Reality television has been around since television began in the 1940s. There were versions of radio shows that transitioned to television shows based on reality. Realistic situations involving unscripted actors and paid hosts transitioned quite easily from radio to the television set. The genre was not fundamental to the advent of television, in other words.
Some of the original shows to debut on television as reality television were Candid Camera, Beat the Clock, Truth or Consequences, You Bet Your Life, Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour, Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, the Miss America Pageant, and You Asked For It. These shows were very popular throughout the 1940s and 1950s, but tastes, milieus, and taboos have changed over the years precipitating lots of different takes on the reality show genre. Candid Camera was considered the first reality television show, and it is so memorable now that it has entered the pop culture mindset and is often referenced, alluded to, or parodied. There are additional versions of Candid Camera in modern times which feature people in unfamiliar situations that are videotaped for the audience's amusement like Punked, hosted by Ashton Kutcher.
The 1960s and 1970s saw a huge increase in the number of reality television shows and a growing appreciation of voyeurism in the common culture. Andy Warhol had his own reality television show called Chelsea Girls, and others were called An American Family, The Family, The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game, The Gong Show, and One Man and His Dog. Chuck Barris's productions in the 1970s had a lasting cultural impact which endured for several decades afterwards. The Dating Game was recently featured in a movie called Mallrats. Other shows like An American Family and The Family prefigure Wife Swap and The Simple Life. The Newlywed Game is the grandfather of Blind Date, Elimidate, and The Fifth Wheel.
The 1980s and the 1990s saw the true growth of reality television. COPS...
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