ABC’s The Great Christmas Light Fight concludes tonight, and its four episodes so far have made for terrific holiday television.
As I’ve written before, even though the show’s title frames it as a competition and one family per episode receives $50,000, the competition is almost beside the point.
But because it is a competition, there are rules.
Having received questions about those rules, I did some research and reached out to the show’s producer and a Fremantle North America representative, and learned these answers to frequently asked questions about The Great Christmas Light Fight.
How are teams/houses chosen?
The show and its Halloween counterpart, The Great Halloween Fright Fight, are both now casting, and like on any other reality show, producers select the most compelling stories (and, of course, best holiday displays).
The casting fine print says that teams “compete by decorating a single family residence/dwelling and/or any parcel of real property on which a single family residence/dwelling sits.”
Team members “must have relationships with each other that are considered close or familial in nature (e.g., best friends, significant others, etc.).” They can also not be people paid to help set up the lights.
Among the other requirements: each team needs someone over 21, no one can “have been convicted of a felony nor had a restraining order entered against him/her,” and cannot be connected to the network or producers or be running for public office.
Are teams compensated for their time?
No. (Unless they win, of course.)
How much time does each team have to construct their display?
When does the Great Christmas Light Fight film?
The Great Christmas Light Fight is filmed in the fall, well before Christmas season.
That allows time for families to create their displays—three weeks, as mentioned above—and also time to film and then edit the show before it premieres in December.
For a reveal filmed in mid-October, the family would have to start putting up their lights in late September—months before Christmas. Take a close look during the reveals and see if you can spot signs that it was filmed in the fall.
Does the show provide any budget?
No. It’s “all on their own budget” and the “show does not provide any support to create the displays,” a Fremantle representative said.
Do displays that use music have to get permission?
For those displays that incorporate music, it does have to be cleared, as is the case with any show that uses pre-recorded music or even covers. (Read about that process on American Idol.)
Producers, a Fremantle rep said, “make all efforts to work within the families’ pre-existing playlists.”
Are Disney characters encouraged on this Disney-owned ABC show?
Several of the displays this year have featured prominent Disney characters, and even a reproduction of the castle from Frozen, but that is “just coincidence,” I was told.
That’s because displays have also featured other non-Disney characters, such as characters from the Peanuts comic strip.
How are the displays judged?
The judges—originally Sabrina Soto and Michael Molony, and later Carter Oosterhouse and Taniya Nayak—give each display an “off-camera score for each category.”
Those categories are shown on each episode: “Use of Lights,” “Overall Design,” and “Christmas Spirit.”
The house/display that receives the highest score for each of the four episodes receives $50,000; the judge flies back to that location to present the prize.