    • Alex meanwhile asked the viewers whether or not he should be the best villain they've ever seen, and they answered with "Yes". He decided to be a complete Jerkass, wanting to be the person who the viewers Love to Hate. Unfortunately, he went too overboard with his act and we just hated him instead. Apollo went into the game without a strategy and made little effort to garner the viewers' attention. By week two, he wound up with the least votes next to Ashley and was a team captain.
    • Amusingly enough, the viewers became more Genre-Savvy. The first Big Brother had all the "interesting" houseguests who'd make drama voted out first, while the viewers complained the people left were boring. In The Glass House, Alex was voted out for being a drama whore by people who knew that if Alex remained in the house, the house would remain united against him, and that the lack of a common target would cause cracks to split in the house.
  • 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 sounded like he had no idea what "acting" means.
  • Anything involving Gordon Ramsay. The man is famous for being the Mean Brit and having exacting standards and no tolerance for idiots. What on earth makes people think he'll be their Yes-Man?
  • Hell's 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 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 later exemplified in Ben from Season 7. 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. 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.
      • The Wellington at least can be justified - since this is Ramsay's style of Wellington. It's notorious for being difficult to prepare and often requiring some very specific steps compared to the way Beef Wellington is prepared.
    • 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.
    • 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 Ramsay 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.
    • When it comes down to the last few contestants, Ramsay will reward them by bringing in their loved ones for a visit. Even though he always does this, the players are always surprised when it happens.
  • This also happened with Hotel Hell. One would expect that, after the first season, they would at least try to get ready for Ramsay's arrival, but once again they are always embarrassed and shocked when it turns out that Ramsay notices dust everywhere.
  • 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."
  • Gillian McKeith in I'm a Celebrity... Get Me Out of Here!, 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.
    • In the 2013 series, contestant Matthew Wright actually listed a whole bunch of things he didn't like about the jungle's wildlife, and what scared him/grossed him out. You know, in front of a prime-time audience wanting to see someone humiliated. Guess who's now pretty much stuck doing the trials for the next few weeks?
  • 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.)
  • In Jachtseizoen, nearly every contestant who has tried to take the train was caught immediately afterwards. Taking the train is a death sentence because Stuk TV can just look up the routes and timetables online, drive ahead, and catch you at the next station, and there is no way to escape while on a train. Even if this weren't immediately obvious, you would think that contestants would watch the previous seasons and realize that taking the train almost never works.
  • The Jeremy Kyle Show ran through a long list of guests who were utterly unprepared for the format or public nature of the program, which led to long-running jokes that the show was the "trashiest U.K. talk show".
    • It's generally not a good idea to pick a fight with "Security Steve", the giant security guard who is standing just by the stage and won't hesitate to intervene, especially in cases where a man tries to attack his girlfriend on-stage. Turns into an in-show case of Schmuck Bait when the guests try to attack Kyle himself, who reminds them of what the show is called and dares them to try it again and see how Steve will react.
    • According to ITV (the TV station that aired the show) in an official inquiry called after the show was cancelled, they stated their official policy with guests who aren't happy with the material is to "leave the stage". The statement ignores that guests who tried this over the years quickly discovered that the backstage area was a nigh-incomprehensible maze, filled with confusing corridors and a monotonous office layout that quickly tripped up fleeing participants. Made even worse that Kyle would constantly call them out on their behavior ("Are you going to make me do a runner?") and would chase them backstage to antagonize them some more. Participants continually did this throughout the show's run, unaware that it almost never works.
    • Like other reality shows, it's generally not a good idea to rush onto the stage ranting and screaming, as it's an easy way to have Kyle tell you to "sit down and shut up" and rally the audience against you. Made even worse when some of the participants' relatives are in the crowd, who will often pipe up to criticize one or more of the guests (and sometimes even get into fights with them).
