Seven Reality TV Shows That Were Way Ahead of Their Time

As many of us know, Reality TV isn’t real anymore.  While it may have began as something authentic, the very fact that Reality TV is its own genre is testament to the fact that it’s not entirely “real” anymore.    Shows have higher production values, pay their cast members, and the editing is really what makes these show interesting now.  There’s no such thing as a running camera anymore.  Each show is crafted to have a specific narrative for the audience.

But there was once a time when reality shows were close to real.  While you could never get it to the point where the camera was just a fly on the wall, back in the 90s we saw some footage that was very raw, and very funny.

Here are 7 reality shows that I think truly shaped today’s reality television.

The Tom Green Show

When you talk about reality TV as it pertains to talk shows or sketch comedy nothing was more revolutionary than The Tom Green.  You want to talk about authenticity?  This guy used to go into his parents house and completely abused them.  Where do you think Bam Margara got the idea to bully his father in the bathroom on “Jackass?”  From pranks to endless amount of live interviewing the Tom Green show was hilarious and ground breaking.


People forget that A.  this show is still on and B. Any kind of reality crime show in the entire world is loosely if not tightly based on this show.


While Jackass came a little later it was still the first of its kind and I’ll argue that nearly any kind of goofy and ludicrous show that features any kind of dangerous stunts is based off of Jackass.

The Real World

If you want a show to thank for today’s MTV and Network reality shows Jersey Shore, The Bachelor, Survivor, Big Brother, and every single reality show on Bravo, you’ve got The Real World to thank.  This is the series that started it all back in the early 90s on MTV.  “What happens when people stop being polite, and start getting real.”   This was the first time since the 70s where cameras followed people inside a home and documented virtually everything they did.

American Gladiators

Ever watch American Ninja Warrior?  You’ve got American Gladiators to thank for that.

Candid Camera

Every single reality TV prank show was in some way influenced by Candid Camera.  From Ashton Kutcher’s series to Impractical Jokers, Candid America was one of the very first.

An American Family

You can’t make a list like this without mentioning the true, first reality television show. An American Family is an American television documentary filmed from May 30 through December 31, 1971 and first aired in the United States on the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) from January 11, 1973 to March 29, 1973. The groundbreaking documentary is considered the first “reality” series on American television. It was originally intended as a chronicle of the daily life of the Louds, an upper middle class family in Santa Barbara, California but ended up documenting the break-up of the family via the separation and subsequent divorce of parents Bill and Pat Loud


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