Reality Television

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The History and Impact of Reality Television

There are times when people wish that they could live the life of someone else. They may choose to do so out of stress, anger, sadness, or from being bored of their lives. In order to flee from their busy lives, they turn toward reality television. However, reality television can be seen in a positive or negative light. Reality television has become a bad influence upon its viewers, an escape from the challenges and difficulties of real life, and a means of privacy invasion.

There is much controversy surrounding when reality television first began. Many believe that the genre was first created in 1948 with the television series Candid Camera. According to Charles Slocum, Alan Funt, the creator of Candid Camera, also aired a radio show called Candid Microphone a year earlier in 1947. The show, whose last original broadcast was in May of 2004, involved hidden cameras that caught people in unusual situations, such as drawers that opened themselves. After the prank, the fooled victims would be told the show’s popular catchphrase, “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera.” However, to some people, reality programming began with the radio show Nightwatch. This show followed the real-life tasks of police officer, Sergeant Ron Perkins, live on his job, according to “Happy Birthday to Nightwatch.” These shows served as the foundations for the genre of reality television.

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There are also other opinions as to where the beginning of reality television really lies. Despite the debate on the beginnings of reality television, it is undeniable that the first hit series was the 1973 show that aired on PBS, An American Family. According to Alice Langholt, the show that gained over ten million viewers featured the daily lives of the Loud family while struggling through a divorce and coping with their homosexual son. According to “History of Reality TV,” the type of reality television that is known today began with MTV’s The Real World in 1992, when it was not even known as reality television. The show took seven people from different backgrounds and placed them in one house to live together. The producers hid cameras to observe their lives. At that time, those kinds of shows were deemed as documentaries, but sociologist Margaret Mead noted that the type of programming no longer fit the documentary genre, and so from then until now it has been known as reality television.

According to “The History of Reality TV Shows,” the show that is credited with being the first unscripted reality show is Cops. Like Nightwatch, the show follows police officers in different cities in their squad cars catching criminals in the act. The website also believes that the next big hit after The Real World is the show Survivor, in which a group of people are brought to an island to experience survival situations like avoiding starvation. The show was a huge hit with many viewers and opened the door for elimination-based reality programming. Nowadays, there are many shows that are both unscripted and elimination-based.

Over the years, reality television has changed in great ways. “Now, of course, you can’t turn on the TV without seeing some kind of reality show” (“The History of Reality Pollack 3
TV Shows”). This quote is very true. One way that it has changed is that reality television is everywhere. “History of Reality TV” says that it has exploded into a range of shows that flood almost every channel, as opposed to a few popular shows here and there. Even educational channels like Discovery have aired reality shows like The Deadliest Catch and Monster Garage. There is a wide diversity of reality television shows, ranging from elimination shows to modeling shows to scripted shows to dangerous shows to comedy shows to talent shows. There are many reality shows aired throughout the day, and so very it is unlikely not to come across one.

Besides the influx of reality shows, there are other ways that...
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