    • Without fail, every participant in a lie detector test comes on expecting that the results will absolve them, and when asked by Kyle how sure they are of the results, they will always claim they are innocent. This happens even after the first question inevitably reveals that they've kissed someone else, and persists even if Kyle asks them against answering the first question whether they want to change their opinion. As seasons wore on, some participants in the test pre-emptively revealed information (like confessing to kissing someone) in an attempt to throw off the test, and in some cases, participants used drugs or drank the night before so that the test results would be revealed as "inconclusive". The lie detector may have proved a factor in the cancellation of the show, as a guest committed suicide one week after participating in an episode where it was claimed by the lie detector that he'd cheated on his girlfriend.
  • People who come on The Jerry Springer Show 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.
    • In Sinbad's Guide to Life, Sinbad talks about how a lot of guys in talk shows tend to be Genre Blind:
      Sinbad: Men, if you get invited to go on one of those shows, and they put you in the Sound Proof Booth — don't come out! Don't sit down in that chair next to your woman! Are you stupid enough to think they're gonna cheer you on? No, they want to dog you — that's why you're on the show! That girl you thought nobody knew about is waiting for you behind the curtain. BOOM! Here she comes! That's why they put you in the soundproof booth, stupid!
  • 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.
  • People on Judge Judy apparently just seem to love this, not realizing they're on syndicated television for all to see. Judy herself will often lampshade this and mention that 10 million people are watching them embarrass themselves on TV.
  • Kitchen Nightmares:
    • Restaurant owners are not only unprepared for Ramsay's behavior (despite most of them knowing who he is and that he has high expectations) but choose to freak out on their kitchen staff, family members, and/or waitresses while the cameras are rolling. This happens in both the UK and US versions.
      • You would think that the restaurants chosen to appear in later seasons would get wise to this fact, but if anything, it's gotten even worse. The infamous "Amy's Baking Company" episode had the co-owners bring in Ramsay to "help prove the haters wrong", even though a cursory search of his work would reveal that he lambasts restaurants who lie about their food and/or insult their customers/staff. In fact, on the night before taping, they threatened to call the cops on a customer who hadn't received his food and hadn't even paid yet while the camera crew was there setting up, which (of course) made it into the final episode. It should go without saying that being nice to both Ramsay and the diners would be paramount while the cameras are running, but many still ignore this lesson.
    • The waiters/waitresses who serve Ramsay (in both versions) either misrepresent the quality of the dishes he's considering ordering or try to reassure Ramsay that the next dish will be better, despite knowing full well that a camera crew is filming their interactions. Later seasons had the servers get wise to this fact, and either tell Ramsay to stay away from certain dishes or give their honest feelings about the state of the food in the restaurant.
    • Early seasons showed the kitchen will be inspected for cleanliness and food storage for sanitation. If it is not absolutely spotless, expect every last smudge of dirt or rotten food to be shown in revolting close-up. Somehow the restaurants never learn...
    • In many cases, as seen in the "update" episodes, the owners revert the changes Ramsay has made after production completes on the episode and Gordon and the crew leave to work on another restaurant... and in many of those cases, they lapse back into their previous behaviour, and the restaurant is mentioned is having closed shortly after the episode aired.
  • 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.
  • On MasterChef (US) some contestants do not realize that the rules are different than on a 'popularity' reality show or even a show like Hell's 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 Ramsay.
    • Many contestants fail to realize that Ramsay 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 Ramsay raw meat is unforgivable on the show.
      • This was particularly exemplified when a contestant who destroyed the palates of the judges with a particularly poor choice of spices was favored over another contestant who undercooked pork.
      • One episode had a competitor lose their 'second chance' to enter the competition for serving undercooked vegetables. All three judges take cooking seriously, so contestants who don't check to ensure their dishes are cooked properly will eventually fall victim to this trope.
  • On Maury:
    • With a handful of exceptions, it's usually a much better idea for the alleged fathers to keep their mouths shut and not make waves every time they walk out on stage so that they don't come off looking like uneducated fools. Instead, most come out on stage swearing and insulting the audience, claiming that the child looks nothing like them (regardless of whether it is or isn't theirs) and usually end up chasing the heartbroken mother backstage to further antagonize them, regardless of the result.
    • Mothers always tempt fate just before the paternity results are read, despite knowing that most of the time it backfires and they're forced to run backstage to save face from the jeering crowd.
