Emmys: 'Lip Sync Battle,' 'Amazing Race' Producers Reveal Harrowing and Heartwarming Off-Camera Moments

7:55 AM 8/12/2016

by Lacey Rose

Hosts and EPs of this year's nominated reality shows tell the memorable behind-the-scenes stories — from doctoring a heart attack on set to booking Beyonce — that didn't make it to the screen.

Spike TV/Courtesy Everett Collection

  • Deadliest Catch (Discovery)

    Unstructured Reality

    Discovery Channel/Jason Elias

    “I’ve encountered massive seas, childbirth, death, marriage, divorce and heroin addiction producing Deadliest Catch. But above all there is a heartwarming sense of community up there [in Alaska], and that’s what impresses me most. When [Capt.] Sig Hansen suffered a massive heart attack, he was in denial. He insisted on driving the Northwestern back to Seattle himself. In a tense off-camera moment, if he couldn’t be con- vinced to get help, we would have lost him. It was his brother Edgar, producers Kelvon Agee and Lisa Roberts and several Dutch Harbor locals who came together and saved Sig’s life.” — R. Decker Watson, Jr., executive producer

  • Gaycation (Viceland)

    Unstructured Reality

    Courtesy of Vice

    “I went to Ted Cruz’s Rally for Religious Liberty in Iowa to try to talk to business owners who felt they were being discriminated against for not serving LGBTQ customers. I guess people recognized me from when I was with Ellen Page earlier in the day at the Iowa State Fair, when she grilled Cruz at a pig roast, [because] after about 15 minutes, I was escorted out by police.” — Ian Daniel, co-host

  • Intervention (A&E)

    Unstructured Reality

    A&E Network

    “One of the most raw, desperate experiences in Intervention history happened during the filming of our ‘Sierra’ episode this season. Faced with full-blown meth-induced psychosis, Sierra’s behaviors were increasingly extreme and unpredictable. In just a few days she fled, was arrested twice and hospitalized once, all before even an attempt at an intervention.” — Tom Greenhut, executive producer

  • United Shades of America (CNN)

    Unstructured Reality

    Courtesy of Sundance Institute

    “During our ‘Off the Grid’ episode we went to a witches coven in a basement in Asheville, N.C. I participated in a ceremony that included jumping, chanting and the head Wiccan drawing a pentagram on my forehead using whatever the opposite of holy water is. And although I’m not a regular churchgoer, I’m also not sure that a pentagram on my forehead is a good idea. None of this made the actual show, so it’s possible I may have lost my immortal soul for nothing. That’s why winning this Emmy is very important to me.” — W. Kamau Bell, host

  • Born This Way (A&E)

    Unstructured Reality

    Adam Taylor/A&E

    “We [filmed] a poker game where the dads were talking about wanting their young-adult children with Down syndrome to have satisfying sex lives once they are married. And as Cristina’s dad told the other dads, he couldn’t believe he was talking about his daughter’s sex life to a group of other dads. The scene didn’t make season one because we didn’t have a story that provided the proper context ... but we found the perfect place [for it in season two].” — Jonathan Murray, executive producer

  • Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (Food Network)

    Structured Reality

    Citizen Pictures/Food Network

    “We’re having a wrap meeting with the production team at a diner, and there are two older ladies across the way having a discussion about who is the bigger fan of me. ‘Well, I know his kids’ names.’ ‘I know where he lives in wine country.’ It gets real creepy. Finally one lady says: ‘I’m gonna tell you right now, I’m his biggest fan. I know everything about Gus Ferrari.’ ” — Guy Fieri, host

  • Lip Sync Battle (Spike)

    Structured Reality

    Spike TV/Courtesy Everett Collection

    “We’d been asking Channing Tatum to do the show for a year. When he finally agreed, the first thing he said to me was, ‘I hate you,’ because he’s so competitive he knew he’d be 100 percent consumed. Then we had the heightened stakes of him battling his wife, Jenna Dewan, who is every bit as talented and competitive. They were a house divided: locked-off rooms, secret rehearsal schedules, secret cameos. She called Paula Abdul, and they rehearsed at midnight. Channing was recording his rehearsals and sent a video to Beyonce asking her to come out as a surprise — we’d been asking her forever, but it was Chan’s video that did it. She finally agreed to come the morning of our show, and the only thing in our way from confirming her was that her glam [hair and makeup team] wasn’t available ... because they were working with Chan! But it all worked out. The fans were hysterical — fainting, crying. Channing had never met her and saw her for the first time live as you saw it on TV. We were just praying that he’d keep dancing. All that said, Jenna’s ‘Pony’ was pound for pound the most flawless performance anyone has ever given on the show. We need a rematch.” — Casey Patterson, executive producer

