What exactly makes for an “unscripted series”? The case of Flip or Flop

In an announcement about the end of HGTV’s Flip or Flop, the network said the show was an “unscripted series”:

“Tarek El Moussa and Christina Haack are long-time, fan-favorite stars on HGTV and it’s true that ‘Flip or Flop’ is coming to an end after an epic 10-season run as a top-rated unscripted series,” a representative for HGTV said in a statement to Insider. “More than 90 million viewers have watched the popular series since its premiere in 2013.

When this show is described as “unscripted,” what exactly does this mean?

Having watched a lot of episodes, here is my guess: there is not necessarily a set script for every episode. At the same time, the producers, El Moussa, and Haack make sure there are narrative elements to build an episode around including crises or cliffhangers for commercial breaks, summaries of the work at hand, and reshoots to get the right angles and lines.

When the typical viewer hears “unscripted,” is this what they imagine? It does not mean that the main actors just do their business, cameras are rolling, and they piece it together at the end. Does any reality show come close to that these days? However, there is likely some wiggle room of how much can be improvised or how much the main characters can get right in the first pass.

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