By definition, reality TV is essentially unscripted programming that doesn’t employ actors and focuses on footage of real events or situations. Reality shows also often use a host to run the show or a narrator to tell the story or set the stage of events that are about to unfold. Unlike scripted shows like sitcoms, dramas and newscasts, reality TV does not rely on writers and actors, and much of the show is run by producers and a team of editors. Because of this, it can be a very affordable programming option from a production standpoint — and it’s why networks are scrambling to add reality content in the wake of the Writers Guild of America strike.
The defining aspect of reality TV is probably the manner in which it is shot. Whether the show takes place in a real setting with real people (much like a documentary), shoots in front of a live studio audience that participates in the program, or uses hidden surveillance, reality TV relies on the camera capturing everything as it happens. In this article, we’ll learn about what constitutes reality TV today, the types of reality programs, when they got to be so popular — and if they’re all as “real” as they claim to be. But first, let’s take a look at how it all started.