Rowman & Littlefield Publishers
Trim: 6¼ x 9¼
978-1-4422-5053-6 • Hardback • June 2015 • $53.00 • (£41.00)
978-1-4422-5054-3 • eBook • June 2015 • $50.00 • (£38.00)
Michael McKenna teaches history at Farmingdale State College. His primary research interests are urban history and American popular culture, particularly television programming. He is the author of The ABC Movie of the Week: Big Movies for the Small Screen (2013).
American reality television, which rose to prominence in the late 1990s to the early 2000s thanks to competition shows such as Survivor and American Idol, actually has roots in the game shows and celebrity programming of the 1970s. Author McKenna highlights Real People—a show that premiered in 1979 and featured, well, real people who had a unique occupation or hobby—as the prime precursor to today’s reality shows. The narrative runs through the mid-’80s, referencing such shows as The People’s Court, A Current Affair, and That’s Incredible! Appendixes include a Real People episode guide and a list of reality-televisions shows from 1979 to ’92. This title would be useful for academic collections that support media studies, and larger public libraries might consider this an interesting selection for the circulating shelves.
McKenna traces the history of reality television, a decades-old style of programming with seemingly no end of viewers. He argues that modern reality programming, as a genre, started with Real People, a show that aired on NBC from 1979 to 1984 and influenced future shows in the reality television genre. The author provides in-depth discussion of Real People, examining how it managed to capture a huge audience. Watching individuals who are ‘average Americans,’ albeit in often odd and ‘not average’ situations, seems to have vast appeal, as evidenced by the creation of numerous cable channels centering on the genre. An appendix includes a map of Real People filming locations (shows were shot in all 50 states), an episode guide detailing each show and its participants, and a list of nationally broadcast reality-themed shows from 1976 to 1992. This volume joins a growing literature on reality television. . . .Summing Up: Recommended. All readers.
— Choice Reviews