Reality Shows: Real or Fake

2721 Words Jul 11th, 2010 11 Pages
What is a Reality Show?
A television reality show features talent culled from the ranks of 'ordinary' people, not professionally trained actors. Reality show producers typically shoot hundreds of hours of footage per episode and use creative editing to create a narrative thread. Subjects of a reality show may be given some rudimentary directions offscreen, but the point is to allow the performers to act and react as normally as possible. A reality show is not to be confused with a documentary, in which the subjects are asked to ignore the cameras and behave naturally. Many reality show producers encourage participants to play to the cameras as characters or use private taped conversations, called confessionals, as a form of narration.

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Certain competition or game shows were also considered early versions of reality TV, as were live airings of programs like The Miss America Pageant and the Oscars. It doesn’t get more real than David Niven’s 1974 ad lib comments at the Academy Awards as a streaker crossed behind him on the stage. Most television historians don’t consider documentaries or lengthy news stories as reality TV, but again these evoked people’s interest greatly. Anthropological studies of tribal groups, or watching the news “unfold” through camera coverage of events, like President Kennedy’s assassination, could be called the ancestors of modern reality TV.
Another example of earlier than The Real World reality TV is the program Cops, which premiered in 1989. This is a few years before MTV would take on their ambitious Real World production, and showcased police officers in different cities making arrests or dealing with people behaving in criminal or dangerous fashion. The program is the longest running of reality TV programs, and celebrated its 19th anniversary on the air in 2008.
Yet many people do see the programs above mentioned as predecessors to programs like The Real World first airing in 1992, and then the reality TV boom that occurred in the 2000s with programs like Survivor and American Idol. What MTV’s program offered was a look at seven strangers all
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