Those puzzling promos for the new series turned out to be an elaborate prank by the team behind ABC's family comedy Home Economics. Star and exec producer Topher Grace explains.
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We have some bad news — or maybe it's good news? — about that ABC reality show Influencer Lagoon: It's totally fake.

Promos for the insane-sounding reality competition, which purported to pit social media stars against each other in a Survivor-like setting, started running on Monday and Tuesday during ABC's two-night finale of The Bachelor. (Watch the tease above.) Twitter reacted with appropriate levels of dismay.

Then came the big reveal on tonight's episode of ABC's family comedy Home Economics. Wealthy tech bachelor Connor (Jimmy Tatro) learned that his social-media star girlfriend, Jojo (Tetona Jackson), was cast on a new reality show called Influencer Lagoon — and he refused to let her squander such a special opportunity, even though it meant they would have to break up.

Home Economics star and exec producer Topher Grace — who plays Tom, a middle-class writer and Connor's brother — had a key role in propagating the Influencer Lagoon prank, and he's been delighting in the horrified online reactions all week. "I was just reading all the tweets, and they're like, 'What a dumpster fire this show looks like!' They're like, 'Oh my God, this is wet trash,'" he says with a laugh. "I was like, 'Whoa — mission accomplished.'" Now he's giving EW the full story about how he and ABC tricked viewers into believing that a silly show-within-a-show was a reality TV, uh, reality.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did you convince ABC to run promos for a fake reality show?
TOPHER GRACE: We weren't gonna have a trailer for it originally, even in the episode. And then when we were shooting, production built such an elaborate set of this desert island that [Influencer Lagoon] took place on that we were like, let's shoot some promotional footage for this.

We cast real influencers to host it, Alan Chow and Madison Lewis. We thought, "This actually kinda looks real. Maybe we wanna put a promo together." We shot these promo elements, and then I took a leap and sent the raw footage that we had, the promo footage and some of the stuff from the show to ABC and said, "Would you guys just cut a trailer? We'll put it in the episode." The same people who cut the ads for The Bachelor cut this trailer. They did the logo and everything.

When we showed the finished episode to the network, they liked the Influencer Lagoon promo so much that they were like, "Let's just run the ad during the two finale episodes of The Bachelor," which we were so thrilled about. Then it kind of went nuts because we went, "Wait a second. What if we leaked it to Reddit the right way, would places pick up on it?" Just Jared wrote something, and Pop Crave did something.

You were the one who leaked the "press release" to Reddit, right? You're really going above and beyond with your executive producer duties!
We didn't want it to [look like] it came from a corporation. The name I put it under was like, RealityDude216 or something. The thing I dropped, it listed made-up competitions, like "Building a Campfire or Building a Following," "Click Bait vs. Fish Bait," and "Emoji Olympics." And in the interview with Rachel Lindsay, Alan talks about "Selfie Showdown" — two people go off in the wilderness for four days with very little food and water to see who can get the best selfie.

I mean, look, there's a show called FBoy Island. This isn't that far from reality, pun intended. My favorite part on tonight's episode of Home Economics is when the host is like, "We've seen how you influence humans, but now it's time to influence animals. In this tent are six horses, nature's original influencers — now get in there and get those manes on fleek!" It's so bizarre. That's why I'm digging that people thought it was real, because when people see that, they'll be like, "Oh man, I really should have known this wasn't real."

In tonight's episode, Jojo ultimately decides to join the cast of Influencer Lagoon. Is her relationship with Connor really over?
Yeah. And Connor being broken up with a second time has big ramifications. It just gets worse and worse for him. First his wife left him and now Jojo, even though it's very nice how they decide to part ways. He is down on himself, and he spirals.

What else can you tease for Home Economics fans this season?
On April 6, Mark Cuban guest stars. We did a great promo for that, where they green screen [the Home Economics cast] into Shark Tank. Mark Cuban being in Connor's poker group makes sense. I got to hang out with Mark Cuban at a poker table for three days and we had such a blast. He's legit good in it and he wrote a couple jokes that are really funny. He'll say, "I have only one pair — and for those reasons, I'm out." Connor calls him "Mark Cuban," first and last name, the whole episode.

Your character, Tom, has been writing a book about his family for almost two full seasons. Is he ever going to finish?
Tom's book is bought [this season], but then something crazy happens and it's kind of like, "Will this book come out or never come out?" The cover of the book is our key art for the season. It's like really meta, and the book's called Home Economics and it has the same logo. And in the episode, the family's all criticizing the cover. Like, "Are the arrows a little much?" The are a couple episodes where I read passages from the book, because it's about to come out, and people comment on it. Like, "I don't get it. Is the brother a doofus? Or is he a tech genius?" Like, everyone's comments about the show ever are about the book. I think the [writers'] dream — if we're so lucky to get a third season — is to do the movie of the book. I would love to see who gets cast.

HOME ECONOMICS
All that hard work Tom's putting into his book will pay off... or will it?
| Credit: Temma Hankin/ABC

While it's no Influencer Lagoon, you are a fan of The Bachelor, correct?  
Uh, yes. I was dragged into it by my wife. I never thought I'd be that guy. And then a year or two into it, if I was on location, I'd be like, "Hey, you're not gonna watch that live, right? I mean, it's on the DVR? Just wait for me to get home."

What did you think of the finale?
My wife and I just kept turning to each other saying, "This really is the most dramatic episode ever!" We're big Gabby fans in the Grace household so we're just psyched to watch her season of The Bachelorette. I hope two Bachelorettes doesn't cause any drama... but we know how much those producers hate drama, so I'm sure they didn't do it for that reason.

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