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Reality television is a genre of television programming that documents unscripted situations and actual occurrences, and often features a previously unknown cast. The genre often highlights personal drama and conflict to a much greater extent than other unscripted television such as documentary shows. The genre has various standard tropes, such as reality TV confessionals used by cast members to express their thoughts, which often double as the shows' narration. In competition-based reality shows, a notable subset, there are other common elements such as one participant being eliminated per episode, a panel of judges, and the concept of immunity from elimination.
The genre began in earnest in the early to mid-1990s with The Real World. It then exploded as a phenomenon in the late 1990s and early 2000s with the global success of the series Survivor and Big Brother. These shows and a number of others (usually also competition-based) became global franchises, spawning local versions in dozens of countries. Reality television as a whole has become a fixture of television programming. In the United States, various channels have retooled themselves to focus on reality TV, most famously MTV, which began in the 1980s as a music video pioneer, before switching to a nearly all-reality format in the early 2000s.
There are grey areas around what is classified as reality television. Documentaries, television news, sports television, talk shows and traditional game shows are not classified as reality television, even though they contain elements of reality television, such as unscripted situations and sometimes unknowns. Other genres that predate the reality television boom have sometimes been retroactively grouped into reality TV, including hidden camera shows such as Candid Camera (1948), talent-search shows such as The Original Amateur Hour (1948), documentary series about ordinary people such as the Up Series (1964), high-concept game shows such as The Dating Game (1965), home improvement shows such as This Old House (1979) and court shows featuring real-life cases such as The People's Court (1981).
Reality television has faced significant criticism since its rise in popularity. Much of the criticism has centered around the use of the word "reality", and such shows' attempt to present themselves as a straightforward recounting of events that have occurred. Critics have argued that reality television shows do not present reality in ways both implicit (participants being placed in unusual situations) and deceptive or even fraudulent, such as misleading editing, participants being coached in what to say or how to behave, storylines generated ahead of time, and scenes being staged or re-staged for the cameras. Other criticisms of reality television shows include that they are intended to humiliate or exploit participants (particularly on competition shows), that they make celebrities out of untalented people who do not deserve fame, and that they glamorize vulgarity and materialism.
Precedents for television that portrayed people in unscripted situations began in the late 1940s. The 1946 television game show Cash and Carry sometimes featured contestants performing stunts. Debuting in 1948, Allen Funt's hidden camera Candid Camera show (based on his previous 1947 radio show, Candid Microphone) broadcast unsuspecting ordinary people reacting to pranks. In 1948, talent search shows Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour and Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts featured amateur competitors and audience voting. The Miss America Pageant, first broadcast in 1954, was a competition where the winner achieved status as a national celebrity.
In the 1950s, game shows Beat the Clock and Truth or Consequences involved contestants in wacky competitions, stunts, and practical jokes. Confession was a crime/police reality show which aired from June 1958 to January 1959, with interviewer Jack Wyatt questioning criminals from assorted backgrounds.
The radio series Nightwatch (1951–1955), which tape-recorded the daily activities of Culver City, California police officers, also helped pave the way for reality television. The series You Asked For It (1950–1959), in which viewer requests dictated content, was an antecedent of today's audience-participation reality TV elements, in which viewers cast votes to help determine the course of events.
First broadcast in the United Kingdom in 1964, the Granada Television series Seven Up!, broadcast interviews with a dozen ordinary seven-year-olds from a broad cross section of society and inquired about their reactions to everyday life. Every seven years, a film documented the life of the same individuals during the intervening period, titled "7 Plus Seven", "21 Up", etc. The series was structured as a series of interviews with no element of plot. However, it did have the then-new effect of turning ordinary people into celebrities.
The first reality show in the modern sense may have been the American Broadcasting Company series The American Sportsman, which ran from 1965 to 1986. A typical episode featured one or more celebrities, and sometimes family members, from the worlds of entertainment, literature, politics, military, or other professions being accompanied by a camera crew on an outdoor adventure, such as hunting, fishing, hiking, scuba diving, rock climbing, wildlife photography, horseback riding, race car driving, and the like, with most of the resulting action and dialogue being unscripted, except for the narration.
