Whether you love it or hate it, you cannot help but agree that reality television has completely changed the world of television programming. Reality shows are an excellent source of entertainment, and have increased in popularity over the years. These shows display average people living their lives without any scripts. The purpose of these shows are to entertain viewers and engage them in a way that relates to their own lives.


What was the first reality television show? Survivor, The Real World, or maybe even Temptation Island you guess. The answer to all of these common assumptions is no. Reality television came about long before Survivor and The Real World; it has been around for over fifty years. The first reality show aired in 1948, long before Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, and was on the air until 2000. This made it not only the first reality television series, but also the longest running reality show. So do you know what it is? Maybe this will give it away, “Smile, you’re on Candid Camera!” That is right; Candid Camera was the first reality television show.
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Candid Camera was originated by a man named Allen Funt, and continued by Peter Funt, his son, after Allen retired. Funt thought of the show while serving in the armed forces. He started by taping complaints of servicemen and broadcasting them over the Armed Forces Radio. He later took the idea to network radio, and in 1947 had a radio show called Candid Microphone.

In 1948, ABC cast the program on their network and kept the name Candid Microphone. However, in 1947 the show was moved to NBC, and the name was changed to Candid Camera. Over the years, Candid Camera not only aired on ABC and NBC; it also was broadcast on CBS and other syndicated channels.

The point of the show was to put hidden cameras in unexpected places and position people in baffling situations, watching their reactions. Situations included a lady asking someone to help her because she was having car trouble, but when the people would open up her hood there wasn’t an engine. Another such situation had a bowler waiting for his bowling ball to come from the ball-return, and when it did the ball wouldn’t have the finger holes that it should. The segments always ended with the saying, “Smile; you're on Candid Camera!”

Soon after Candid Camera, Wanted was introduced as the second reality television show. Wanted discussed crimes and criminals and included interviews with victims families as well as public authorities that worked on the crime cases. While it only lasted for one year, it inspired the hit television series, America’s Most Wanted, which aired in 1988.

America’s Most Wanted is still on the air and his hosted by John Walsh, whose son was kidnapped and murdered. The show presents information about crimes, and reenacts the crimes. To the day, the show has helped catch over 600 criminals. Following America’s Most Wanted was a show called Cops, which is also still on the air. Cops aired in 1989 and is also a crime fighting television show.

In 1973, An American Family debuted on PBS. This was a documentary about the Loud family from Santa Barbara, California. The loud family was taped for over 300 hours, but only 12 of those hours ever seen airtime. Produced by Craig Gilbert An American Family was watched by over 10 million viewers. The show unfolded with Bill and Pat Loud, the parents, splitting up, and Lance, their son, coming-out and saying he was gay. Unfortunately, like many reality shows today, the Loud family complained that the broadcasting of the show misinterpreted their lives.

An American Family was where the idea for the MTV hit series The Real World came. The Real World, which aired in 1991, is still on television. It is a show where seven people from all over the country come together to live in one house. The group has a job while living in the house, and the shows are taped and aired on MTV. Along with An American Family, people often complain that The Real World doesn’t show the reality of what the people in the house are really like.

As you can see, reality television not only existed before Survivor, it was popular as well. While it is true that reality based televising shows have flourished since Survivor, reality television has been around for a number of years; it just wasn’t the phenomenon that it has become since the premier of Survivor in 2000.



10. The Celebrity Apprentice 4

9. Dancing with the Stars

8. Teen Mom 2

7. The Bad Girls Club

6. American Idol

5. Kendra

4. Keeping Up with the Kardashians

3. Survivor Redemption Island

2. The Amazing Race

1. Jersey Shore

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