By Eve Pearce
Storage Wars has enjoyed a phenomenal degree of success since it first hit the screens in 2010. An episode of season two attracted 5.1 million viewers, making it the most popular program in the A&E Network’s history at that point. The show features auctioneers and buyers in action and has created a boom in the popularity of the storage auction industry. Unfortunately recent revelations by former star David Hester shed doubt upon its claim to depict real life situations. He is accusing the makers of the series of unlawfully firing him when he questioned whether or not their actions were legal, which poses the question, ‘How real is reality TV?’
Storage Wars has been a mixed blessing to those within the industry. On the one hand, it has inspired people all over the country to become buyers. After all, what better way to advertise a job in the storage auctions industry is there than to air a show depicting excited buyers competing for the best lots? The downside is that this has made these auctions a lot more competitive, which has affected some buyers’ livelihoods. Whatever your views on the program, most would agree that it makes for avid viewing. However few people possess a desire to watch reality TV that isn’t actually based on reality. Hester alleges that virtually every aspect of the show is fake. He says that the producers regularly plant items in the storage units and have even staged entire storage units.
Hester is accusing the series producers of unfair business practices, wrongful termination and breach of contract, among other charges. He filed his lawsuit in a Los Angeles Superior Court on 12th December and stated that the show obtains antiques and memorabilia from the Off the Wall Antiques Company, which is featured regularly in the program. He is asking for hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damages and argues that the producers’ conduct warrants the imposition of punitive damages as a means of punishing them and preventing them from treating the cast of future shows in a similar manner.
Popularity Unlikely to Decline
Hester’s lawsuit makes reference to questions that the public have previously posed about whether items were placed in storage units and quotes a statement that the A&E Network made on the matter claiming that no aspects of the show are staged. ‘The items uncovered in the storage units are the actual items featured on the show,’ a network representative told ABC News. If Hester’s claims are revealed to be true then this means that the network willfully deceived the public. However media experts have predicted that the show is likely to remain popular even if it is proven to be fraudulent. Editor of the Hollywood Reporter Michael O’Connor points out that a certain amount of staging is to be expected in reality shows for logistical reasons. He says that Storage Wars gets such huge ratings that the likelihood is that it will not see a decline in viewers.
It is one thing airing a show that accurately depicts people finding hidden treasures at storage auctions but exaggerating the amount of valuable items that are usually found is an entirely different matter. If the producers of Storage Wars have indeed planted antiques and memorabilia in storage units then this means that they have falsely advertised the attractiveness of the industry and drawn a sea of buyers that has increased competition. Other reality TV shows have managed to survive allegations of ‘faking it’. The Discovery Channel’s Man vs. Wild faced criticism after a crewmember accused Bear Grylls of booking into hotel rooms and lying about ‘roughing it’ and the TLC show Breaking Amish was slated for allegedly faking the backgrounds of its stars. Both of these programs remained popular in spite of the controversy that surrounded them. Whether Storage Wars will do the same remains to be seen but one thing is for certain: those within the storage auction industry will not be happy with the producers if they are deemed to have acted in a fraudulent manner. Hester would not escape blame either, as it would mean that he had gone along with a fake show for several series.