Oct 19, 2009 12:48 PM by Courtney Hazlett

Reality TV passed on balloon boy's family

One thing about the Heene family appears to be true, at least according to one sheriff: The story of a boy floating away in a homemade helium balloon was a hoax, dreamed up by the Heenes in the hopes they could land a reality TV deal, according to officials.

What's not certain: Why, in a climate where everyone from ill-mannered housewives to cantankerous cake makers can score a reality show, a family clearly capable of making captivating television, couldn't.

According to several network sources, the Heenes had more than one production company that shopped their family around. Reality Real was one of them, as was RDF USA, which produces "Wife Swap." And yet, though the family proved interesting enough for viewers to vote the Heene family back to "Wife Swap" for an encore episode, other networks passed on the family. One TLC source said that "months ago" the Heenes were pitched, and "Thank God, they didn't pick up the show."

One reason the Heenes might not have been able to score a deal is that they were already on "Wife Swap." "Being on one reality show doesn't make you fit for your own, necessarily," said one ABC source. "And if you become famous, or infamous as the case might be on one network, others don't necessarily want to pick them up."

Then there's this (file it under "hindsight, 20/20"): "You can't tell if you're being had or not any more. ‘Reality television' has moved so far from reality. The Heenes and their quirks didn't seem entirely real," said one person with knowledge of their failed pitches. "Or at least, you hoped what they were putting out there couldn't be real. Either way, they weren't going to be believable reality."




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