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Countdown: Top ten fake reality shows

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Tonight Channel 4 launches Space Cadets, billed as the most ambitious, expensive reality TV hoax ever to have been pulled. But it isn't the first prank of its kind to have fooled hapless TV hopefuls...

10. Million Pound Hoax
A contestant had to fool their own friends and family into thinking they had scooped a big prize in the National Lottery in order to win some real-life prizes. As the hoax progressed, the contestant was charged to appear more changed by their "winnings", much to the shock and annoyance of their loved ones. The series was later remade for the US market as 25 Million Dollar Hoax.

9. The Great Reality TV Swindle
This real-life con saw "producer" Nikita Russian (real name Keith Gillard) lure thirty Brits into appearing on an idyllic-sounding - but completely falsified - reality show. The contestants were left devastated after realising they had given up everything - jobs, homes, partners - for the hoax but decided to film a real reality show based on tracking down Russian after he went on the run.

8. Invasion Iowa
Legendary Star Trek actor William Shatner fooled the entire town of Riverside, Iowa into thinking he was filming a new sci-fi movie there. Outrageous scenes and flamboyant castmembers still left the residents clueless. Currently airing on ITV4.

7. My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiancé
Randi Coy signed up for a reality show only to learn she was getting married - at least, that's what she had to convince her family in order to win a huge cash prize. Unbeknownst to her, however, her new fiancé was actually an actor, trying to make her job as difficult as possible.

6. Joe Millionaire
This spin on the traditional reality dating format involved one completely average joe fooling a host of beauties into thinking he was a multi-millionaire. A ratings blockbuster in the US, the series concluded with a twist making the guy in question a millionaire for real.

5. Playing It Straight
In a classic reality dating format, a gorgeous girl had to sift through a heap of handsome hunks to find her ideal man. Unfortunately for her, half of them were secretly gay - and she had to detect which to win a big cash prize.

4. The WB's Superstar USA
A spin on American Idol sought to find the worst possible singers who believed they were the best. Week after week they performed to a closed audience in the mistaken delusion that they were the next Whitney or Mariah until the truth was finally revealed in a studio-packed grand finale.

3. My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss
In this take on Donald Trump's The Apprentice, a group of entrepreneurs battled each other for a job with N. Pole Todd, one of the world's wealthiest businessmen. Of course, it was all a ruse: Todd was really an actor and the firm, Iocor, was a sham. The contestants failed to pick up on this, despite the outrageous tasks - including designing an ad campaign for a landmine-based home security product, marketing cyanide to schoolkids and selling reusable toilet paper - and Todd's outrageous behaviour. In a final twist, the real "boss" - deciding which contestant went home, and ultimately who won the (real) grand prize - was revealed to be a monkey.

2. There's Something About Miriam
Seven single guys compete for the affections of the beautiful Miriam, unaware that she is a pre-op transexual. After learning her secret, the winner of the show declined an invitation to join her on a cruise and, together with the other contestants, sued the production company.

1. The Joe Schmo Show
A faux-clash of Survivor and Big Brother saw ten "strangers" living in a mansion to participate in a new reality show, "The Lap of Luxury". Nine of the ten were all actors, however, taking direction from an array of producers and scriptwriters in order to fool one guy. He failed to rumble them, despite an abundance of absurd tasks, contrived confrontations between the contestants and a ridiculous host - albeit eventually to his (financial) credit. A second series, which attempted to pull off a similar hoax with two Schmoes, hit a snag when one of them sussed. In an off-the-cuff twist, she was brought in on the gag herself, becoming an actress to help fool the remaining Schmo and her replacement.

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