Reality television

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Reality television is a genre of television show that has become popular in the last ten years in the Western world. The origins of reality television go back in to talent shows and candid camera shows. The current trend in reality television started with Big Brother, a television show originally broadcast in the Netherlands, when it was broadcast in 1999 in the United Kingdom, where a group of ten or more people are placed in a house and broadcast live and in edited daily shows, and are then voted off the show by the public. There are a huge variety of such shows, using both celebrities and non-celebrities, sometimes as a fly-on-the-wall production and sometimes more as a game. The documentary-style reality shows follow a person - either a celebrity, someone in an interesting job or profession (a police officer or a firm of motorcycle engineers or a flight stewardess) or someone placed in a difficult circumstance (as in Wife Swap, where wives swap place with a family that lives a different lifestyle) - and films their life. The game-style reality show is done through elimination or competition - for a job (as in The Apprentice), to date (as in The Bachelor).

Reality television shows have been widely criticized, often as a wider part of what many see as a celebrity culture. This culture of instant fame is seen by many as a humiliating spectacle that prioritizes gossip and vapid celebrity tittle-tattle as higher than other more important values. Reality television has also been criticized for being exploitative - getting people very drunk and watching them do things on television that they later regret[1], and for selective editing[2].


  1. Kinga: I Was Conned By Big Brother, Daily Mirror
  2. Reginald Finley, WifeSwap Status and Inside the Finleys (MP3), where participants on WifeSwap participant describes their experience