Want more from Sunday TODAY? Catch up on our interviews and features here

Pop Culture

Are ‘Hell's Kitchen’ chefs hired actors?

Wondering about how a certain reality show pulled something off? Have a question about a certain contestant?

Whether it's "Survivor," "American Idol," "The Apprentice," "Real World" or another show, send in your questions. Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, MSNBC.com's Television Editor, and Andy Dehnart, creator of Reality Blurred,will try to answer them.

Before you send in your question, check our archives — you may be able to get your answer right away.

Q: Are any of the contestants on “Hell's Kitchen” actors or are they all actual applicants who sent in their audition tapes?    —J. Kim, Texas

A:Andy says: They're actual chefs, or at least people who have some kind of cooking experience that the producers used to cast them on the show. It's clear that many of them are cast because they're personalities, not because they can or should win their own restaurant. Both during season one and season two, the eventual winners were stand-outs pretty much from the beginning.

Still, it's hard to imagine why they'd apply for the show, since it's basically about being berated and yelled at for weeks and weeks, but at least it's fun for viewers to watch.

One of the contestants on this season, Bonnie, went to culinary school, and works as a personal chef. She told Eater LA that she did the series just to see if she could make it: "I forgot about ‘HK’ because I didn't watch the second season, but one girl in my class was boasting that she was trying out for it, and I got really competitive and wanted to try out. I never thought I'd make it on the show. I wanted to try it and see how well I'd do," she said.

Gael says: But not all of the chefs actively sought out "Hell's Kitchen." I have a friend who's chef and owner of his own restaurant, and "HK" staff tracked him down and heavily encouraged him to apply. (He ended up passing on the chance, although there was no absolute guarantee he'd have been picked even if he had applied.)

Q: What happened to Laguna Beach?   Cindy, Maryland

A: The groundbreaking MTV reality show has been cancelled, sort of.  A new series, which functions also as a fourth season of  "Laguna," debuts Wednesday at 10:30 p.m. ET. "Newport Harbor: The Real Orange County" is basically a re-booting/renaming of "Laguna Beach," and will follow a group of high school kids, but in Newport Harbor, not Laguna. In addition, some of their parents will make appearances. Ultimately, the trailer for the new series makes it seem pretty much like "Laguna Beach."

Why change the show's name and move it? The third season of  "Laguna Beach" was not as popular as the first two; ratings were down, and the new cast was at least somewhat to blame, since the series essentially started over with new characters. In addition, some of "Laguna"'s feuding cast members live on in "The Hills," a spin-off, which debuted Monday. 18 episodes of the third season will air, although this could be the last season of it, too.  —A.D.

Q: What has Brandi and her family from "My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance" been up to since the show ended?    —Summer, Memphis

A: Actually, it's Randi Coy, and she has essentially disappeared from public view.

Shortly after the show concluded, she left her job as a teacher. She'd actually only taught first grade for a few months, and then resigned after the show concluded. Randi received $500,000 for her pain and suffering, as did her family, so she didn't exactly need the job.

While Randi may have slipped back into real life, "Steve," the Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance himself, has not. The actor who played him, Steven W. Bailey, can be seen regularly on "Grey's Anatomy."

He's Joe, the bartender at the bar where McDreamy and Meredith first met. At the end of this season, his recurring storyline, involving his and his partner's desire to adopt a child, was one of the few that was wrapped up; the birth mother selected Joe and Walter to adopt her baby.

That will undoubtedly lead to some drama next season, especially if the baby grows up and decides to go on a reality show and pretend to get married to an ass for money.    --A.D.

Q: What happened to “American Bingo” on Friday night?    —Ray, Alabama

A: You mean “National Bingo Night,” and the show simply ran all of its episodes. Only six episodes of the game show were ordered, and starting in May, they all aired.

Broadcasting & Cable reported last month that the show will return in December for five nights, beginning Dec. 17. Broadcast ratings fell with each episode, but ABC.com saw a surge of viewers surfing to the network's site, downloading more than 22 million Bingo cards.

Interested in appearing on the show? ABC has casting information online.

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper is MSNBC.com's Television Editor. Andy Dehnart is a writer and teacher who publishes reality blurred, a daily summary of reality TV news.