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Reality Check by Michael Essany

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Chapter | two

Reality’s Long Reel

Depending on who you ask, reality television is either the newest trend in contemporary programming or the oldest format of the entire broadcast medium. To a degree, however, both perspectives are accurate. Reality television has existed since the advent of television itself, yet only recently has the genre emerged as the preeminent programming format of the modern era.

The 1948 debut of Candid Camera is often hailed as the epic birth of reality television. True to its format, Candid Camera’s pioneering host, Allen Funt, cleverly placed real people in contrived situations to elicit humorous but otherwise harmless reactions. Two years later, Truth or Consequences borrowed the emergent hidden-camera technique and ...

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