The top 11 reality shows, in chronological order


Reality TV exploded in the early 2000s with franchises like The single person, Big Brother, and Survivor, and it wasn’t long before fame and fortune focused more on The real housewives shows and keeping up with the Kardashians. But, before all of that, reality TV has had a pretty fascinating history in the 20th century.

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The genre started much earlier than most people realize, and it started out in the hidden camera style and then went in pursuit of the real American family. Yesterday and today, reality TV is marked by its various subgenres, including popular competition shows as well as family-oriented domestic explorations.

Updated October 28, 2021 by Lynn Gibbs: For TV junkies wondering, “What was the first reality TV show?” they are going to have a blast because reality TV may have become popular in the late 90s, but it dates back to the 1940s. The first reality TV show is nothing like the shows that reality TV fans know today, but it opened the doors to endless possibilities of what could be shown on someone’s television. And as intrusive as reality TV can be, it’s also kind of a fascinating experience where people can watch other people go about their lives.

11 Candid Camera (1948)

Scene from the original Candid Camera show in black and white

• Available on Classix

Candid Camera is the oldest reality show with a creative concept from the start. It actually started on radio in 1947. According to Guinness World Records, the radio show was called Candid microphone “And became so popular that it spawned a series of shorts using cameras instead of hidden microphones. The TV version started in 1948 with the title Candid mike“and went to Hidden camera next year.

In 1960, the show was a mainstay of CBS, hosted by Allen Funt. The program has been relaunched several times over the decades, most recently in 2014, when it was hosted by Peter Funt and Mayim Bialik.

ten The American Sportsman (1965)

A split image of The American Sportsman and its hosts

• Not available for streaming

There are many sports movies out there and they could have American sportsman to thank. It was one of the first reality TV shows and it followed TV hosts Joe Foss, Grits Gresham, and Curt Gowdy. Each episode followed a host and celebrity as they took part in outdoor activities.

They did everything from mountaineering to kayaking and showed off beautiful places across America. Due to some of the famous guests of the show, it has become a popular show for sports and nature lovers.

9 An American Family (1973)

An American Family on PBS-The Loud Family in the Living Room (Black & White)

An american family is widely credited with giving birth to the reality TV genre, and Variety spoke about it before its launch in 1973: producer Craig Gilbert “set out to capture the lifestyles and mentality of a fairly typical Central American household, but instead recorded the drama of a family in the process of falling apart. to separate”. The PBS series aired twelve one-hour episodes and focused entirely on the Loud family.

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An american family have captured marital problems, a son who turns out to be gay and “a business crisis”. Ten years after the show, curiosity about the burgeoning genre of reality led to a follow-up special titled An American Family Revisited: The Louds 10 Years Later. It was an original version of Modern family. 2003 brought a subsequent special, Throw hard! A death in an American family. The program inspired the HBO TV movie in 2011 Truth cinema.

8 Real People (1979)

REAL PEOPLE Bill Rafferty, John Barbour, Skip Stephenson, Sarah Purcell, Byron Allen Title Letters

• Available on Hoopla and Plex

Just the way it sounds Real people was a reality program that captured the triumphs and challenges of real individuals. The subjects told the film crew about their most difficult endeavors, from piloting warplanes to racing across Canada. It was a family show for everyone.

The series ran for six seasons from 1979 to 1984 and was produced by George Schlatter, who called it a “theater of reality”, according to Youtube. There is no doubt that the NBC series was one of the first seeds of the “real people” stories that would flood TV shows for decades to come.

7 Cops (1989)

• Available for purchase on Amazon

From 1989, The cops spent 32 seasons on the air and described routine police duties. It was shot in a true cinema style, eschewing stage music and sound effects, scripted narration and dialogue.

Although The cops Continuing production for international markets, the series was canceled in the United States in May 2020 following the tragic murders of black individuals involving police officers across the country. Due to its long duration, The cops is one of the best police themed TV shows.

6 The Real World (1992)

• Available on Paramount +, Hoopla and MTV

The real world premiered in 1992 and is the original MTV reality series. The official timeline of MTV history calls the show “a reality-based soap opera.” The program brought together a group of young adults, who had not previously known each other, and followed their interactions under one roof. The series has 33 seasons to its name, with some of the best seasons being the premieres.

The long-running iconic series is in its latest incarnation on Paramount + as The Real World: Homecoming: New York, which focuses on the original cast.

5 Eco-Challenge (1995)

Eco-Challenge was the ’90s genesis of the now ubiquitous adventure reality genre. He shared tough races to see who could come out on top. The show first aired from 1995 to 2002 and was relaunched in 2019 for Amazon Prime.

The original series was created and hosted by Mark Burnett, who went on to direct Survivor, and he organized small teams to participate in a race. Day after day, the teams covered a 300 mile course and completed the full range of endurance challenges.

4 Rules of the Road (1995)

MTV Road Rules cast photo

A sister show at the Real world, Rules of the road premiered in 1995 on MTV and ended in 2007. With no money, young adults lived together in an RV and moved from place to place, collecting clues and completing missions along the way.

The concept was born from a road trip on The real world, and the series established characters and reality archetypes that would surface in many other shows, like The single person and The bachelorette.

3 A Baby’s Story (1998)

TLC A Baby Story Logo with Baby Capital Letters

• Available on Philo

A baby story premiered in 1998 and aired its final episodes in 2010. The reality show examined couples in the final weeks of pregnancy as they prepared to welcome their new additions. The film crew would then dive into the delivery room and see each couple through their baby’s “first weeks of a new life”, according to. CCM.

This series was important to TLC because it ushered in the childbirth and family genre with shows like Birth mothers, I didn’t know I was pregnant, 19 children and count, Sweet Home Sextuplets, and Double up with the Derricos.

2 The Challenge (1998)

An image of the contestants posing together

• Available on Netflix, Paramount +, MTV, Hulu and Roku

The challenge is one of the longest-running reality shows of all time, starting in 1998 and continuing through 2021. The show is an interesting mix of MTV shows The real world and Rules of the road; he even included the names of these shows in his title in the early years.

In this series of competitions, the challenges and team members vary from season to season, but there are different missions that contestants can complete to progress and earn prizes. This show’s individual confessionals and group drama likely inspired later series to retain these qualities.

1 FANAtique (1998)

MTV Fanatic Logo

Fanatic aired on MTV from 1998-2000. Normal people were made to travel to designated places to meet their famous idols. According to commotion, the contestants were chosen from the submission tapes, and the lucky guests got to interview their favorite celebrities after the big reveal.

Icons like Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Brandy and Whitney Houston have been included, along with hot groups like * NSYNC, the Spice Girls and the Backstreet Boys. Even in the age of social media, the premise of this series is still an exciting one for superfans.

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