Reality TV shows arose as a named genre of programming in the 1990s. Networks introduced a number of series that featured the unscripted interactions of ordinary people, as opposed to actors or celebrities. Early reality series were a unique form, but the genre has expanded to include shows that infuse other genres-game shows, documentaries, etc.-with unscripted elements.
Eventually, almost every network made us watch reality shows.
The earliest reality series were ground-breaking in that they attempted to focus on the real lives of their characters. MTV's The Real World was arguably the first modern American reality series. It featured a group of non-actor young people living together in a house. The group's daily activities played out via cameras scattered throughout the house. There was no script or plan for how the events in the house would play out.
Very quickly, aspects of reality TV crept into other types of shows. Survivor merged reality TV with the game-show genre. Participants in the show engaged in a competition. Their interactions were filmed and presented in manner that emphasized the unscripted drama between them. This hybrid reality-game show became a very popular subgenre. It eventually encompassed a wide range of competitions, including those involving music, dance, cooking and weight loss.
The reality formula eventually evolved to include unscripted shows that claimed to present the every-day lives of celebrities. Other reality series followed the professional--and, to a certain degree, personal--lives of ordinary people such as police officers, fishermen or others in hazardous occupations. The reality genre also sometimes connects itself with fiction genres. In paranormal-investigation series, for example, real-life investigators go about their business and the show attempts to use their activities to generate suspense.