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How real is Reality TV?

In the late 90s and early 2000s, Reality Television erupted changing TV show formats from the standard scripted sitcom to an unscripted look at real life. Although Reality TV shows still remain popular today, these shows are criticized by many for not accurately portraying real life. In an article by the Washington Post about the origins of Reality TV, “producers like Mark Burnett prefer calling the genre “unscripted drama” over “reality TV” to acknowledge staging and forgo any claim to an honest portrayal of reality.” These shows portray unrealistic situations, aspirational homes and lifestyles, and glamorize wealth, but viewers tune in each week to be shocked, outraged, and simply entertained.

It may surprise you that Reality TV shows date back to 1948 where Allen Funt had a radio show called Candid Microphone which later became the television show Candid Camera. In 1965, The Dating Game aired combing a game show with real people’s lives. In the 70’s, PBS aired a 12-part series called An American Family which followed an ordinary American family living in Santa Barbara. The 80’s boomed with talent shows like That’s Incredible and Star Search. Then in 1992, MTV televised The Real World: San Francisco which altered television as we know it.

Popular Reality Shows were reviewed by our staff. The entertainment value and how “real” the show is was evaluated in the reviews.

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