    • Even repeat mothers looking for the true father(s) of their children are often seen acting hopeful and "110 percent" sure the alleged father is the real one, despite the same allegations not working multiple times before.
    • Guests who have severe phobias are freaked out and run through the set/backstage when the inevitable plate of items they are so intensely afraid of are brought out and/or shown on screen, yet they still act like they've only been brought on to discuss their fears and nothing else.
    • Rebellious teens act unrepentant and play up their promiscuous and arrogant behaviour, despite it being a staple of the show that everybody (including, often, a drill instructor who takes them to boot camp and forces them to shape up) will call them out on it.
    • In 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".
    • When men get put in a room with a "sexy decoy", they always cheat. Maury always has cameras on in the rooms and the decoys are obviously to bait the men, yet they take the bait.
  • 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 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. Anderson's comment actually doesn't hold true all of the time, especially in season one. In a lot of games, the contestants were allowed to choose their roles (albeit in vague terms before knowing the parameters of the challenge).
    Jon Kelley: You should know this by now!
    • That might be justified because The Mole pulled an inversion of this trick in Season One. In that case, the "Stupid Team" got to go with Anderson Cooper directly to the hotel because they were too "stupid" to find the hotel. The other two teams (Resourceful and Smart People) had the harder task of following the clues to find the hotel.
  • Moonshiners, a Discovery Channel series about a loosely-affiliated group of distillers creating moonshine in the Tennessee backwoods, has plenty of moments centered around this trope:
    • The show ostensibly follows distillers who are engaged in illegal activities, not only airing said activities for the world to see (in places that they could be tracked to, based on major landmarks), but also have groups of "shiners" who carry barrels with their personal logos on them around in their vehicles, closely identifying what business they work with. Law enforcement officials are on record as saying that if such illegal activities were occurring over the course of the show's decade-plus run, arrests would have made already — this is borne out by the fact that the distillers not only have licenses (key characters Mark Ramsey and Digger Manes operate their own legal distillery).
    • Certain sequences involving police encounters tend to be staged for the show, with multiple cameras catching police officers who (presumably) had their appearances cleared for television. Other characters have hinted that what viewers see them distilling on television may not be alcohol — but plain water filtered through a still.
    • Characters routinely pretend that they have to hide in the woods while setting up their stills and creating moonshine... all the while being filmed by a camera crew, complete with drone shots. This extends to "private" meetings with potential buyers, when cameras are shown being situated in the back of characters' vehicles or placed a distance away from the meeting site. (The buyers typically have their faces blurred for the cameras, though given how at least one character makes reference to how interconnected he is with musicians who want moonshine, his trend of staying anonymous raises some eyebrows.)
  • 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.
  • Season 7 of The Next Food Network Star featured Penny Davidi who lives on this trope (as far as fans of Food Network are concerned)...for all the wrong reasons. The prize for winning (or doing exceptionally well) on this show is having your own series on Food Network and eventually becoming a star. In order to win (or perhaps do very well), you would have to be able to cook very well under time pressure, have skills to work the audience and be able to hold and develop a sizable fanbase. The problem with Penny? She has the cooking chops, but she has the wrong TV chops. What does she do? She eagerly begins deploying Survivor-style (or The Apprentice-style) tactics to eliminate the other contestants, openly brags about it to the other contestants and to the Confession Cam in the most sickeningly Smug Snake way possible, and in general is the biggest Jerkass in the show's history and thinks she can slide through anyway because "I have a plan to win." But then, her plan to use blatantly cutthroat tactics only served to alienate the audience more and more with each passing week until the judges couldn't ignore her smugness anymore and eliminated her from the competition. Food Network Star may be a reality show, but it's not the same kind of reality show as Survivor, and not knowing the difference can backfire on you in a major way.
    • Outside of Food Network Star, she has continued to show Reality Show Genre Blindness. She went on to compete on Chopped: All Stars. She didn't need to show any of her characteristic smugness, but she did, even though she keeps complaining on the Confession Cam "This is not who I am." Unfortunately, for fans of Food Network, she ended up winning against Gentle Giant Vic and going on to the finale. Once again, her arrogance cost her the Chopped: All Stars. On that level of competition, you'd have to be better than an Iron Chef and have to be practically flawless in order to win. She made 2-3 major errors on her dish, which got her eliminated 3rd place.
