The late '90s and mid-2000s were a time of celebrated excess. Just look at the TV series Rome on HBO, which cost a heck of a lot of money to produce. From the set designs to costumes, the attention to detail is staggering.
This, of course, is just one example of renowned excess in scripted television, but even in the reality space, there are a large number of programs that put lives of luxury front and center.
There's probably no show that embodies that more than MTV Cribs, which first aired on September 12, 2000. The modern revamp of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous featured a litany of music recording artists, actors, and other celebrities who were exchanging promotional screen time for a glimpse into their personal lives.
But was the show real?
Was 'MTV Cribs' real?
I hate to be the one to break this to you, but the word "reality" in reality TV is a pretty loosely defined term for the most part. Even the most authentic of shows feature some level of pre-planned production.
Others flat out stage events, fights, altercations, storylines, and drama between characters. Some straight-up hire actors to portray individuals who fit a specific storyline. (Heck, I was hired to play a "bad waiter" on a kitchen rehab show once.)
So how fake was MTV Cribs? Well, there are some stars who appeared on the program who completely lied about the homes that they owned just for the sake of production hitting their scheduling guidelines. Singer JoJo stated that she and her mother didn't even live in a home at the time their episode was filmed; they were actually living in hotels. The house featured on the show? It was her uncle's.
"It was so ridiculous. The thing is, we didn't have a home at that point. My mom and I were living out of suitcases and we were mostly in hotels. So that was actually my uncle's house, on the Cape. That wasn't my house. That wasn't my stuff.
"When I was sitting on the spinny thing, that was his kids'. That's the truth. I should've balled hard, and been like, 'Welcome to my crib, look at how luxurious it is,' and I should have rented out a place. But no. I just used my uncle's crib. So that was me lying on Cribs," she said.
Ja Rule's weird episode, which features a cookout and pool party with Vin Diesel, got the rapper in legal trouble. Ja was sued by the real owner of a home he rented and passed off as his own without getting permission for MTV to film there. Oh, and he reportedly wrecked the place without paying for repairs.
OK, so some people lied about their houses on MTV cribs, but did the folks really own the stuff they bragged about on the show?
It's not uncommon for famous people whose public image is deeply intertwined with their boasts about wealth to lie; Jay-Z says a lot of rappers tell tall tales about how much money they have. It turns out this is exactly the case for MTV Cribs as well.
If you've watched a few episodes, then you've probably seen a fair share of musicians flaunting not only massive mansions that may or may not be theirs, but a rolodex of luxury automobiles to boot.
Having a pristine collection of cars isn't like owning a bunch of jewelry, Magic: The Gathering Cards, or bespoke limited-edition lawn gnomes. They require a lot of maintenance and upkeep, especially higher-end vehicles. The whips that 50 Cent showed off in his episode didn't belong to the rapper, for instance — they were rentals, according to his 2015 bankruptcy filing.
'MTV Cribs' is coming back on the air with all new episodes
There are plenty of other instances of celebrities lying about the grandiosity of their lifestyles on MTV Cribs. Will that tomfoolery be back in full effect with the series reboot on the network?
Or does MTV have a bigger problem to face (that in the wake of the crippling economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, a show where a bunch of rich and famous people show off their luxurious digs is a little insensitive)?