Remember Candid Camera? In 1948 Allen Funt brought his popular radio show “Candid Microphone” to television as “Candid Camera,” and reality TV was born. Unsuspecting people were confronted with funny, unusual situations and filmed with hidden cameras. The show first aired in 1948, and is often seen as a prototype of reality television programming.
A local show in Los Angeles, “Queen for a Day” went national on NBC in 1956 and changed the way networks looked at programming. It featured four housewives telling their tales of turmoil and drudgery to a studio audience. At the end of the show the audience voted on who will be “Queen for a Day.”
Soon unscripted shows like “Queen for a Day” and “The Dating Game” dominated the airways and served as early prototypes of what would become the popular contest shows in the 2000’s like “The Voice.”
In 1975 PBS aired “An American Family.” And 10 million people tuned in to watch the 12-part series documenting an ordinary American family. Three camera crews moved into the Santa Barbara house of Bill and Pat Loud and their five children with the intent to capture the lives of a fairly typical middle-America household but instead recorded the drama of a family in the process of coming apart.
20 years later MTV’s “The Real World,” inspired by “American Family,” launched in 1992, and the unscripted or reality format caught fire after the May 2000 debut of “Survivor.”