Neon Hum Media presents “Spectacle: An Unscripted History of Reality TV,” rolling out reality TV’s historical red carpet. Listen as host Mariah Smith goes back to the genre’s origins, from Survivor’s start in 2000, MTV’s The Real World, Keeping Up with the Kardashians, Queer Eye, and newer shows like 90 Day Fiancé. In episodes, Mariah and guests take a look back in the canon of TV milestones and how they shaped and impacted the culture and wide-ranging genre today.
The show’s 13+ episodes are easily bingeable, running under an hour in length. Listen from Episode 1 for context in the historical timeline, or drop in for episode-specific reality TV topics if you’re not in a chronological mood.
Host Mariah is not only a reality TV aficionado and scholar. She’s also a TV writer, comedian, producer, critic, and worked on Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live. Mariah created a blog in 2015, “Keeping Up With the Kontinuity Errors,” to trace continuity errors in Keeping Up With the Kardashians, that was also published in New York Magazine’s The Cut.
Episode one covered PBS’ 1973 documentary, “An American Family,” which could be considered the first reality TV presentation, following Santa Barbara’s Loud family. Mariah spoke with the filmmakers and tried to discover why this program cannot be found online. Episode two delves into how MTV’s The Real World created a template followed by many later shows. The first season documented seven artists living in a SoHo loft, and the participants were told their lives would be filmed, unaware of how the producers would manufacture drama and conflict. This episode interviewed Season 1’s cast and pop culture critics.
Episode three explores the Survivor phenomenon, starting in 2000 as a competition reality show with a $1 million cash prize. Former cast member Max Dawson and fans Andy Dehnart, Mike Bloom, and Racquel Gates joined Mariah. Episode four and bonus episode eleven dig into the Bachelor Nation franchise, and how it got started over 20 years ago. Hear about why the show is loved yet problematic with Season 2’s Bachelor Aaron Buerge, Season 3’s Bachelorette Jen Schefft Waterman, and Bachelor Nation experts Claire Fallon and Emma Gray. Season 20 Bachelor star Olivia Caridi stopped by bonus episode 11 to discuss what she’s currently watching and topics listeners can expect on her podcast, “Mouthing Off with Olivia.”
In episode five, listeners hear all about Andy Cohen and the Housewives. Podsauce recently chatted with one of Mariah’s guests, podcaster and Housewives Historian Brian Moylan. We also recommend Brian’s holiday podcast, “12 Gays of Christmas” if you’re a holiday film fanatic.
Episode 6 of “Spectacle: An Unscripted History of Reality TV” dished on Keeping Up with the Kardashians’ empire with New York Times writer-at-large Amy Chozic and KUWTK expert Professor Laurie Ouellette. Queer Eye’s original culture guru Jai Rodriguez, interior designer Bobby Berk, and a superfan spoke with Mariah on Episode 7 and explored how the show started in 2003 and became “a master class in male vulnerability.” On episode eight, we heard about the “train-wreck TV show we can’t stop watching,” 90 Day Fiancé.
The Great British Baking Show’s history was recapped on Episode 9, explaining how the competition TV show format morphed over time. The Circle takes The Real World’s format and twists it through a dystopian lens, as explored in Episode 10.
Check out new, semimonthly episodes of “Spectacle: An Unscripted History of Reality TV,” wherever you listen to podcasts.