It started in 1948 with Alan Funt's "Candid Camera."
That's when reality television began, writes Charles B. Slocum of the Writers Guild of America, creating "artificial realities to see how ordinary people would respond."
But when MTVs "The Real World" premiered in 1992, so-called "reality TV" moved full steam ahead. Since that time, the genre has offered everything from "Survivor," which is still on the air after 13 years, to "Breaking Amish," which generated controversy last year over whether its characters' stories were less than true.
"We all know there's little reality in reality TV," writes James Poniewozik, contributor to Time Magazine. "No reality TV show can match the intelligence and layers of well-constructed fiction."
Indeed, the genre has developed a dubious reputation. But is it all bad? While every reality-TV show is likely to endure some level of skepticism and/or criticism, there are many that also inspire viewers. The following are a few examples of positive aspects to emerge from this genre.
“The Biggest Loser,” a reality show that began in 2004, has inspired many Americans to be more health conscious and work harder for their goals.
At 233 pounds, Shelley, Idaho, native Kaylee Kinikini religiously watched the show with her father, Moses, often talking about their dream to one day be on it.
Although Kinikini didn’t believe her dream would become reality, a health scare for Moses pushed the two to audition for season 11 — and they made it.
The Kinikinis journey to weight loss was difficult, but with the support of family and friends back home, in addition to their trainers and teammates on the ranch, it proved to be a rewarding experience.
“The show was definitely a lot of hard work, but if you’ve seen it you know you’re going to be beaten down,” Kinikini said. “The really hard part is being away from family while making those big life changes.”
Kinikini felt inspired by the many letters she received from family and friends telling her to keep up the good work.
It wasn’t until she went home, however, that she understood what an inspiration she had been to those who hadn’t been on the show with her.
“It was amazing to me to have people come up to me and thank me for this experience and for giving them hope,” Kinikini said. “That is the biggest thing I cherish is that I can affect somebody for the better.”
Kinikini lost a total of 54 pounds on the ranch, weighing 179 pounds when she left the show.
Like many reality TV shows, “The Biggest Loser” is founded on competition, although it’s generally more kind-spirited than most.
“It was so nice to celebrate with each person, because you could see how much it meant to them when they hit a big milestone or accomplished something they never thought they could,” Kinikini said.
She describes “The Biggest Loser” as being, for the most part, a non-scripted show.
“Even though some of the competition or weigh-ins are presented more dramatically than they actually are, the emotions and tears people shed are very real,” Kinikini said.
While it may look like the toughest part is over when the contestants leave the show for the real world, the hard work has only begun. According to Kinikini, going home is the hardest part for most contestants because they are then surrounded by real life, unhealthy habits and time-consuming activities.
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