A quintessentially American genre, the 'Reality Show' allegedly depicts events from the lives of everyday people, unrehearsed, unscripted, and filmed for the enjoyment of viewers.
Reality television sprang directly from the cinema direct documentary movement of the sixties (particularly Canadian documentarist Allan King's harrowing 1969 nonfiction work 'A Married Couple') and saw its first incarnation in the infamous, controversial 1973 PBS series 'An American Family' (a program influenced heavily by the King film). In that series, documentarists Alan and Susan Raymond took their cameras into the home of an 'average American family,' the Californian home of Pat and Bill Loud, c. 1971, and merely filmed the family's activities and interactions from day to day as it underwent a divorce. Albert Brooks parodied the series in his 1979 screen comedy 'Real Life.'
An American Family proved popular, albeit divisive, but by and in large, the 'Reality TV Genre' died down for well over twenty-five years, until the 1990s. This decade gave rise to the series 'Cops' and MTV's 'The Real World'; the latter involved placing several strangers together in a house and filming their interactions. The genre didn't fully explode in popularity, however, until television producer Mark Burnett came on the scene. Burnett culled an idea from a Swedish series called 'Exhibition: Robinson' that involved stranding several contestants in a remote, wild location and filming them as they competed against the elements for survival. CBS head Les Moonves picked up the Burnett series, christened 'Survivor,' in 1999. The program instantly became a ratings sensation, during the summer of 2000 and thereafter, and numerous emulators followed, from 'Who Wants to Marry a Multimillionaire' to the phenomenally popular 'Osbournes,' another MTV program. This one took cameras into the home of rocker Ozzy Osbourne and his wife, Sharon, and filmed their day-to-day lives. These only represent a few examples from the hundreds of reality programs that cropped up in the early 2000s, many a direct product of Burnett's success. Young, attractive, wealthy women became a hot commodity in reality TV; the mid-to-late 2000s saw the rise of 'The Simple Life', starring Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie, as well E!'s 'The Girls Next Door', 'Keeping Up With the Kardashians', and countless others.
One particularly successful program, 'The Apprentice' (2004) watched several business execs carrying out corporate strategies under the tutelage of megamogul Donald Trump and vying for his favor. in 2010, Poison frontman and 'Rock of Love' object du jour Bret Michaels found success on 'Celebrity Apprentice'.
A number of individuals have alleged that reality TV is, in fact, scripted drama that masquerades as impromptu, but its producers vehemently deny this, across the board.