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Contestant sues reality show, claims she was shocked and humiliated

September 18, 2009 | 12:08 pm

A woman who claims she was duped into believing she was a contestant on a “Making the Band”-type series is suing E! and others involved in “Reality Hell”, a show that tricks people into thinking they are participating in new reality shows.

The woman suffered “mental and emotional anguish, fright, horror, nervousness, grief, anxiety, worry, shock, humiliation, shame, embarrassment and fear” when she learned there was no “girl band” show and that the other contestants were actually actors, according to a suit filed Thursday in Los Angeles Superior Court.

The woman, Malena Brush, is seeking unspecified financial damages from the network, a casting agency and others on a dozen grounds, including intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and false imprisonment. The show has not yet aired, according to the suit.

Her lawyer wrote in the suit that Brush was “instructed ... to engage in humiliating activities” at her home during a filming session for what she was told was a “behind-the-scenes backstory.”

According to the suit, she later spent eight hours at a recording studio surrounded by people she was told were other members of the singing group and “recording studio personalities.” During this time, her attorney wrote, those employed by the show “proceeded to harass, embarrass, heckle, insult and offend” Brush.

When she learned she had been duped, she tried to leave the studio, but had no transportation home, according to the suit. “Under duress” she agreed to a videotaped interview so she could leave, the suit contends.

A spokeswoman for E! declined to comment, citing a network policy not to comment on litigation. Representatives from Sam Rhima Casting, a casting agency named in the suit, did not return messages. 

Announcing “Reality Hell” last month, a network executive told Daily Variety, "So many people are drawn to reality shows for their small taste of fame and ironically, this show gives it to those willing participants who are just very much excited to be part of the reality process. I can tell you the joy they get from when they find out they're on ['Reality Hell'] has been very fun for us."

-- Harriet Ryan