In the 1966 Direct Cinema film Chelsea Girls, Andy Warhol filmed various acquaintances with no direction given; the Radio Times Guide to Film 2007 stated that the film was "to blame for reality television".
The 12-part 1973 PBS series An American Family, which showed a nuclear family (filmed in 1971) going through a divorce; unlike many later reality shows, it was more or less documentary in purpose and style. In 1974 a counterpart program, The Family, was made in the UK, following the working class Wilkins family of Reading. Other forerunners of modern reality television were the 1970s productions of Chuck Barris: The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game, and The Gong Show, all of which featured participants who were eager to sacrifice some of their privacy and dignity in a televised competition. In 1978, Living in the Past recreated life in an Iron Age English village.
Producer George Schlatter capitalized on the advent of videotape to create Real People, a surprise hit for NBC which ran from 1979 to 1984. The success of Real People was quickly copied by ABC with That's Incredible, a stunt show co-hosted by Fran Tarkenton.
In 1985, underwater cinematographer Al Giddings teamed with former Miss America Shawn Weatherly on the NBC series Oceanquest. Oceanquest chronicled Weatherly's adventures scuba diving in various exotic locales. Weatherly was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Achievement in informational programming.
COPS, which first aired in the spring of 1989 and came about partly due to the need for new programming during the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike, showed police officers on duty apprehending criminals; it introduced the camcorder look and cinéma vérité feel of much of later reality television.
The series Nummer 28, which aired on Dutch television in 1991, originated the concept of putting strangers together in the same environment for an extended period of time and recording the drama that ensued. Nummer 28 also pioneered many of the stylistic conventions that have since become standard in reality television shows, including a heavy use of soundtrack music and the interspersing of events on screen with after-the-fact "confessionals" recorded by cast members, that serve as narration. One year later, the same concept was used by MTV in their new series The Real World and Nummer 28 creator Erik Latour has long claimed that The Real World was directly inspired by his show. However, the producers of The Real World have stated that their direct inspiration was An American Family.
According to television commentator Charlie Brooker, this type of reality television was enabled by the advent of computer-based non-linear editing systems for video (such as produced by Avid Technology) in 1989. These systems made it easy to quickly edit hours of video footage into a usable form, something that had been very difficult to do before. (Film, which was easy to edit, was too expensive to shoot enough hours of footage with on a regular basis).
The TV show Expedition Robinson, created by TV producer Charlie Parsons, which first aired in 1997 in Sweden (and was later produced in a large number of other countries as Survivor), added to the Nummer 28/Real World template the idea of competition and elimination, in which cast members/contestants battled against each other and were removed from the show until only one winner remained. (These shows are now sometimes called elimination shows).
The 1980s and 1990s were also a time when tabloid talk shows came to rise, many of which featured the same types of unusual or dysfunctional guests that would later become popular as cast members of reality shows.
In the United States, reality television had a temporary decline in viewership in 2001, leading some[who?] to speculate that it was a temporary fad that had run its course. Reality shows with low ratings included The Amazing Race (although the show has since recovered), Lost (unrelated to the better-known serial drama of the same name) and The Mole.
However, this proved not to be the case. Survivor and American Idol both topped the US season-average television ratings in the 2000s: Survivor led the ratings in 2001–02, and Idol topped the ratings six consecutive years, from 2004–05 to 2009–10).
Internationally, a number of shows created in the late 1990s and 2000s have had massive global success. At least nine reality-television franchises have had over 30 international adaptations each: the singing competition franchises Idols, Star Academy and X Factor, and other competition franchises Survivor/Expedition Robinson, Big Brother, Got Talent, Top Model, MasterChef and Dancing with the Stars. Several "reality game shows" from the same period have had even greater success, including Deal or No Deal, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and Weakest Link, with over 50 international adaptions each. (All but one of these franchises, Top Model, was created by either British producers or the Dutch production company Endemol.)
