Test Your Reality TV IQ



9 Questions

What is the main difference between reality television and traditional game shows?

Which show is considered the first reality television show?

What is the name of the Dutch singing competition show that premiered in 2010 and spawned a successful franchise?

What is the most popular reality series in US cable television history?

What are the two categories of reality television shows?

Which sub-genre of reality television shows have people with different values living by each other's social rules for a brief period of time?

Which show pioneered the concept of immunity, where a contestant can win the right to be exempt from elimination?

What is the potential impact of reality television in countries where it provides the first opportunity to vote in any free and fair wide-scale 'elections' or presents situations that are often taboo in certain conservative cultures?

Which international franchise has seen some of the business people who appeared on the show go on to win political office?


A Brief History of Reality Television

  • Reality television documents unscripted real-life situations and often stars unfamiliar people rather than professional actors.

  • The genre emerged in the early 1990s with shows such as The Real World and achieved prominence in the early 2000s with the success of Survivor, Idols, and Big Brother.

  • Reality television shows tend to be interspersed with "confessionals" in which cast members reflect on or provide context for the events being depicted on-screen.

  • Competition-based reality shows typically feature gradual elimination of participants, either by a panel of judges, by the viewership of the show, or by the contestants themselves.

  • Documentaries, television news, sports television, talk shows, and traditional game shows are generally not classified as reality television.

  • Reality television has faced significant criticism since its rise in popularity, with critics arguing that it does not accurately reflect reality and that it can be exploitative.

  • Precedents for television that portrayed people in unscripted situations began in the late 1940s with shows like Candid Camera.

  • The 1960s saw the emergence of documentaries that portrayed ordinary people in unscripted situations, such as Seven Up!.

  • The 1970s saw the emergence of Chuck Barris productions like The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game.

  • The 1980s and 1990s saw the emergence of reality television shows like Real People, That's Incredible, and Thrill of a Lifetime.

  • Reality television became globally popular in the late 1990s and early 2000s, with the successes of the Big Brother and Survivor/Expedition Robinson franchises.

  • During the 2000s, several cable networks changed their programming to feature mostly reality television series, and three cable channels were started around that time that were devoted exclusively to reality television.A Brief History and Overview of Reality Television

  • Reality television has been around since the 1940s, with shows like Candid Camera and Queen for a Day.

  • The reality TV genre became more popular in the 1990s with shows like MTV's The Real World and CBS's Survivor.

  • Reality TV shows often have lower production costs than scripted shows, making them attractive to networks.

  • The early 2000s saw a rise in competition-based reality shows like American Idol and Dancing with the Stars.

  • The Voice, a Dutch singing competition show created by John de Mol Jr., premiered in 2010 and spawned a successful franchise.

  • The Tester, a reality show about video game testing, was the first such show to air over a video game console.

  • Duck Dynasty, a show about the Robertson family, became the most popular reality series in US cable television history in 2013.

  • Reality TV as a whole remained durable in the US, with hundreds of shows across many channels, though ratings and profits declined in the late 2010s.

  • Reality TV shows can be categorized into documentary-style and structured reality.

  • Documentary-style shows give viewers a private look into the lives of the subjects, with subcategories like soap-opera style, subcultures, professional activities, and financial transactions and appraisals.

  • Structured reality shows place cast members in staged living environments or give them specific challenges to overcome, with subcategories like special living environment and court shows.

  • Many reality TV shows have global franchises, with some of the most successful being I Can See Your Voice and Masked Singer.

  • The COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 forced many reality competition series to suspend production, leading US networks to use unscripted content to fill gaps in their schedules.Overview of Reality Television Genres

  • Reality television has several subgenres including courtroom programs, outdoor survival, self-improvement/makeover, renovation, business improvement, social experiment, hidden cameras, supernatural/paranormal, and reality competition/game shows.

  • Courtroom programs typically feature retired judges or individuals with legal experience as the presiding authority and air on daytime television.

  • Outdoor survival shows place people in wild and challenging natural settings such as Survivorman, Man vs. Wild, and Naked and Afraid.

  • Self-improvement/makeover shows have individuals or groups improving their lives with the help of experts. Examples include The Biggest Loser, Queer Eye, and Supernanny.

  • Renovation shows makeover living spaces, workspaces, or vehicles. Examples include This Old House, Flip or Flop, and Pimp My Ride.

  • Business improvement shows feature experts attempting to improve a failing small business. Examples include Bar Rescue and Hotel Hell.

  • Social experiment shows like Wife Swap and Trading Spouses have people with different values living by each other's social rules for a brief period of time.

  • Hidden camera shows like Candid Camera and Punk'd feature staged situations filmed with hidden cameras.

  • Supernatural/paranormal shows like Ghost Hunters and Celebrity Paranormal Project investigate paranormal phenomena or challenge participants to survive an investigation.

  • Reality competition/game shows feature participants competing to win a prize while living together in a confined environment. Examples include Big Brother, American Idol, and The Bachelor.

  • Dating-based competition shows like The Bachelorette and Love in the Wild have a contestant choosing a suitor from a group, eliminating suitors until only one remains.

  • Job search shows like Popstars and The Apprentice have contestants competing based on a pre-screened skill, with the prize including a contract to perform that kind of work and an undisclosed salary.Overview of Reality Competition Shows

  • Reality competition shows can be categorized into various sub-genres, including talent search, job-related, sport-related, and parodies.

  • Some shows have a different set of contestants competing on every episode, giving them a reality TV aspect, such as Chopped, Come Dine with Me, and Nailed It! franchises.

  • The concept of immunity, where a contestant can win the right to be exempt from elimination, was pioneered by Survivor and is now used in shows like The Apprentice, Big Brother, and Top Chef.

  • Reality television can have a significant political and cultural impact in countries where it provides the first opportunity to vote in any free and fair wide-scale "elections" or presents situations that are often taboo in certain conservative cultures.

  • Reality television has the potential to turn its participants into national celebrities, at least for a short period, with some able to parlay this fame into media and merchandising careers.

  • Two international franchises, The Apprentice and Dragons' Den, have seen some of the business people who appeared on the show go on to win political office.

  • Reality television appeals to young people and has been criticized for its positive representation of sexually objectified women in shows like The Girls Next Door.


Do you consider yourself a reality TV aficionado? Test your knowledge with our reality TV quiz! From competition-based shows to documentary-style programs, this quiz covers the history, genres, and subgenres of reality television. With questions ranging from the first reality TV show to global franchises, you'll have a chance to show off your expertise and learn some new facts along the way. So, put on your thinking cap and get ready to prove your reality TV IQ!

Ready to take the quiz?

Start Quiz