How the Movie EDtv Helped Shape Reality Television

How the Movie EDtv Helped Shape Reality Television


The airwaves are filled with a variety of different reality television programs. We follow the everyday lives of celebrities, of parents with children of multiple births simultaneously, little people, ghost hunters, and the list continue. Interestingly, there was a film made and directed by Ron Howard tht was based on a French picture called EDtv. It follows a television producer who singles out an individual to chronicle every aspect of his everyday life. While it was not reality television, it was definitely a forerunner. The classification of EDtv is comedy romance, but it influenced what is currently known as reality tv in a profound way.

The premise of EDtv

Ellen Degeneres plays the television producer that follows Ed, played by Matthew McConaughey. He’s a video store clerk who dresses in old flannels but has a ton of charisma. The movie is actually about a reality tv series being filmed. We learn a lot about Ed, who has a king-sized man-crush on Burt Reynolds and also has a thing for his brother’s former girlfriend Sherri who is played by Jenna Elfman. The film focuses on how Ed’s life changes because of the fame that he attains as the star of a television reality series. He loses his anonymity as well as his privacy and it wreaks havoc in his life. Because of teh pain and misery that his newfound fame brings into his life, Ed rebels against the producers who have contributed to teh ruin of his life.

An all-star cast

Right out of the gate, EDtv is loaded with big-time stars, including McConaughey, Degeneres, Elfman, Liz Hurley, Woody Harrelson, Dennis Hopper, Rob Reiner, and Martin Landau.

A decade early

“EDtv” was released in 1999. The subject of the film was something very unusual when compared to other genres. This was before reality television became a thing in Hollywood. It was a great film and it made us laugh, but it also planted a few seeds that would sprout into spreading branches. This was the inspiration for the current reality television series’ that we enjoy, or not in some cases. It made writers and producers begin to wonder what would happen if they started following the lives of interesting individuals and turned it into a regular television series. It’s been ten years since “EDtv” hit the screen, and in that short period of time, we’ve seen a whole new genre in entertainment spring into life. Reality television is alive and well. More new topics and characters are coming out of the woodwork including survivalists, homesteaders, gold miners, fishermen and more. Although the film was well-enough received, it was the first to plow the new ground for reality television. It was a movie based upon made-up, fictional characters but it sparked an ember which would become an all-consuming fire of new shows and subjects.

Similarities between EDtv and reality programming

EDtv came across as a film that didn’t involve a lot of heavy production, and that was the very intention. It’s the same feeling that we get when we watch current reality tv shows. The major difference is that current programming lacks a protagonist and there isn’t really a plot. It’s just a chronicle of a certain time in their lives. Reality television shows that are scripted receive harsh criticism from viewers because they don’t want something that is contrived, they want to see the real thing. One of the attributes of EDtv that really stands out is the fact that Ed, the main character does use scripted phrasing in the film. It’s a controversial topic in reality television.

How EDtv helped shape reality television

Howard’s masterpiece was an adaptation from the French film “Louis 19.” It neatly lays out the foundations of what we currently call reality television. What the film did was to establish the premise for reality television as well as the manner in which it should be executed. It starts with the interviews of a regular person’s life on a 24/7 basis. Although Edtv started out slow and boring, it picked up momentum when it was discovered that one of the characters was caught cheating on his girlfriend, Shari. Ray is Ed’s brother. After this happens, Shari gets drunk and lets him have it. She talks directly to the camera and the result is a magnificent drama that is caught live while the cameras roll (in the film). This results in sky-high ratings and the reality show that was about to get axed becomes immensely popular with viewers. As the film progresses, the cameras catch more and more secrets held by the family. It’s filled with scandals, admissions of guilt and hurt feelings. Does this sound familiar yet? got it right when they said that Ed TV was a prophetic film that foretold the coming of reality television.


It only takes one very good idea to kick off a trend in Hollywood. EDtv is a movie that started the ball rolling and made writers and producers start looking at the various individuals who might be popular with large sectors of the viewing audience. It’s all about pulling in viewers and getting good ratings, and there is so much fodder out there that swe think reality television is here to stay. Whether you want to see how talented mechanics restore old cars or how fishermen spend weeks at a time out on Alaskan waters to bring in a big catch, it’s there. EDtv has kicked off a frenzy and there are now reality television shows on every kind of topic that you can think of. We have “Keeping Up with the Kardashians,” “Honey-Boo Boo” and dozens of others to choose from. While we can’t say that the reason for this is EDtv, it certainly made people start to consider the possibilities.Matthew McConaughey

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