Reality TV: The end of civilization as we know it? Or just the end of civilization as we know it this week?

One thing for certain: Reality TV is...here. Ever since CBS struck prime-time gold with Survivor, copycats have sought to match its roasted-rat, jungle-lust, betray-your-buddy appeal. The Bachelorette mixes love, hope and humiliation; Joe Millionaire adds French food and a big fat fib (and a whopping 18.6 million viewers for its Jan. 6 debut). Stars who've been nudged from the spotlight inch back on The Surreal Life (where had you gone, Emmanuel Lewis?); ex-classmates settle scores on High School Reunion; and every week Joe Rogan, Fear Factor's host, says the darnedest things—including lauding a contestant "for being able to free herself from the helicopter and eat 13 inches of horse rectum." This is the reality of Reality TV. And so is the following.

Joe, where'd ya get the JEWELS?

As if Joe Millionaire's Evan Marriott weren't prize enough, the construction worker posing as a $50 million heir doles out necklaces to the women competing for his heart:
•Week 1: pearls, worth $500
•Week 2: sapphires, $2,000
•Week 3: emeralds, $3,000
•Week 4: rubies, $4,000
•Producers say all the jewelry was purchased in France, where the show taped last fall.
•But if Marriott is a fake, mightn't these gems be the same? Say it ain't so, Joe!

Where do these PEOPLE come from?

•FOX's American Idol drew 50,000 Kelly Clarkson wannabes in seven cities.
•More than 10,000 people in nine cities tried out for CBS's Star Search.
•The WB's High School Reunion producers pored through hundreds of 1992 yearbooks.
•ABC's The Bachelorette received more than 2,000 applicants via phone and the Internet.
But celeb participants are harder to wrangle: Facts of Lifer Mindy Cohn turned down the WB's The Surreal Life ("I don't want to play myself on TV," she says); Queen Latifah reportedly dropped out of Celebrity Mole at the last minute; and Amy Fisher was forced out of last year's Celebrity Boxing after the New York Parole Board said participating would violate the Long Island Lolita's parole.

How much do They get PAID?

Bachelor/Bachelorette contestants get about $40 per diem during their pre-filming hotel stay. After that, nada.
•The WB's High School Reunion-ees received around $2,000 to compensate their time off from work.
Survivors get $2,500 to $1 million, based on when they're voted off.
Celebrity Mole players received a Tiffany's gift and a free trip to Hawaii, plus a shot at $250,000.
The Surreal Life "wasn't a pay-the-bills kind of gig," says executive producer Mark Cronin. But as M.C. Hammer points out, "it adds to your visibility."

Who's the BUTLER?
Paul Hogan—who gave Evan Marriott etiquette lessons and lends Joe Millionaire much-needed class—ran households in Aspen, New York City and the Bahamas before being cast by FOX. Hogan, 52, retired from the Australian foreign service in 1994 and became a manservant four years later. Now living in Malone, N.Y., Hogan, who is divorced, isn't looking for his own love match: "I'm not keen to get back in the harness again."

Is it really REAL?

Apparently, reality is in the eye of the beholder. The producers and on-air talent insist that everything is "100 percent authentic" (according to Survivor host Jeff Probst) and "exactly as it happened" (says American Idol coexecutive producer Ken Warwick). But things look different on the other side of the camera. Bachelor Aaron Buerge told PEOPLE last November that he immediately clicked with eventual winner Helene Eksterowicz, but producers tried to "keep the mystery alive" when they edited the show. That same month Jack and Kelly Osbourne claimed MTV staged key scenes in The Osbournes, including the dog psychiatrist's visit. (MTV denied the allegations.)

Most recently, Jerri Manthey says Surreal Life producers "circled me around [in the limo] for two hours. They kept talking on the mikes, saying, 'Hold her back just a little longer,' " to engineer her late arrival and boost the tension. "They should call them reaction shows not reality shows," adds Surreal roommate Emmanuel Lewis. "That's really all we did the whole time."

Where do they get these great HOUSES?

•ABC Bachelorette Trista Rehn greets her courtiers in a huge rented home in Encino, Calif. The snazzy Malibu pad used for the two Bachelors was borrowed from a friend of producer Mike Fleiss's.
•Stars lived the Surreal Life in a rented manse that used to belong to singer Glen Campbell. "My own house is smaller, but it's way more clean," says Brande Roderick (Baywatch). "It isn't full of ants."
•Joe Millionaire rules the roost from la Bourdaisière, a 16th-century Loire Valley chateau converted into a luxury hotel and run by Prince Philippe Maurice de Broglie. He rented out the works (including 17 guest rooms and a 100-acre park) to the show. Cost for one room at the inn: $120 a night.

Will he be happy EVAN after?

Joe Millionaire's Evan Marriott reportedly has already been approached to star in the next Superman film. If that doesn't pan out, he does have other career options. He could return to modeling (right)...

Be actor Peter Gallagher's stunt double...

Or play Gaston in Beauty and the Beast on Broadway.

What's NEXT?

Which of the following reality shows is NOT in development?

•Fallen stars vie for a return to showbiz glory in Second Chance.
•Single women in the rural South go husband-hunting on Sex in the Itty Bitty City.
•Six young cowboys and cowgirls lasso up to compete on the pro-rodeo circuit in Rodeo Road.
•Married couples trade places with complete strangers for two weeks in The Swap.
•Couples try to keep moving for seven days straight in Non-Stop.

ANSWER: Proving that reality TV really is stranger than fiction, all five shows are real!

What's WEBSTER Really Like?

For The WB's new series Surreal Life, seven celebrities moved in together for 10 days and went on little adventures—grocery shopping, gambling in Vegas and eating sushi off a naked lady. "I was hungry," says Baywatch babe Brande Roderick, "and it was good sushi." PEOPLE met with six of the stars to discuss this bold sociological experiment (above, from left: rapper MC Hammer, 40; Roderick, 28; Webster star Emmanuel Lewis, 31; Beverly Hills, 90210 alumna Gabrielle Carteris, 42; actor Corey Feldman, 31; and Survivor also-ran Jerri Manthey, 32. Missing: Mötley Crüe vocalist Vince Neil, 41).

Manthey: After Survivor, this was a cakewalk. There was food, a heated pool....

Lewis: At home, I sleep in a king-sized bed all by myself. Sleeping in a twin with a bunk above me, that was an adjustment.

Hammer: He straight up took the bottom bunk from me!

Lewis: A man gotta do what a man gotta do.

Feldman: I thought everyone was very respectful of each other's space and lifestyle.

Hammer: Corey, you're the one who said, "Who's this Jerri? She doesn't belong with us."

Manthey: I didn't hear that until the broadcast. Otherwise I might have scratched your eyes out.

Feldman: I didn't dislike you. I was trying to figure out who you were.

Carteris: We had a couple of big fights, most involving Corey. He gets a little sensitive...

Hammer: Sensitive? He flipped the proverbial wig a few times.

Manthey: But we got through the hard part of living together. So we should stay friends.

Roderick: We girls bonded...

Carteris: Jerri was at my home for Thanksgiving.

Hammer: I wouldn't do it again without this same group. But I would like to see a house with Michael Jackson. That would be a smash.

Feldman: Are you kidding? It would be the biggest show ever.

Writers: Tom Gliatto and Jason Lynch
Reported by: Cynthia Wang, Carrie Bell, Karen Brailsford, Rachel Biermann, Lorenzo Benet, Alexis Chiu

  • Contributors:
  • Cynthia Wang,
  • Carrie Bell,
  • Karen Brailsford,
  • Rachel Biermann,
  • Lorenzo Benet,
  • Alexis Chiu.