TV

Violence? Racism? Lies? What does it take to get kicked off reality TV?

July 19, 2013 at 7:53 AM ET

Image: contestants from "Top Chef," "Real World" and "American Idol."
Bravo / MTV / Fox
Cliff Crooks of "Top Chef," Puck from "Real World" and Frenchie Davis of "Idol" were all booted from their reality competitions, whether by producers or fellow cast.

Reality TV shows celebrate outrageous acts. The more over-the-top the contestant, the more screen time they get. At least that seems to be the case.

But on rare occasions, a player somehow manages to cross the line between so-bad-it's-good and so-bad-it's-banned. That's when the-powers-that-be behind the show in question decide there's no time to wait for a viewer vote, eviction, torch-snuffing or whatever means of elimination traditionally takes care of the problem. Instead, the troublemaker gets kicked off the show.

It's happened in the past, and now viewers want to know when it's going to happen again.

The sudden interest comes after weeks of bad behavior on CBS' summer-TV staple, "Big Brother." Racism, misogyny, homophobia ... you name the slur and it's a safe bet one or more of the houseguests have said it — and then some.

In fact, the offenses have been bad enough to cost one player a job, another an agent and earn yet another a public reprimand. But what the offenses haven't done is earn anyone an early exit.

To date, CBS has yet to say much about this season's unacceptable behavior. Requests from TODAY.com for comment have been answered with statements that make no mention of possible consequences for the offending players. "At times, the Houseguests reveal prejudices and other beliefs that we do not condone," read one response by the network.

"We are weighing carefully issues of broadcast standards, an obligation to inform the audience of important elements that influence the competition, and sensitivity to how any inappropriate comments are presented," CBS later said.

As nasty as things have gotten this season, it isn't new for the show.

While the current unpleasant houseguests remain in the game — yes, even Aaryn Gries — for now, "Big Brother" hasn't shied away from making a cut in the past. Back in season two, Justin Sebik got the boot 10 days in. After smashing property and threatening fellow houseguests, he took things too far when he used a sweeper and a knife — and a series of creepy lines — to flirt and threaten player Krista Stegall. "Seriously, would you get mad if I killed you?" he asked before kissing her and holding the knife to her throat.

Season four saw the show kick out Scott Weintraub after he exhibited explosive mood swings and threw furniture. "Big Brother" handed out eviction notices again in season 11 when Chima Simone threatened producers, and when Willie Hantz threw food at a fellow player and head-butted another in season 14.

Other reality shows have had their issues with problematic personalities. Take MTV's "Real World," for instance.

Just last season, tensions between Nia Moore and Jordan Wiseley ran high. She stole his wallet, threatened to strike him with a clock, and more. He spit in her face and called her racial slurs.

The show's executive producer and co-creator Jon Murray told TODAY.com that though they were inundated with e-mails to kick out both housemates, the series is designed to let the participants solve their own problems. Whenever serious issues arise, the show leaves it up to the cast as to whether they want to evict the person in question. (And there have been several ousters; five people — including the infamous Puck — have been evicted in the show's 28 seasons.)

" 'The Real World' is about young people dealing with their own issues and hopefully figuring out ways to solve them on their own," Murray said. "But I could see us stepping in if somebody was purposely trying to use racist words to provoke a violent response."

Stephen Williams in season seven did get violent when he slapped housemate Irene McGee as she quit "Real World," but producers didn't step in. As Murray said, the show left the possibility of eviction up to the cast. They chose to keep Williams around.

One show that didn't tolerate physical violence is Bravo's "Top Chef." In the second season, contestant Cliff Crooks was yanked out of the competition when things got too physical. During a night of drunken shenanigans, Crooks dragged fellow chef Marcel Vigneron out bed and pinned him to the floor while yelling for the others to come shave the young man's head. (No one did, but they gathered around and laughed.)

After the shocking incident, head judge Tom Colicchio — who also produces "Top Chef Masters" — wrote on his Bravo blog, “The Producers stepped in with a veto. Sending all of the chefs but Marcel home wasn’t going to happen. Bravo’s Legal department advised us that the Top Chef rules, which stated that harming or threatening to harm other contestants was potential grounds for disqualification. According to these guidelines, it was clear that Cliff needed to go.”

While physical violence is a very clear line to draw, for some reality shows, it doesn't take that much for producers to step in with a disqualification.

"American Idol" is one such example. The singing competition has booted several hopefuls in its 12 seasons, and none for violent behavior. Delano Cagnolatti from season one was the first to find out how a minor infraction can lead to the end of one's singing dreams: He was booted for being 29 years old when he claimed to be 23. (Contestants had to be under age 25 at the time.)

The following year, Corey Clark made it to the top 10 before he was disqualified. His crime? Crimes. According to producers, the singer never revealed his criminal record. But Clark claimed his real crime was having an alleged romance with judge Paula Abdul. Season two also saw now-Broadway star Frenchie Davis kicked out in the semifinals due to topless photos that were published online years earlier. She disclosed that detail from the start, but show staffers waited weeks to take action.

Later seasons saw the show disqualify hopefuls for undisclosed criminal records, drunk driving the night before the Hollywood rounds, past legal woes and a previous contract that might have interfered with the "Idol" agreement.

On "The Bachelor," it took getting a little too close to the staff be disqualified. In season 14 of ABC's romantic contest, Rozlyn Papa had her chances of getting the final rose crushed when it was discovered that she was having what host Chris Harrison called an "inappropriate relationship that got physical" with a show staffer. Both Papa and the employee were promptly dumped.

One good way of ensuring an elimination by producers is cheating and rule-breaking, something that contestants of "Project Runway," "RuPaul's Drag Race" and "America's Next Top Model" have learned.

"Runway" designer Keith Michael was booted in season three after he'd smuggled in pattern-making books — a big no-no on the competition. "Drag Race's" Willam Belli was a frontrunner in season four until it was discovered that his husband was a frequent visitor when contestants were supposed to be sequestered. And on "Top Model," cycle 17 finalist Angelea Preston was unceremoniously dumped, causing The CW to reshoot parts of the finale. Rumor was that she may have announced her later-reversed victory before the finale aired

So with all these disqualifications in mind, what's it going to take to finally send the nastiest "Big Brother" contestants home for their bad behavior this season? Will the producers finally say "enough" and step in as viewer outcry continues to mount? Or will it be up to the housemates to make the move? Only time will tell.

— Additional reporting by Maria Elena Fernandez

Do you think bad behavior should mean contestants get the boot from areality TV show? Or is crossing the line just part of being real? Click "talk about it" and tell us your thoughts.

TOP