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A History of Reality Television Programming Before and After Satellite TV

If you think about reality TV, you might focus on people having to eat bugs to win cars, or watching lots of attractive, drunk college students bump into each other during spring break. But the truth is, reality TV has been around a lot longer than people realize, albeit in a less cinema-verité sense. Whether looking back at early shows from the 1940s and 1950s that were slightly above your average game show production or simply looking at other features of the 1970s and 1980s where the line between fact and fiction was hazy, it’s safe to say that some aspects of reality TV have been around since the days of rabbit ears and BetaMax, long before the arrival of satellite TV and high definition.

The first “reality TV” series that was seen in the United States was more about putting people in situations that weren’t scripted for those people, rather than a group of people who knew they were in a realistic situation where they were filmed. . The most popular that managed to stick around for a long time was “Candid Camera,” and “Candid Camera” certainly saw more than its fair share of celebrity surprise guests, even though it was a reality show. A very famous later episode even featured Dolly Parton as a woman who needed help in a supermarket parking lot. After “Candid Camera”, there were other shows such as “Beat the Clock” which also relied on things like weird situations and jokes or coercion.

Today, on satellite television, this kind of hidden-camera reality show still has its place, with programs like “Punk’d,” where Ashton Kutcher gives celebrities a shot with well-rounded practical jokes. or even “Boiling Point” on MTV, where ordinary people are put in situations designed to frustrate them. If they make it to the end, they win money. Otherwise, they can always go on TV.

Of course, another popular trope in the world of reality TV that’s still airing on satellite TV, but has been around almost forever, is the talent show. At first it might have been “Ted Mack’s original amateur hour” or “Arthur Godfrey’s talent scouts”. Both of these programs featured “ordinary” people who were members of the public auditioning to see if they could pull off fame and fortune. Another approach that was a little more cynical and weirder was “The Gong Show”, where you could either win 67.15 or be gong off stage. Of course, today you can turn on your HDTV and see celebrities trying to dance, strangers trying to be voted to the top on “American Idol” or even watching dance crew dances on all the different channels.

So if you thought reality TV was an invention of your life and not something that had been around for a long time, looking back at history, you’d be hard pressed not to change your mind. But it makes sense, given that people have always found “ordinary” people much more interesting than other people. So whether you’re watching Nick at Nite for something old or Fox and NBC for something new, take comfort in knowing that television, despite all its changes, is also comfortably the same.

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