America’s obsession with Reality television spans more than twenty-five years, ever since The Real World debuted on MTV in 1992. Even the show’s headline was ground-breaking: “This is the true story of seven strangers picked to live in a house and have their lives taped. Find out what happens when people stop being polite and start getting real.”
What? True stories that weren’t on the news? Seven people who wanted to live with strangers and go about their real lives? What was this? Well, turns out, it was pretty fascinating. From that one show, hundreds have spawned. Some, like The Bachelor are wildly popular, with dozens of seasons. (The Real World has 32 seasons.) Others fizzled quickly, forgotten after a few months. Bachelorettes in Alaska, anyone? Average Joe? The Glass House? Paradise Hotel?
So what is it about reality shows that makes it so appealing? TV networks like them because of their cheap production. Real people work for less money than actors, for the most part. And Americans are obsessed with seeing how other people live. We love watching people attempt death defying stunts and eat bugs on Fear Factor. We hope participants will find love on The Bachelor and dozens of similar shows. We marvel that anyone would pay twenty thousand dollars for a wedding dress. (Well, I do.) Everyone wants to know more about the lives of others.
In 2012 and 2013, two of my close friends got cast on reality shows. That gave me a sneak peek into how things really happened, from the casting process to the pain of being eliminated to finding out that some contestants got paid for their appearances on one show while most did not. And the more I learned, the more fascinated I became. Thus, the Reality Star series was born.
Another part of the appeal of reality shows is that there are a million types. There’s something for everyone, just like with books.
If You Like…
You Might Love….
Survival shows like Naked and Afraid.
Books about surviving on your own, such as Wild, Alive, or Into the Wild
Shows about finding love, such as The Bachelor/ette, Are You The One, and dozens of others.
Contemporary romance novels! Some of my current favorite authors include Mary Ann Marlowe, Victoria De La O, and Brighton Walsh.
Getting a peek at how the other half lives shows such as Big Brother, The Real Housewives series, etc.
Romantic comedies (formerly known as chick lit), including the Reality Star series. Other favorite authors include Kate O’Keeffe, Leah Marie Brown, and Michelle Gorman.
Shows about fitness/weight loss, such as My 600-Lb Life or The Biggest Loser.
You’ll find some light and fluffy women’s fiction that addresses these topics, too, if you’re looking for fiction. But you might also enjoy non-fiction such as Jillian Michaels’ memoir.
Cooking shows, including The Great British Bakeoff, Top Chef, and similar.
Many cozy mystery series are about a personal chef or food professional who finds themselves embroiled in a murder. Try Joanne Fluke.
Real crime shows, like The First 48, or even Dateline.
Kellye Garrett, author of Hollywood Homicide used to write for Cold Case, and she is highly recommended. For traditional thrillers, check out Tana French.
As you can see, no matter what your interests, there’s a show–and a book–for everyone. What reality shows do you like?
Laura Heffernan is proof that watching too much TV actually can pay off. All three books of the Reality Star series are now available. The romantic comedy series follows Jen as she competes in a series of reality shows. When not watching total strangers get married, drag racing queens, or cooking competitions, Laura enjoys board games, travel, board games, baking, and board games. She, her husband, and their two cats are currently expecting their first child.