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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Dec. 19, 2014

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In Movies & TV Commentary

Jarrod Schulz, Brandi Passante, Brandon Sheets and Darrell Sheets of A&E's "Storage Wars" appear at the grand opening of the new Now and Then Secondhand Store. (PHOTO: shutterstock.com)

More claims that "Storage Wars" is far from real


When news came out last week that cast members of "Storage Wars" on A&E were getting the David Hester treatment, it didn't come as a big surprise.

For those unaware, the reality show is one of the top rated programs on cable and has developed a solid following over the past couple of years. On the show, different cast members participate in a public auction of abandoned storage lockers in California. The cameras capture the bidding, bickering between the bidders and are with them as they discover the hidden treasures within.

The show, like other reality shows currently on the air, has been accused of hardly being real. While full scripting with actors reciting lines doesn't usually happen on "Storage Wars" one has to wonder if there's enough precious antiques in each auction to go around to keep the show interesting.

One former cast member Dave Hester, who was known for his loud "YUUUP!" while bidding, was in a contract dispute with the production company that makes the show. When things didn't go well, Hester filed a lawsuit, according to Radar Online.

The show picked up Hester's contract and then rescinded it for season four, which is currently on the air. In the suit, Hester claims that the network and producers continually add valuable items to the storage units to add more drama to the show. He also claimed that the bidding is rigged and that the show paid for one cast member's plastic surgery.

Hester claims that he and other cast members confronted producers of the show, and was fired only days after that meeting. Hester is suing for millions for a wrongful termination, breach of contract and other counts.

Radar Online reported last week that cast member Darrell Sheets was frozen out of six episodes, and auctioneers Dan and Laura Dotson were also cut back this season.

According to a unnamed source, Sheets was not happy that producers shot extra shows beyond his contract.

One thought is that the show may continue with cheaper talent, and let some of its highly-paid cast members go. At this point, it hasn't been disclosed how much the people on "Storage Wars" make.

In 2011, the cast members of MTV's "Jersey Shore" made headlines when they were negotiating contracts for the third season. At that time, they worked together to seek more than $30,000 per episode. That was quite a bit to watch eight people party and GTL (gym, tan and laundry).

For the fans of TV history, this isn't the first time producers have used non-union actors to keep costs down on entertainment programs. Robert Redford helped tell the story all too well in the 1994 film "Quiz Show."

The movie spins a tale inspired by the game show scandals of the 1950s. Actor Rob Morrow plays a young lawyer on a Congressional committee that finds out that TV quiz shows were being fixed. Contestants would win money and prizes if they fit what the producers were looking for. At that time, the producers needed the drama to gain and maintain an audience. Certain contestants were told the answers in advance and told when to answer wrong to lose.

"The early quiz shows rewarded knowledge, and made celebrities out of people who knew a lot of things and could remember them. The post-fix quiz shows rewarded luck," Roger Ebert wrote about the film. "On 'The $64,000 Question' and 'Twenty-One' you could see people getting rich because they were smart. Today people on TV make money by playing games a clever child can master. The message is that it's not necessary to know anything, because you can be ignorant and still get lucky."

Seems like today, being lucky is bidding on a storage locker that is seeded with valuables to keep the audience coming back. And if you don't ask for more money and stay in favor with show producers, you will be cast on season five of "Storage Wars."

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