The 2000s saw three television channels devoted exclusively to reality television: Fox Reality in the United States, which existed from 2005 to 2010, Global Reality Channel in Canada (2010–2012) and Zone Reality in the United Kingdom (2002–2009). In addition, several other cable channels, including Bravo, A&E, E!, TLC, History, VH1 and MTV, changed their programming to mostly comprise reality television during the 2000s.
During the early part of the 2000s, network executives expressed concern that reality-television programming was limited in its appeal for DVD reissue and syndication. DVDs for reality shows in fact sold briskly; Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, The Amazing Race, Project Runway, and America's Next Top Model all ranked in the top DVDs sold on Amazon.com, and in the mid-2000s, DVDs of The Simple Life outranked scripted shows like The O.C. and Desperate Housewives. Syndication, however, has indeed proven problematic; shows such as Fear Factor, COPS and Wife Swap in which each episode is self-contained can indeed be rerun fairly easily, but usually only on cable television and/or during the daytime (COPS and America's Funniest Home Videos being exceptions). Season-long competitions such as The Amazing Race, Survivor, and America's Next Top Model generally perform more poorly and usually must be rerun in marathons to draw the necessary viewers to make it worthwhile. (Even in these cases, it is not always successful: Dancing with the Stars was picked up for a ten-season run on GSN in 2012, has run in marathon format, but experienced very poor ratings.) Another option is to create documentaries around series including extended interviews with the participants and outtakes not seen in the original airings; the syndicated series American Idol Rewind is an example of this strategy.
COPS has had huge success in syndication, direct response sales and DVD. A FOX staple since 1989, COPS has, as of 2013, outlasted all competing scripted police shows. Another series that has seen wide success is "Cheaters", which has been running since 2000 in the US and is syndicated in over 100 countries worldwide.
In 2001, the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences added the reality genre to the Emmy Awards with the category of Outstanding Reality Program. In 2003, to better differentiate between competition and informational reality programs, a second category, Outstanding Reality-Competition Program, was added. In 2008, a third category, Outstanding Host for a Reality or Reality-Competition Program, was added.
By 2012, many of the long-running reality television show franchises in the United States, such as American Idol, Dancing with the Stars and The Bachelor, had begun to see declining ratings. However, reality television as a whole remained highly durable in the U.S., with hundreds of shows across many channels. In 2012 New York Magazine's Vulture blog published a humorous Venn diagram showing popular themes across American reality shows then running, including shows set in the U.S. states of Alaska, Louisiana and Texas, shows about cakes, weddings and pawnbrokers, and shows, usually competition-based, whose title includes the word "Wars".
Duck Dynasty, a reality series featuring the Robertson family that founded Duck Commander, is the most popular reality series in U.S. cable television history. Its fourth season premiere was viewed by nearly 12 million viewers in the United States, most of which were in rural markets; its rural audience share has ranked in the 30s, an extremely high number for any series, broadcast or cable.
The genre of reality television consists of various subgenres.
In many reality TV programs, camera shooting and footage editing give the viewer the impression that they are passive observers following people going about their daily personal and professional activities; this style of filming is often referred to as fly on the wall or factual television. Story "plots" are often constructed via editing or planned situations, with the results resembling soap operas—hence the terms docusoap and docudrama. Documentary style programs give viewers a private look into the lives of the subjects.
Within documentary-style reality television are several subcategories or variants:
Another subgenre of reality television is "reality legal programming." These are programs that center on real-life legal matters.
Law enforcement documentaries
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Another sub-genre of reality TV is "reality competition" or so-called "reality game shows," which follow the format of non-tournament elimination contests. Typically, participants are filmed competing to win a prize, often while living together in a confined environment. In many cases, participants are removed until only one person or team remains, who/which is then declared the winner. Usually this is done by eliminating participants one at a time, through either disapproval voting or by voting for the most popular choice to win. Voting is done by the viewing audience, the show's own participants, a panel of judges, or some combination of the three.