    • And then she takes this Up to Eleven on a meta-level. She starts going on a rant against Amanda Freitag over some saffron (which the other judges said was too much as well) and she promises to conquer Food Network for not giving her what she needs. Someone who places 7th on Food Network Star, 3rd in Chopped and is shown to be an overall Jerkass bitch is not someone who deserves to get a show on Food Network.
  • Project Runway: Every season will feature contestants getting tripped up by Once a Season challenges that by all means they should have known were coming and prepared for if they had actually watched the show before.
    • One of the most common ones: Any time there's a challenge where the designers have to make an outfit using unconventional materials, there are still one or two contestants who will go for the materials that most resemble fabric (curtains, tablecloths, etc), even when Tim Gunn explicitly tells them not to. During a workroom walkthrough on Season 12 where one team committed this sin, Tim puts into words just how flabbergasting this is:
    Tim: "This makes me sick. We may as well have gone to Mood [...] Have you ever seen Project Runway? Have you seen the unconventional challenges? Have you seen what the judges do when they're presented with a bunch of fabric?"
    • Any time the prize involves the winning look being mass-produced for sale online, there are inevitably competitors who don't realize they should probably make something that can be affordably mass produced. Designers who pride themselves on their intricate tailoring skills can get particularly tripped up on this.
    • Even after more than 10 seasons some designers apparently still haven't caught onto the fact that there's going to be a "real women" challenge at some point. Cue people like S9's Olivier Green and S10's Ven Budhu whining that they aren't used to designing for these types of bodies and it's not fair. Not only is it genre blind not to prepare for the possibility of having to design for a non-model at some point, the designers are often hilariously shocked to discover that bashing normal women's bodies on a Lifetime show is often a one-way ticket to Scrappyville.
    • This trope is part of what cost Mondo the win on Season 8, when he disregarded Michael Kors and Nina Garcia's suggestion to take the sleeves off his bubble dress for his finale collection (i.e. Not following the direct orders of the people who were deciding the winner).
  • Each episode of Property Brothers begins with the hosts showing the couple a house that is hundreds of thousands of dollars above their price range. The couple always falls in love with the house and is shocked that it's so unaffordable. The Scotts then leverage that shock into acceptance of their plan to renovate a much cheaper house instead.
  • On Restaurant: Impossible, nearly every owner gets defensive when Chef Robert tells them that their menu selection and/or quality is terrible. Even in the first season of this show, the restaurant is in deep trouble, and being open to any possible cause should be why you invited Chef Robert in.
  • On RuPaul's Drag Race, contestants are often unprepared for events that happen at least once every season, such as the Snatch Game (a Match Game parody where they impersonate their favorite celebrities). By this point, any queen who gets on the show and says they "don't do impersonations" is likely to be torn down (with just cause) by her fellow contestants.
    • A common trap queens fall into when it comes to Snatch Game is the fact that the impersonation doesn't have to be particularly accurate, it just has to be funny. Justified for Season 2, where the queens didn't realize what was being expected of them, and the bottom queens were those who prioritized accuracy over comedy, and even criticized Snatch Game winner Tatianna's impression of Britney Spears for being "too Saturday Night Live".
    • The bottom two contestants of every episode have to "lip-sync for their lives" in order to determine who is eliminated. Although the queens are told in advance what each episode's song will be, some queens still don't bother learning the words, indicating either genre blindness or naked hubris. Needless to say, the ones who clearly don't know the words are eliminated. The inverse sometimes happens, with queens who just stand there and mouth the words with no form of choreography, which also leads to almost guaranteed elimination.
    • During a lip-sync, if something comes off, it should be to reveal something else under it. Otherwise, keep your hair, shoes, and clothes on - contestants who shuck off their heels or whose wigs fall off almost always lose the lip sync. And yet, we still see bald, barefoot, and half-naked queens, whether on purpose or by accident. Mind you, Ru has slightly more respect for queens who dance through an accidental Wardrobe Malfunction than the ones who do it on purpose in a failed attempt at being dramatic.
