The Actuality Behind TV's Popular Reality Shows

Get an inside look at what it takes to make TLC's famous family reality shows.

March 23, 2009, 8:53 AM

March 23, 2009 — -- Average families are now the focus of some of television's most popular reality shows. They aren't rock stars looking for love or celebutants; they are families who've opened up their homes to show the world just how they live.

"We are pretty much committed to telling it as it is, as raw and open as we [possibly] can," said Matt Roloff, whose family stars in TLC's Little People Big World." "We didn't think of it as entertainment. We just thought of it as a mission to educate people about dwarfism."

The Roloffs are just one of many families on the small screen whose everyday musings have captivated viewers.

The trials of raising multiples have made Jon and Kate Gosselin famous and have captivated viewers for several seasons. The same is true of the Duggars, an Arkansas family who welcomed its 18th child in December.

The newest edition to the genre is the Hayes family. Eric and Betty Hayes have 12-year-old twin boys, 4-year-old sextuplets and 10-year-old twins, boy and girl. The upcoming "Table for 12" premieres tonight on TLC and document their lives.

Crews on these familial reality programs typically shoot three days a week for four to 10 hours each day.

"You are bringing cameras in, exposing that somewhat private space to everybody," said Amy Roloff.

The families don't get to peek at the episodes before they air, but they insist the shows are as real as reality gets.

"The show that we do is realistic," Kate Gosselin said. "There's no scripting."

"What you see is what you get," she said.

Crews film the actuality of the families, but there are some restrictions. Cameras are not allowed in the bedrooms of the Roloff and Hayes families.

"Everything is pretty much fair game except for our bedroom," said Eric Hayes, who is a police officer.

But where cameras are allowed, it seems the families become accustomed their constant presence.

"The little kids are pretty much oblivious to the camera. I think the older kids, every once and a while, you know, it might interfere with something that they want to do," said Betty Hayes, who is a stay-at-home mother to her 10 children.

Learning from Popular Family Reality TV Shows

Still, some things remain difficult, like cleaning for company every day, according to Betty Hayes, or dealing with a child's temper tantrum, according to Eric Hayes.

Yet those difficulties don't overshadow the family's purpose for opening up their intimate world — to bring attention to cerebral palsy, which their daughter Rebecca has.

"Maybe that sends a good message out to people that, you see somebody in a wheelchair," Betty Hayes said. "Maybe they'll see that [Rebecca's] a person."

As they enlighten others, the parents said they've also learned something about themselves.

"When they do interview the older children — to hear their perspective or their point of view about Eric and I and our parenting — that really, we probably would never hear that because we are their parents. So to actually see it on tape is pretty cool," Betty Hayes said.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events