Some people seem to believe that reality TV is a relatively new phenomenon that began with documentary films and exploded onto the scene with The Real World, Big Brother, Survivor, and The Osbournes.
Reality TV has long been a staple in households since civilization began to take shape. If you will, let’s take a look back at some of the most groundbreaking shows in reality television history.
Everybody Loves Ramesses II (1278 B.C.-1209 B.C.)
After a few years of the reign of Ramesses II, the popular Egyptian pharoah decided to cash in on his fame. So, he forced laborers to invent a television so he could be on it.
The show peaked during the Exodus (during April sweeps!), when Ramesses’s rivalry with his brother Moses, reached a boiling point. Unfortunately, most of the tapes of the show and original television sets were buried with Ramesses in his tomb. That decision set reality TV back for years.
Caligula (31-41 A.D.)
After he “leaked” a sex tape, Caligula brought back reality television with a show centered on his life. The show, like the movie based upon it in the 20th Century, was really just a disgusting sex romp. Nasty entitled people who focused entirely on sex and meaningless conflicts.
Many regard it as the intellectual precursor to the Jersey Shore and Keeping Up With the Kardashians.
Finding Nero (54-68 A.D.)
This show was based on trying to locate Roman Emperor Nero. Regular Romans were asked to find Nero when he went out at night and murdered people in the streets for kicks. If they found him, Nero would usually utter his catchphrase, “Caedite eos!”, which means, “Kill them all!” in Latin, and then would bludgeon them to death with his violin.
After Finding Nero, people began to become terrified of reality TV. Between the years 500 and 1000 — often referred to as “The Dark Ages” because a lack of interest in television — reality shows almost disappeared for good.
Survivor: Europe (1348-1350)
This show was much different than its descendants, although both were hosted by the ageless Jeff Probst. The point of the show was for millions of contestants throughout Europe to try to survive the Black Death for a chance at one million sixpence.
The show only lasted two seasons after ratings dropped precipitously due to a lack of living viewers.
Joan of Arcadia (1427-1431)
The popular Joan of Arc was the original chick reality show. The show was unable to find a sympathetic audience and was canceled early for heresy. Only years later did viewers really appreciate her work on the show.
Real Housewives of Henry VIII (1509-1547)
The show followed the drama between Henry VIII and his six different wives during his reign as king. The show lasted for quite awhile because he kept things fresh with a steady stream of new wives.
The Catholic Church was appalled by such garbage on the airwaves, but Henry, as king, continued to order that the show stay on the air.
The Amazing Race: Lewis and Clark (1804-1806)
When President Thomas Jefferson needed a crew to explore the territory he had bought from those scheming Frenchmen, he turned to Virginian comedy duo Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. The two brought along a camera crew that captured all of their exploits and hi jinx, delighting the young nation.
The show was also one of the first to include American Indians as characters, opening the door for….very little since then.
The Ultimate Fighter: Congress (1856)
The goal of this show was to find the best fighter in Congress. After several weeks of training and trash-talking, Rep. Preston Brooks of South Carolina won the show after knocking out Massachusetts Sen. Charles Sumner in the first round.
The show became extremely popular in the South, but Northern audiences were horrified by the violence and demanded its cancellation. The network obliged and the tapes of the show were destroyed during the Civil War.
Later, the show produced spinoffs such as “Extreme Makeover: The Reconstruction” and “Made: I want to be the president of the United States,” both of which starred an illiterate Tennessee tailor named Andrew Johnson.