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The Real World: An In-Depth Look at Reality TV

             In today’s society, the line that distinguishes reality and fantasy is, perhaps, more hazy than ever before. This most certainly can be seen by simply opening up a TV guide and observing the number of “reality-based” television shows which we have at our disposal. From game-shows to talk shows, talent contests to funny videos, wild animal attacks to “Cops”, one could certainly argue that reality TV is nothing short of a phenomenon.
             It’s somewhat difficult to pinpoint exactly how or when this craze stared. Some say that we need not look any further than the ever-growing popularity of the home-video camera. It was with this device that we, as society, were able to witness everything from the Rodney King beating to “freak” boating accidents. One program, in particular, that capitalized on the proliferation of the camcorder was “America’s Funniest Home Videos.” The show, which debuted in 1990, “caught parents shamelessly exploiting their tumbling toddlers and costumed cocker-spaniels for the chance of winning $10,000” (Rowen). Since then, several spin-offs have been attempted for both daytime and primetime viewing hours, but none have enjoyed the success of their predecessor.
             It wasn’t long before cable television got into the act. In 1992, MTV launched its first reality TV series appropriately entitled, “The Real Word.” For eight years, the series featured seven strangers from all walks of life forced to live with one another in a ridiculously lavish house. The program became wildly popular, especially with MTV’s target younger audience, feeding their satiable appetite for melodramatic scenarios, gossip, and various controversial issues (i.e.-homosexuality, racism, etc.) In this time period, the show was the only of its kind in the market. Then came Regis. .
             Regis Philbin, best known for his morning show, “Live with Regis and (fill in the blank)”, brought the game show genre to new heights of popularity when he tried his hand at “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”.