History Moment By William “Doc” Halliday

Beginnings of reality television

CandidDo you watch reality TV shows? My wife likes to watch “Dancing with the Stars” and a few others. I am a nerd. My desires in television programming are met by the History Channel and the Discovery Channel with interruptions by Fox News. My wife also watches “So You Think You can Dance” and “America’s Got Talent”. The premise of reality television is that it is not scripted. This is much diff erent than a movie or a drama show where actors follow a script.

Of course all of these reality shows are recorded and edited. This means that in reality (pardon the choice of words), while the shows are not scripted, they are edited to make a better presentation to the public. The producers film so much that they can pick and choose what to broadcast. This was not the original idea behind reality television programming.

In 1988, the Writers Guild of America went on strike for a five month period. This absence of traditional talent made producers start thinking in a different way about producing television programming. The program “COPS” was born of this incident, introducing low production values and an “anything could happen” feel to primetime television.

Changes in technology also played into the hands of would-be reality producers at this time. Until the advent of non-linear editing, offered by the likes of Avid after 1987, the idea of processing huge amounts of videotape to make a reality show was virtually an impossible task. Computer editing software changed all of that, and by the time the 1990s arrived, the reality machine was ready to take off flying.

Have you ever watched “Big Brother”…

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