HISTORY OF REALITY SHOWS
Precedents for television that portrayed people in unscripted situations began in the late 1940s. Queen for a Day (1945-1964) was an early example of reality-based television. 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. 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 show which aired from June 1958 to January 1959, with interviewer Jack Wyatt questioning criminals from assorted backgrounds. The radio series Nightwatch (1951–1955) tape-recorded the daily activities of Culver City, California police officers. The series You Asked for It (1950–1959) incorporated audience involvement by basing episodes around requests sent in by postcard from viewers.
First broadcast in the United Kingdom in 1964, the Granada Television television documentary 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 theUp Series, episodes include "7 Plus Seven", "21 Up", etc. (It is still ongoing.) 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 their family members, 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 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. Canadian TV ran Thrill of a Lifetime, a fantasies-fulfilled reality show from 1982 to 1988 which was revived in 2001-03. In 1985, underwater cinematographer Al Giddings teamed with former Miss America Shawn Weatherly on the NBC seriesOceanquest. 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...
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