A well-known example of a reality-competition show is the globally syndicated Big Brother, in which cast members live together in the same house, with participants removed at regular intervals by either the viewing audience or, in the case of the American version, by the participants themselves.
There remains disagreement over whether talent-search shows such as the Idol series, the Got Talent series and the Dancing with the Stars series are truly reality television, or just newer incarnations of shows such as Star Search. Although the shows involve a traditional talent search, the shows follow the reality-competition conventions of removing one or more contestants per episode and allowing the public to vote on who is removed; and the shows sometimes show unscripted moments during rehearsals. Additionally, there is a good deal of interaction shown between contestants and judges. As a result, such shows are often considered reality television. The American Primetime Emmy Awards have nominated both American Idol and Dancing with the Stars for the Outstanding Reality-Competition Program Emmy.
Game shows like Weakest Link, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, American Gladiators and Deal or No Deal, which were popular in the 2000s, also lie in a gray area: like traditional game shows (e.g., The Price Is Right, Jeopardy!), the action takes place in an enclosed TV studio over a short period of time; however, they have higher production values, more dramatic background music, and higher stakes than traditional shows (done either through putting contestants into physical danger or offering large cash prizes). In addition, there is more interaction between contestants and hosts, and in some cases they feature reality-style contestant competition and/or elimination as well. These factors, as well as these shows' rise in global popularity at the same time as the arrival of the reality craze, lead many people to group them under both the reality TV umbrella and the traditional game show one.
There have been various hybrid reality-competition shows, like the worldwide-syndicated Star Academy, which combines the Big Brother and Idol formats, The Biggest Loser and The Pick-up Artist which combine competition with the self-improvement format, and American Inventor, which uses the Idol format for products instead of people. Some shows, such as Popstars, Making the Band and Project Greenlight, devote the first part of the season to selecting a winner, and the second part to showing that person or group of people working on a project.
Popular variants of the competition-based format include the following:
One concept pioneered by, and unique to, reality competition shows is the idea of immunity, where a contestant can win the right to be immune the next time contestants are eliminated from the show. This concept was conceived by Mark Burnett, the producer of the American version of Survivor, for that show's first season in 1999. On Survivor the rules around immunity are more complex than they have been on most shows since then: a player achieves immunity through finding a hidden totem, but they can keep this fact a secret from other players; and they can also pass on their immunity to someone else. On most shows, immunity is instead achieved by winning a task, often a relatively minor task during the first half of the episode; the announcement of immunity is made publicly; and immunity is non-transferable. Competition shows that feature immunity include the Apprentice, Big Brother, Biggest Loser, Top Model and Top Chef franchises.
Some reality television shows cover a person or group of people improving their lives. Sometimes the same group of people are covered over an entire season (as in The Swan and Celebrity Fit Club), but usually there is a new target for improvement in each episode. Despite differences in the content, the format is usually the same: first the show introduces the subjects in their current, less-than-ideal environment. Then the subjects meet with a group of experts, who give the subjects instructions on how to improve things; they offer aid and encouragement along the way. Finally, the subjects are placed back in their environment and they, along with their friends and family and the experts, appraise the changes that have occurred. Other self-improvement or makeover shows include "How Do I Look?" (fashion makeover). The Biggest Loser and Fat March, (which covers weight loss), Extreme Makeover (entire physical appearance), Queer Eye and What Not to Wear (style and grooming), Supernanny (child-rearing), Made (attaining difficult goals), Trinny & Susannah Undress (fashion makeover and marriage), Tool Academy (relationship building) and Charm School and From G's to Gents (self-improvement and manners).
