Cue the Sun!: The Invention of Reality TV

Random. Jun. 2024. 464p. ISBN 9780525508991. $30. TV
Utilizing extensive, fascinating details, this book by Pulitzer Prize winner Nussbaum (I Like To Watch: Arguing My Way Through the TV Revolution) traces the origins of reality TV through its most influential incarnations. Stemming from radio call-in shows where people could vent their problems, Candid Camera gave birth to the prank show in 1948. The 1960s produced The Newlywed Game, but the serious Watergate/post-Vietnam era spawned An American Family, viewed as a real-life soap opera. It featured 20-year-old Lance Loud—the first openly gay person in a television series, and he played a gay character too—and the unexpected divorce of the Loud parents. The 1980s delivered America’s Funniest Home Videos and Cops, and 1992 introduced MTV’s The Real World—a cast reality show that led to others such as the Real Housewives franchise, which fans devoured and critics derided. Nussbaum devotes extra time to the cultural behemoth Survivor and Big Brother, which airs multiple times a week, and many view them as examples of voyeurism. The book also covers production nightmares of various shows.
VERDICT A detailed, engaging focus, interpretation, and historical commentary on the evolution and reception of reality shows. A must-read for social scientists and reality TV aficionados.
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