  • MythBusters (Discovery)

    Structured Reality

    “We set up a mile-long course packed with thousands of props representing all 14 years of MythBusters on a mile of runway in Alameda, Calif. I drove a 60,000- pound truck with a massive wedge spike on its nose right through the middle of it. The viewers saw it, of course, but I didn’t. At about 12 seconds in, debris covered my windshield, and I couldn’t see the course at all.” — Adam Savage, co-host

  • Shark Tank (ABC)

    Structured Reality

    ABC/Michael Desmond

    “It sounds like the start of a bad joke: Three entrepreneurs walk into the tank, one pushing a dolly. The sharks don’t like the concept and start tearing it to shreds. The entrepreneurs look worried. Two sharks drop out; one entrepreneur starts to sweat — a lot. And then, suddenly, he faints.” — Clay Newbill, executive producer

  • The Amazing Race (CBS)

    Reality Competition

    CBS

    “One of the wildest unscripted moments was during our first season in the northern Sahara Desert. All teams had just checked in to a tented camp we’d set up with camels, belly dancers and musicians. It was a magical place, but a few hours after the sun set and everyone had settled into tents, a violent sandstorm hit and took down the entire tented camp. We had to do an emergency evacuation — all of the contestants, crew, dancers, musicians and camels.” — Elise Doganieri, executive producer

  • American Ninja Warrior (NBC)

    Reality Competition

    Joe Robbins/NBC

    “In Kansas City we had to halt production between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. due to severe thunderstorms. More walk-ons needed to get through the course, but there wasn’t time with the storm bearing down. Our casting guy begs to run one more guy whose wife was terminally ill — he’d trained for the show in order to carry her up their stairs at home. It was Michael Stanger, whose incredible run turned into the most dramatic of the season and became the Emmy-nominated episode.” — Kent Weed, executive producer

  • The Voice (NBC)

    Reality Competition

    Courtesy of NBC

    “When small-town Kentucky native Jordan Smith walked onstage for his blind audition of Sia’s ‘Chandelier,’ he instantly became one of the most memorable artists we’ve had. All four coaches turned and were shocked to see a man onstage. He shared that his life goal was to ‘be different,’ and Adam [Levine] responded, ‘You’re the most important person to ever be on this show.’ When we cut, I [heard] the coaches gush about how moments like those make them love doing the show. Their emotion was palpable. Jordan went on to win season nine and set iTunes records.” — Mark Burnett, executive producer

  • Dancing With The Stars (ABC)

    Reality Competition

    ABC/Adam Taylor

    "Getting on the phone with Alek Skarlatos days after he and his two friends had taken down a gunman on a train bound for Paris, saving countless lives, and asking him if he wanted to ballroom dance. To say he was taken aback is an understatement! [He agreed and competed in season 21.]"  Rob Wade, executive producer

  • Antiques Roadshow (PBS)

    Structured Reality

    Jeffrey Dunn for WGBH

    "Antiques Roadshow’s season 20 summer production tour started off hot in Tucson — literally! In the early hours of our first taping day, a small fire caused by a lithium battery on set resulted in damage to a set wall — a hole you could walk through — plus an odorous, ashy cleanup project. A quick response by the Tucson Fire Department along with the Roadshow team’s 'the show must go on' approach kept the event delay to a minimum, allowing us to see thousands of owners and capture the number of appraisals needed to produce the required three one-hour episodes." — Marsha Bemko, executive producer

  • Project Greenlight (HBO)

    Unstructured Reality

    Courtesy of John P. Johnson/HBO

    "It was over 100 degrees on set at the Fairbanks Mansion, and the crew was already tense when three fires in a row happened. First, the production designer burned his hand trying to set up a steamer. Then one of the lights in the dining room wasn’t covered with foil and led to another fire, burning the expensive wood paneling. Finally, over the following weekend, a sandbag resting against a landscape light outside caught on fire…then caught fire to the tree, then the side of the mansion. Luckily no major damage and no more fires, but lots of gray hair for the producers." — Jane Lipsitz, executive producer

  • Top Chef (Bravo)

    Reality Competition

    Steve Jennings/Bravo

    "This past season, we had the Golf Elimination challenge in Palm Springs and we had no idea the distances between each hole would be! This was shot over 18 holes of a golf course, and producing the challenge was nuts. We pride ourselves on always serving hot food, and to pull this off required a lot of impromptu coordinating and an army of golf carts. At a certain point, I saw Jose Andres suddenly coming down a grassy hill like Rommel! Everything was mobile, including our video village. And our Spanish Desert Fox made us laugh the whole day." — Padma Lakshmi, host

comments powered by Disqus