    Aja, on seeing Bebe removing her wig: I don't see no flowers, I don't see no glitter, I don't see no gag...You ain't no Sasha Velour, bitch, keep your wig on!
    • Another example is the sewing challenges. There will always be at least one or more challenge per season that involves creating a look from scratch, plus the makeover challenge. This has been a Drag Race staple since day one. And yet, queens still complain because they don't know how to sew. Even worse are the queens who will explain that they can't sew and expect sympathy from the judges when they are called out on their awful outfit. As Ross Matthews said, "You don't make your first dress when you're on Drag Race. You make your first dress when you find out you're going to be on Drag Race."
    • After 9 seasons of critiques, Ru and the judges have made it clear what they are looking for in a winner. And yet season after season girls will go on the runway and stand in front of the judges and make the exact same mistakes, including:
      • Wearing skimpy or revealing clothing and expecting the judges to be impressed by their naturally-feminine physique. Especially now that "Stop relying on that body" is essentially a Michelle Visage soundbite.
      • Wearing what is essentially the exact same outfit week after week without changing up their style at all. Every season a queen will be asked to show the judges versatility (though Season 6 winner Bianca was infamously able to get away with wearing a boatneck gown every week, possibly because of the judges' preference for floor-length dresses and the fact that each one was executed flawlessly plus she always performed well in the challenges).
      • Playing up a "character" while in drag or trying to distance their drag persona from their real selves. The judges have made it clear that they want to see vulnerability from the queens and get to know who they actually are as a person.
      • Wearing a basic outfit. If you go out there wearing boots and a swimsuit with a belt around the waist, a jumpsuit with a corset, or God forbid, something you bought off the rack without altering in any way, Ru and Michelle will call you out on it.
    • In short, the four pillars of Drag Race are designing, comedy, singing, and dancing. A queen must have solid skill in at least three out of four if she wants to get far in the competition. Yet you still get a queen who'll whine about a challenge not being her style even though it's clear by this point what RuPaul is looking for. Stated point-blank by season 6 winner Bianca Del Rio in the commentary for Season 7's premiere episode that if they cannot do any of the four in some way, they have zero business being there in the first place.
    • In over half the seasons, Rupaul brings back either a queen who was eliminated earlier in the season, a queen from an earlier season, or in some cases, both. In fact, at this point, it's no longer even a surprise to bring back everyone who's been eliminated that season and make them compete for the chance to return! Yet as late as All-Stars 4, some queens still express surprise and displeasure at this "twist" (despite the fact that no queen has ever won a season on which she left and returned).
    • A rather specific example happens with Season 11's Silky Nutmeg Ganache, who made it clear in the season premier that she was gunning for a Spin-Off, and she would showboat for attention and shout her catchphrase ("ATTITUDE CHECK!"note ) every five minutes. This has only succeeded in making her overbearing and obnoxious, to the other queens and viewers. What makes this genre blindness is that this exact scenario happened in Season 6 with Laganja Estranga, who also tried to invoke herself as a Fountain of Memes by spouting would-be catchphrases and acting in a loud bombastic manner, which simply made her come off as fake and annoying.
  • In reality show satire Sex House one of Derek's early traits is being aware that somebody out there was the one to set situations up, which leads to him wondering why they only cast one gay guy and protesting by drawing the prophet Muhammad on his head (meaning they have to censor him).
    • Later, Jay and Tara get surprisingly philosophical and realise that the reason they're so compatible is that the producers knew they would be, and choose not to have sex as an expression of individuality.
  • 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.
  • 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...)
  • 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.
  • Defied in Strip Search,note  where the contestants focused on winning by being the best artist rather than any reality-show politicking. The only one who tried to use an ounce of strategy was Amy, and even she gave it up due to stress after an incident where the judges declared "Screw the Rules, I Make Them!" and created a Shocking Elimination.note  Tavis even pointed out to Amy as she was struggling to cope with this development that the show's real benefit to the artists is making professional contacts with each other and the crew and gaming the system to win the prize could get in the way of that.