Some shows make over part or all of a person's living space, work space, or vehicle. The American show This Old House was the first such show, debuting in 1979. The British show Changing Rooms, beginning in 1996 (later remade in the US as Trading Spaces) was the first such renovation show that added a game show feel with different weekly contestants. Other shows in this category include Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, Debbie Travis' Facelift, Designed to Sell, While You Were Out, and Holmes on Homes. Pimp My Ride and Overhaulin' show vehicles being rebuilt. Some shows, such as Restaurant Makeover and Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares, show both the decor and the menu of a failing restaurant being remade. The issue of "making over" was taken to its social extreme with the British show Life Laundry, in which people who had become hoarders, even living in squalor, were given professional assistance.
As with game shows, a gray area exists between such reality TV shows and more conventional formats. Some argue the key difference is the emphasis of the human story and conflicts of reality shows, versus the emphasis on process and information in more traditional format shows. The show This Old House, which began in 1979, the start to finish renovation of different houses through a season; media critic Jeff Jarvis has speculated that it is "the original reality TV show."
Another type of reality program is the social experiment that produces drama, conflict, and sometimes transformation. Wife Swap which began in 2003 on Channel 4 and has aired for four seasons on ABC is a notable example. People with different values agreed to live by each other's social rules for a brief period of time and sometimes learn from the experience. Other shows in this category include ITV's Holiday Showdown, Oxygen's The Bad Girls Club, and Channel 4's Secret Millionaire. Faking It was a series where people had to learn a new skill and pass themselves off as experts in that skill. Shattered was a controversial 2004 UK series where contestants competed for how long they could go without sleep.
Another type of reality programming features hidden cameras rolling when random passers-by encounter a staged situation. Candid Camera, which first aired on television in 1948, pioneered the format. Modern variants of this type of production include Punk'd, Trigger Happy TV, Primetime: What Would You Do?,The Jamie Kennedy Experiment and Just For Laughs Gags. The series Scare Tactics and Room 401 are hidden-camera programs in which the goal is to frighten contestants rather than just befuddle or amuse them.
Not all hidden camera shows use strictly staged situations. For example, the syndicated show Cheaters, purports to use hidden cameras to record suspected cheating partners, although the authenticity of the show has been questioned. Once the evidence has been gathered, the accuser confronts the cheating partner with the assistance of the host. In many special-living documentary programs, hidden cameras are set up all over the residence in order to capture moments missed by the regular camera crew, or intimate bedroom footage.
Supernatural and paranormal reality shows such as MTV's Fear, place participants into frightening situations which ostensibly involve the paranormal. In series such as Celebrity Paranormal Project, the stated aim is investigation, and some series like Scariest Places on Earth challenge participants to survive the investigation; whereas others such as Paranormal State and Ghost Hunters use a recurring crew of paranormal researchers. In general, the shows follow similar stylized patterns of night vision, surveillance, and hand held camera footage; odd angles; subtitles establishing place and time; desaturated imagery; and non-melodic soundtracks.
Noting the trend in reality shows that take the paranormal at face value, The New York Times culture editor Mike Hale characterized ghost hunting shows as "pure theater" and compared the genre to professional wrestling or soft core pornography for its formulaic, teasing approach.
In hoax reality shows, a false premise is presented to some of the series participants; the rest of the cast are actors who are in on the joke. These shows often served to parody the conventions of the reality TV genre. The first such show was 2003's The Joe Schmo Show. Other examples are My Big Fat Obnoxious Boss (modeled after The Apprentice), My Big Fat Obnoxious Fiance, Hell Date (modeled after Blind Date), Superstar USA (modeled after American Idol), Bedsitcom (modeled after Big Brother), Space Cadets (which convinced the hoax targets that they were being flown into space), Invasion Iowa (in which a town was convinced that William Shatner was filming a movie there), and Reality Hell (different target and premise every episode).
The authenticity of reality television is often called into question by its detractors. The genre's title of "reality" is often criticized as being inaccurate because of claims that the genre frequently includes premeditated scripting; acting; urgings from behind-the-scenes crew to create specified situations of adversity and drama; misleading editing; etc.
