The reality behind reality TV
Can average homeowners really redesign their entire house in one weekend for $2,000? Many home makeover shows make it look that cheap and easy, but scandals have exposed the truth behind some of these so-called reality shows.
In the most egregious case of its kind, Gary and Sharon Rosier sued Hollywood producers in 2005 for allegedly destroying their home while shooting the now-defunct Fox TV show "Renovate My Family." The Lemont, Ill., couple says they were promised up to $1 million in improvements — including a multiple-room addition atop a newly attached garage — and better handicap access for their paralyzed son, Steven.
When the Rosiers returned home nine days later, they say their old, detached garage was still standing, yet new dormer windows made it appear as if a second story had been added. It was just for show, according to the lawsuit, which also cited dozens of other problems, including exposed electrical wiring, light fixtures dangling out of the ceiling and a dryer vent directed into a closet.
The handicap upgrades for Steven allegedly consisted of door handles he couldn't open, a shower he couldn't operate and an endless pool in his room that almost caused the teenager to drown.
"The conditions of the home were so obvious, horrendous and violated so many building codes as to put the health and safety of the family at great, immediate and continuing risk," the lawsuit alleged.
The Rosiers said they were also stuck with $250,000 in repairs and a tax bill of more than $500,000. The case settled in November 2006 for an undisclosed sum.
In 2007, A&E Television Network pulled reruns of "Flip This House" starring Atlanta businessman Sam Leccima after the Georgia Secretary of State's office started investigating him for securities fraud. Leccima is accused by several of his investors of faking home renovations featured on the show and claiming to have sold houses he never actually owned.
Apparently, he didn't even have a real estate license while filming the show in 2006 — the Georgia Real Estate Commission revoked his license in 2005.
Leccima told the Associated Press he never claimed he owned the properties and the show's producers knew exactly what he was doing. A&E countered, saying it wasn't a party in any of the flipper's business transactions.
"Mr. Leccima hasn't been on the show in two seasons," A&E spokesperson Dan Silberman told Angie's List Magazine. "Once we were made aware of the situation, we stopped airing those episodes."
ABC's popular "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" has recently come under some fire, too. A volunteer worker injured on a Maine set is suing the contractor and show's production company, claiming the jobsite was unsafe. Bill Martin, of Bomoseen, Vt., says he broke his back when he tripped over building supplies and fell 30 feet from a roof. His complaint, filed in November 2007, alleges that the project was disorganized and exceedingly hectic because of its one-week deadline.
Martin's attorney Walter McKee says, "It's a wonder more people weren't hurt or even killed." The show's production company, the contractor and ABC, which isn't named in the suit, declined to comment.