    • Though played straight in another instance. An early challenge involved a tour of Seattle, and afterward the artists were given a quiz about the things they saw on the tour. Most of the artists weren't expecting it but commented to the Confession Cam that they really should have seen it coming.
  • Contestants on Survivor seem to suffer from this a lot.
    • For example, the "car curse" in early seasons, in which a late-game car giveaway contestant has never won the end prize.
      • In Guatemala, a contestant wins the car, but Jeff then points out the curse and gives her the chance to give the car back. In exchange, the other four contestants still in the game at that point would all receive cars. She kept her car, taking it off the table for the rest of the tribe, and the car-curse became self-fulfilling when they ganged up on her and voted her out at the next Tribal Council.
      • The car-curse also became self-fulfilling in Fiji. 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.
    • Subverted when Todd Herzog, after winning China, explained that he was a longtime fan of the show and, essentially, that he had watched enough of it to become Genre Savvy.
    • 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).
      • Subverted by Jane in 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.
    • This trope is invoked by 'Boston' Rob Mariano during an episode of Heroes vs. Villains, when he points out that people who come into Survivor should watch who sleeps together at night, correctly stating that people who don't like each other aren't going to cuddle up beside one another for warmth. He then proceeds to point out all of the alliances on his team, and mentions how powerful (and dangerous) an alliance based on romance is, referring back to his courtship of Amber Brkich on the All-Stars season. Future contestants have listened to this, being wary of forming romantic relationships for fear of attracting attention.
    • 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 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 tuxedo of all things.)
      • 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 later 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 (nee Woodcock) interviewed that her personal swimsuit choices for Heroes vs. Villains were all declined because they weren't sexy enough.
      • One of the most notorious examples of this was Purple Kelly from Nicaragua. Since she was cast as the "sexy one", the only clothes she had were a sundress and a bikini. As a result, she was constantly freezing from the cold and had to quit midway through. The reason she voted for Fabio in the end was that he let her wear his jacket.
    • 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?
    • Year after year after year, contestants are caught off-guard and wholly unprepared when the two teams are merged midway through the season. This has worn off over time, and most contestants these days generally have a good sense of when the merge is going to happen.
    • Part of the reason Russell Hantz got so far in Samoa was that almost all the other players appeared to be completely Genre Blind — Galu not voting 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.)
      • 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 only two jurors voted for him. (Russell still didn't get it by the Heroes vs. Villains reunion, even claiming that America needed to control a portion of the votes.)
      • Russell had the advantage of the other players having never seen him before in Heroes vs. Villains when he had the chance to see them play. This worked well for the most part. However, in Redemption Island, where everyone had the chance to see his playing style, 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" 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 rarely use. Apparently Stephanie 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. But one reason Natalie wound up with the big bucks was that she was savvy enough not to question anyone's tactics; Krista was not.
    • 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 two people seem to realize that their Creator's Pet has gotta go or else he'll control the game and win... and they're gone fast, while the other Ometepe turn off their brains and effectively hand Rob the million.
    • 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.
      • Up to Eleven in San Juan Del Sur. It became very clear early on that very few of the contestants had seen the show. While John Rocker stated he has seen a little of the show, his girlfriend Julie clearly hasn't. The Christy brothers Drew and Alec said in interviews that they've never seen the show. Keith was the most hilarious example since he came one tribal council short of winning, despite the fact he had zero clue what the hell he was doing. Even the winner herself admitted that she's not a longtime viewer of the show. Lampshaded by Jeremy (who was a fan) in the reunion who said it was difficult to work with people who don't know the show because they can be unpredictable.
    • One of the more amusing examples of "never saw the show before" was Joanna from Amazon, who was a devout Christian and flipped out over the fact that the game involves an item called an "Immunity Idol," which she considered a violation of God's ban on idolatry. She went so far as to blame the massive rainstorms the tribe was getting (in the middle of the Amazon) on its presence in the camp.
    • In more recent years, however, the show has taken mostly to bringing in superfan applicants over recruits (excepting usually one or two minor sports stars). While this has fixed a lot of the problems, there's always one or two people who still seem to be suffering from this. And the superfans can themselves can often get stuck in problematic patterns because of their fandom.