In many cases the entire premise of the show is a contrived one, based around a competition or another unusual situation. However, various shows have additionally been accused of using fakery in order to create more compelling television, such as having premeditated storylines and in some cases feeding participants lines of dialogue, focusing only on participants' most outlandish behavior, and altering events through editing and re-shoots.
Television shows that have been criticized for, or admitted to, deception include The Real World, the U.S. Survivor, Joe Millionaire, The Hills, Hell's Kitchen, A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila, Hogan Knows Best, Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, The Bachelor and The Bachelorette and Pawn Stars. As of 2013, the TV series Storage Wars is the subject of a pending lawsuit, and Keeping Up with the Kardashians part of a divorce deposition, both due to allegations of fraud.
Reality television's global successes has been, in the eyes of some analysts, an important political phenomenon. In some authoritarian countries, reality television voting has been the first time many citizens have voted in any free and fair wide-scale elections. In addition, the frankness of the settings on some reality shows present situations that are often taboo in certain orthodox cultures, like Star Academy Arab World, which began airing in 2003, and which shows male and female contestants living together. A Pan-Arab version of Big Brother was cancelled in 2004 after less than two weeks on the air after a public outcry and street protests. In 2004, journalist Matt Labash, noting both of these issues, wrote that "the best hope of little Americas developing in the Middle East could be Arab-produced reality TV."
In 2007, Abu Dhabi TV began airing Million's Poet, a show featuring Pop Idol-style voting and elimination, but for the writing and oration of Arabic poetry. The show became popular in Arab countries, with around 18 million viewers, partly because it was able to combine the excitement of reality television with a traditional, culturally relevant topic. In April 2010, however, the show also become a subject of political controversy, when Hissa Hilal, a 43-year-old female Saudi competitor, read out a poem criticizing her country's Muslim clerics. Hilal received the highest scores from the judges throughout the competition, and came in third place overall.
In India in the summer of 2007, coverage of the third season of Indian Idol focused on the breaking down of cultural and socioeconomic barriers as the public rallied around the show's top two contestants.
The Chinese singing competition Super Girl (a local imitation of Pop Idol) has similarly been cited for its political and cultural impact. After the finale of the show's 2005 season drew an audience of around 400 million people, and 8 million text message votes, the state-run English-language newspaper Beijing Today ran the front-page headline "Is Super Girl a Force for Democracy?" The Chinese government criticized the show, citing both its democratic nature and its excessive vulgarity, or "worldliness", and in 2006 banned it outright. It was later reintroduced in 2009, before being banned again in 2011. Super Girl has also been criticized by non-government commentators for creating seemingly impossible ideals that may be harmful to Chinese youth.
In Indonesia, reality television shows have surpassed soap operas as the most-watched programs on the air. One popular program is Jika Aku Menjadi ("If I Were"), which follows young, middle-class people as they are temporarily placed into lower-class life, where they learn to appreciate their circumstances back home by experiencing daily life for the less fortunate. Critics have claimed that this and similar programs in Indonesia reinforce traditionally Western ideals of materialism and consumerism. However, Eko Nugroho, reality show producer and president of Dreamlight World Media, insists that these reality shows are not promoting American lifestyles but rather reaching people through their universal desires.
VH1 executive vice president Michael Hirschorn wrote that the plots and subject matters on reality television are more authentic and more engaging than in scripted dramas, writing that scripted network television "remains dominated by variants on the police procedural... in which a stock group of characters (ethnically, sexually, and generationally diverse) grapples with endless versions of the same dilemma. The episodes have all the ritual predictability of Japanese Noh theater," while reality TV is "the liveliest genre on the set right now. It has engaged hot-button cultural issues—class, sex, race—that respectable television... rarely touches."
Television critic James Poniewozik wrote that reality shows like Deadliest Catch and Ice Road Truckers showcase working-class people of the kind that "used to be routine" on scripted network television, but that became a rarity in the 2000s: "The better to woo upscale viewers, TV has evicted its mechanics and dockworkers to collect higher rents from yuppies in coffeehouses."
