E! is going meta for its latest reality series. The network has ordered Reality Hell, a reality show that mocks other reality shows. Each week one unsuspecting person will be "competing" on what they believe to be a reality show, when in actuality the other contestants are all actors, and the entire program is staged. As the show progresses, they get subjected to increasing levels of absurd challenges.
Model shows, cooking competitions and dating shows are all skewered in the eight part series, which will bow on E! August 16, following the premiere of Kourtney and Khloe Take Miami.
The concept has been tried before on other networks to largely mixed response. Spike ran The Joe Schmo Show in 2003, putting one unsuspecting "joe schmo" on a fake reality show where everyone else was an actor. Likewise, Comedy Central aired Reality Bites Back in summer 2008. That show featured stand up comedians in a reality competition that poked fun at the ridiculousness of other reality competitions. Joe Schmo did well enough to earn a second season, but by then the jokes were stale. Likewise, Reality Bites Back was not renewed by Comedy Central.