Is ‘Worst Cooks in America’ Totally Fake? Maybe It Hasn’t Always Been

On American Idol, would you rather watch a retrospective about Kelly Clarkson or William Hung, the so-bad-he’s-entertaining hapless auditioner from 2004? The Food Network‘s The Worst Cooks in America supposes you would rather watch a show about the Swedish Chef from the Muppets than Julia Child. 

Obviously, the Swedish Chef isn’t a real chef, but some viewers of The Worst Cooks in America wonder if that show is for real, because they can’t believe some of the contestants are actually that dumb.

There’s some speculation that it’s gotten less “real” as the show has gone on 

How real is reality TV?

Chef Michael Voltaggio
Chef Michael Voltaggio | Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for NYCWFF

The appeal of reality shows is supposed to see people react to situations without being told how to react. The key is that there isn’t a script. We hear somebody sing and judges decide if they’re any good or not.

We hear someone say their childhood fear is of the dark, so we watch them be locked in a dark room for half an hour to see how they react. Worst Cooks in America takes people who don’t know a spatula from a whisk and tries to make something of them.

Of course, no show can be completely real, because as soon as you put a camera in the mix, that introduces an element of unreality. As ubiquitous as cameras are, people aren’t used to being filmed continuously by the same source. We haven’t quite reached The Truman Show. At least not yet. 

People who have been on reality shows will tell you that even without a script, the producers often still want to create some kind of narrative. Yet some shows have been accused of outright faking everything, such as Ghost Hunters.

According to a Today Show piece, famed soccer player Hope Solo accused the show of being all but scripted. And that’s just one example.  

What do fans say about ‘Worst Cooks?’ 

RELATED: ‘Worst Cooks in America’: Why Food Network Viewers Call the Show ‘Cringey’

On some level, reality TV viewers realize that not everything they see is 100 percent genuine, but they enjoy the drama and/or comedy anyway. Reality shows tell stories, and most stories require some suspension of disbelief. However, some fans on Reddit can’t believe certain “chefs” on Worst Cooks

A Reddit user wrote in June, “Seriously, is this show for real anymore? It almost feels more like a comedy than an actual show. I don’t believe anyone in their right mind could be as bad a cook as last night’s premier. Honestly, is this just a joke now, with assigned characters?”

Another fan wrote, “It used to be super fun, very interesting to watch, you saw actual growth (if the contestants weren’t actually decent cooks who were pretending since their improvement went from hot garbage into small steps of progression each week), you learned something along with the contestants.” 

So are the cooks getting dumber, or is the gag just getting old? 

What is our fascination with the worst?

It’s fairly obvious as to why people gravitate toward “worst of” lists. People enjoy criticizing awful things, and it’s fun to come up with withering put-downs. Sometimes what was once bad becomes celebrated for it.  It’s how the 2019 movie of Cats has gone from an actual bad movie to “hey, this is so bad it’s actually fun!” 

But sometimes, watching people point and laugh at other people isn’t so much fun. If a person is in on the gag, that’s one thing, but if a person is genuinely making an effort and trying to succeed, the pointing and laughing can be hurtful. At some point, fans say, Worst Cooks crossed the line. 

“It’s one of the few Food Network shows I can still tolerate. I used to really like it, another fan said on Reddit. ” I still like it, but not nearly as much. It is hard to believe that people that clueless actually exist and function in society.”