Reality television has the potential to turn its participants into national celebrities, at least for a short period. This is most notable in talent-search programs such as the Idol and X Factor series, which have spawned music stars in many of the countries in which they have aired. Many other shows, however, have made at least temporary celebrities out of their participants; some participants have then been able to parlay this fame into media and merchandising careers. For example, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, a contestant on Survivor: The Australian Outback, later became a host on morning talk show The View. Jamie Chung (from The Real World: San Diego), Kristin Cavallari (from Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County) and NeNe Leakes (from The Real Housewives of Atlanta) all have had acting careers since appearing on reality television. Several cast members of MTV's Jersey Shore have had lucrative endorsement deals, and in some cases their own product lines. Tiffany Pollard, originally a contestant on Flavor of Love, was eventually given four additional reality series of her own on VH1. In Britain, Jade Goody became famous after appearing on Big Brother 3 in 2002; she later appeared on other reality programs, wrote a bestselling autobiography and launched a top-selling perfume line. She later received extensive media coverage during her battle with cervical cancer, from which she died in 2009. Bethenny Frankel, who gained fame after appearing on several reality TV shows, launched the successful brand Skinnygirl Cocktails, and got her own talk show, Bethenny. Two castmembers of non-athletic reality shows, Mike "The Miz" Mizanin (from The Real World and its spin-off, The Challenge) and David Otunga (from I Love New York), became professional wrestlers for WWE. Some reality-television alumni have parlayed their fame into paid public appearances.
Several socialites, or children of famous parents, who were somewhat well-known before they appeared on reality television shows have become much more famous as a result, including Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, Kelly Osbourne, Kim Kardashian, and many of the rest of the Kardashian family.
Reality TV contestants are sometimes derided as "Z-list celebrities", "Bravolebrities", and/or "nonebrities" who have done nothing to warrant their newfound fame. Some have been lampooned for exploiting an undeserved "15 minutes of fame". The Kardashian family is one such group of reality television personalities who were subject to this criticism in the 2010s.
In 2006, four of the ten most popular programs among viewers under 17 were reality shows. Studies have shown that young people emulate the behavior displayed on these programs, gathering much of their knowledge of the social world, particularly about consumer practices, from television.
A number of fictional works since the 1940s have contained elements similar to elements of reality television. They tended to be set in a dystopian future, with subjects being recorded against their will, and often involved violence.
Some scripted and written works have used reality television as a plot device:
A number of scripted television shows have taken the form of documentary-type reality TV shows, in "mockumentary" style. The first such show was the BBC series Operation Good Guys, which premiered in 1997. Other examples include The Games, People Like Us, Trailer Park Boys, The Office, Modern Family, Drawn Together, Summer Heights High, Total Drama Island, Parks and Recreation, Reno 911! and Come Fly With Me.
Some feature films have been produced that use some of the conventions of reality television; such films are sometimes referred to as reality films, and sometimes simply as documentaries. Allen Funt's 1970 hidden camera movie What Do You Say to a Naked Lady? was based on his reality-television show Candid Camera. The TV show Jackass spawned four films: Jackass: The Movie in 2001, Jackass: Number Two in 2006, Jackass 2.5 in late 2007, and Jackass 3D in 2010. A similar show, Extreme Duudsonit, was adapted for the film The Dudesons Movie in 2006. The producers of The Real World created The Real Cancun in 2003. Games People Play: New York was released in 2004.
In 2007, broadcaster Krishnan Guru-Murthy stated that reality television is "a firm and embedded part of television's vocabulary, used in every genre from game-shows and drama to news and current affairs."
The mumblecore film genre, which began in the mid-2000s, and uses video cameras and relies heavily on improvisation and non-professional actors, has been described as influenced in part by what one critic called "the spring-break psychodrama of MTV's The Real World". Mumblecore director Joe Swanberg has said, "As annoying as reality TV is, it's been really good for filmmakers because it got mainstream audiences used to watching shaky camerawork and different kinds of situations."
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