    • One of the things that smart winners do is bring along goats, which is a term used for people who aren't particularly respected and have no chance of winning. These people are usually abrasive or lack any sort of strategy to justify their presence on the final three. However, identifying a goat is important after the merge rather than before.
      • Goats in the early game tend to be people who lose challenges but are rescued in order to eliminate someone who might be a threat later on in the game. The problem is that eliminating a strong person while keeping a weak person makes your team weaker, meaning you're going to end up losing more challenges and losing more members. In a numbers game like Survivor, having the most members going into the merge is of utmost importance.
  • 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 brothers assumed that it was a Throwdown. So Food Network turned it into one. Only instead of Bobby doing the work of bringing in the expert judges, he forced the brothers to find two judges because "They declared a Throwdown."
    • 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.
  • On Time Commanders, it was a given that each week's contestants have no experience with neither video games nor with battle tactics. This was first partially subverted with a team of four "experienced" video game players - though none of them had any experience with anything remotely like Rome: Total War. On another occasion, they brought in a team of four military officers - who were promptly given a much more challenging scenario to beat. Both these teams lost.
  • A huge proportion of the mothers who appear on Toddlers & Tiaras seem to think that they're doing their daughters a favour by inviting camera crews into their homes to film the lead-up to the pageant. This usually ends in one of two ways: Manipulative Editing being played in the daughter's favour, and presenting the mother as an over-bearing Control Freak, or flipping the situation, and portraying the girls as horrific little Spoiled Brats and the mothers as their helpless slaves. You almost wish there was a follow-up episode that captured the reaction of mothers and daughters actually watching the show.
  • 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...
  • Referenced right near the beginning of the reality TV pastiche Total Drama, 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 Ultimate Fighter has had numerous fighters show up in poor conditioning or unable to "make weight" (weigh in at the proper weight for their weight class). A lot of fighters also got in trouble for bad behavior. TUF is a Long Runner and many contestants from the show became UFC superstars, contenders, and even champions, so every fighter worth his or her shorts should know what will be required of them. Earlier seasons had their fair share of bad behavior, failures to make weight, or athletes in poor shape, but even as late as Season 18, two fighters failed to make weight and were summarily bounced from the competition.
  • 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.
    • Later 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.
  • 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 it is likely 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?"
  • 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." Which he was, as she found out the hard way.
  • On 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".)
  • 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.

    Game Shows 
  • 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.)
      • It turns out the Silver Monkey puzzle was more finicky than it seemed.
    • 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 Cash Cab. During the first and some of the second seasons, the contestants didn't know what the heck was going on. However, during later seasons, several contestants actually cheered when they realised they were in the Cash Cab.
  • Chopped contestants generally make a lot of mistakes:
    • Since you generally have between 20-30 minutes per round, making rice is almost always the kiss of death because it's nigh impossible to do this without a rice cooker - which Chopped does not have.
    • Polenta is another very risky ingredient. However, if it's a box ingredient, it's often pre-prepared.
    • When you have a large ingredient such as a thick piece of meat or a cornish game hen, some contestants attempt to cook the whole thing - when they have only 30 minutes or less. Generally speaking, you have to cut the meat.
    • Contestants often mislabel their dishes. They generally go easy on people who are not professionals such as children, celebrities, or non-chefs, but most contestants are culinary school graduates.
    • The ice cream machine is another troublesome piece of equipment. Some contestants instantly think to use an ice cream component as part of their dessert round, but never realise that they should think of a backup in case their opponent gets there first since only one person can really make ice cream.
      • What's worse, some people actually don't know how to use the ice cream machine.
  • The Crystal Maze, good god the Crystal Maze! It was a common thing for viewers to start yelling at their TV screens when stupid contestants couldn't spot the obvious solutions to puzzles or just started doing stuff not even related to the puzzle. Granted, it's harder when you're on a time limit, you have five other people trying to give you advice and a bald chap playing the harmonica but sometimes it really did get ridiculous. Take a look at this set of outtakes from the show. Note how even the production team starts insulting and laughing at them!
