The families featured on The Great Christmas Light Fight take holidays to the next level, so it shouldn't come as a huge surprise that the ABC reality series is actually filmed well before episodes start to air.
The series showcases the "wildest and most spectacular Christmas displays" in America, visiting four families in each episode who have decorated their homes for the chance to win $50,000 and a pretty cool trophy. It's hosted by Carter Oosterhouse and Taniya Nayak and is always sure to get even the Scroogiest viewers in the holiday spirit.
This year, the very first episode airs on Dec. 9, which means most of the families who appeared on the show had those Christmas decorations up well in advance of the holiday season. As it turns out, they actually had them up in advance of last year's holiday season.
So, when exactly do they tape 'The Great Christmas Light Fight'?
While watching Season 8 of The Great Christmas Light Fight, audiences will undoubtedly be struck by the fact that there are huge crowds of people and absolutely zero social distancing or mask-wearing taking place despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. But don't worry — there's a perfectly reasonable explanation.
On Dec. 7, 2020, Hosts Carter and Taniya clarified during an Instagram Live conversation that the episodes airing this year were filmed back in 2019. "We film the show a year in advance, and we've always done this because of editing," Tanya said. "Which means this year, when it airs, people are gonna see massive crowds, lots of hugging, lots of handholding," even though none of those things are happening in real life right now.
Tanya went on to say that she's excited that people will get a small taste of normalcy while watching Season 8 of the show. "I'm actually glad because it will remind us of how things were and, hopefully, how things will be again soon." However, she does say she's a little nervous about "shamers" who may spew vitriolic opinions online without being aware that the show is filmed so far in advance.
The show's year-in-advance filming schedule means that they have already started filming Season 9, which will air in 2021. And for that, they are taking tons of precautions.
"What we're doing for this year, while we're filming right now in the middle of this pandemic, is that we get tested every three days," Taniya said. "Everybody on set gets tested, the homeowners get tested, and then you and I get to take our masks off with the homeowners [but] we have to keep a 6-foot distance, we're outside, and we have COVID officers on set."
Carter has taken things one step further and has been essentially living in an Airstream trailer all year, driving it around to the various filming locations. "I've been telling everybody: The set is the safest place to be," he said. "I literally go to set [and] to my trailer that I'm living in, and it's kind of the safest area." You definitely have to admire his dedication!
Is 'The Great Christmas Light Fight' fake?
There have been rumors that the show is not as real as people think, mostly because there was a rumor going around that the families aren't told whether they won until the show airs. According to the rumor (which was apparently started by former contestant Kevin Lynch), each family is told they won so producers can get a "genuine" reaction and then made to film a reaction to losing the competition as well.
Kevin also explained how families are only given three weeks to set up their displays. "I was out decorating from eight in the morning ’til one in the morning every single day,” he told the New York Post. "I did get it done, but I will never do that again!”
However, executive producer Brady Connell maintains that those rumors are completely false. "I can assure you that we never shot any scene with any family other than what you saw on the show. We never shot a losing a scene with any of the families. We never told the family that you won and then said sorry, now we’re going to shoot a losing scene. That would be highly inappropriate and I never would have allowed it,” he told Reality Blurred.
"I think Kevin was trying to help ABC keep it a secret in his own way and he felt like it was an appropriate response when his neighbors asked him, ‘Well, what was all that on the front lawn with the trophy?’, he decided to tell them that there were actually two options filmed, and he doesn’t even know who won. That was his choice, and we respect that and wish he hadn’t, but he dealt with it the way he felt was best."
Watch The Great Christmas Light Fight on Wednesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.