  • Guy's Grocery Games has a Running Gag in which Guy Fieri will work '3", "2", "1", and "go" into his banter before a round and keep on talking, making the chefs waste about half a minute. Surprisingly, almost nobody has learned to just go the second he says "go", or listen for him to say "3", "2", or "1" in differing contexts.
    • Subverted in one episode with child chefs as contestants, in which the kids just went the second he said "go" - interrupting him and confusing him in the process.
    • An episode that features a behind the scenes view of the show's production reveals that there is actually a stopdown between this bit and when they actually start shopping, where the contestants are given a more detailed ruleset for the challenge from the producers.
    • The gag has also come up a few times on Tournament of Champions, another more serious competition also hosted by Fieri.
  • On Jeopardy!, there are 3 golden rules of wagering in Final Jeopardy!:
    1. Clavin's Rule: Do not put a runaway at risk with an excessive wager. In other words, if you're in the lead and have at least double the second-place score, you can easily wager $0 for a guaranteed victory. Therefore you should wager so that even if you're wrong, you still have at least double the second-place score.
    2. If you have an untied lead, do NOT wager everything, no matter what. Leave at least $1 as insurance, because of the rule that a 3-way $0 tie is a triple loss (as opposed to a triple win for a non-zero tie).
    3. If the player in the lead has between 1.5x and 2x the second-place score:
      • If you're the guy in 1st place, wager so that if you're right, you have at least double the 2nd-place score, while if you're wrong, you still have more than the 2nd-place score. You should also wager so that if you're wrong, you still have at least double the 3rd-place score, if it is possible to do so while still satisfying the first part of the rule. This way the only way you can lose is if you get it wrong and someone else gets it right.
      • The other 2 players should bet everything because they're not going to win unless they get it right (and the leader gets it wrong, or violates the above rule).
    • Every now and again, a player comes along and violates one of these rules, throwing away a game they otherwise could've won with a better wager. This tends to happen primarily in the Kids Tournament and Teen Tournament since most of the adults who get on the show study wagering strategy ahead of time. The 2013 Teen Tournament saw at least 2 such contestants in the span of 2 weeks, one of which resulted in the first triple loss ever to occur in a tournament game.
    • The wagering rules change significantly on Celebrity Jeopardy. Contestants get guaranteed minimums that will be donated to their charities (currently $15K, $2K, and $1K for first, second, and third) regardless of their final scores. Thus many celebrity contestants will bet all-or-nothing when they know they're in no danger of catching the leader. Unfortunately, this has led to Internet gossip painting certain celebrities as idiots for getting beaten with a zero score.
  • Spectacularly averted by Michael Larson, who managed to memorize the "random" game board patterns on Press Your Luck, won $110,237 ($255,540 in 2016 money) and made that particular game last so long that it had to be split into two episodes. This was enough of an Old Shame that CBS didn't let those episodes be re-aired for 19 years, and they only saw the light of day again as part of a documentary about the scandal.
  • 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 something in ending in 99 cents, which Price rounds to the nearest dollar). Yet far too many idiotic moments occur when a contestant puts the 0 in the second-to-last slot (such as $607).
  • Far too many people on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? will say what they think the answer is before opting to Ask the Audience. This invariably puts the thought in the audience's heads, causing a lot of them to go along with the hunch. On harder questions, this renders the poll results useless at best and at worst will reinforce an incorrect hunch and cause the player to lose money on a wrong answer. Meredith Vieira has revealed that players are now told in the pre-show briefing not to do this, yet some still do it!
    • Also, some players on the classic version of Millionaire would save their Ask The Audience lifeline way past its usefulness. Contestant, if you don't know the answer to some obscure question that's far up on the chain, then chances are that your audience isn't going to. They'll just be guessing randomly. Only use it in the very early questions where you're sure it's a pretty 'general knowledge' type question that you're just blanking on. And another: the contestants sometimes don't use their lifelines strategically. If you have 50/50 and one of the other lifelines, and you really think you need to use more than one, pick it first so that the audience or your Phone A Friend has fewer options to consider, rather than the other way around.