Warning: This will be in no depth and with a maximum amount of personal prejudice. It's my party and you can die if I want you to.
I think it all begins with the freak show. Go to the circus or the carnival and see something truly shocking. Maybe it's a cow with an extra head. Maybe it's a preserved fetus of some unfortunate animal. Maybe it's a human oddity (who are beautiful and lovely)... pick you stereotype or anomaly. We love to pay for the strange an unusual. That's why your here. That's at least a partial reason for us being horror fanatics. Pay the ticket you can see anything. How different is that from cable television, right? the freak show or side show or whatever you might call it came around long before we were watching movies of any fashion, but I think that's where reality TV begins...well it's that and form the spindle of the sewing circle, but let's stick with the darker side of the real world for our purposes.
So then come the movies and the news reels and the filming of real life events. Mostly historic but very often sexual in nature. PORNO... is as old as art and as old as cinema. So there are works of fiction. There are films that try to educate or inform (new reels) and then we have people filming the good ol' fashion uglies a bumping. I can't think of anything more real then watching a little bit of the old in out in and before it was an industry, before we had major production with a star system people just filmed themselves fucking. It's nearly comical, but it was real. Probably often frightening by today's hygenic and grooming standards (just you Jenna Jameson watching motherfuckers go watch a blue movie or two). So horn balls film people boning or whatever it is their devious minds could come up with. It was joyous. Decadent but unfortunately it was well hidden form the public eye. You can't show it on TV and in fact TV didn't exist yet at the point in time when stag films were initially making the rounds, but it's a step (and I always like to mention porn because porn is how babies are made).
Note: I was going to post some old school porn. Just Google 1920's or 1930's porn. It's good for your genitals.
Next up, there's the invention and utilization of TV proper and everything from the nightly news to game shows (that feel somewhat real even in their staging). Live dance shows. Hosts addressing the TV at home audience directly. Horror hosts actually telling jokes directly to the viewers of horror films. Live musical performances... anything real really was making the rounds. Only a minute portion of this is actually horror related and even less of it is remotely factual... we're really just writing one long segue to get to the late 90's and 2000's when you can hit the clicker without stumbling onto some shitty reality TV program. Let's go there now before I waste more of your time...
(this would be where we talk about the Faces of Death, Traces of Death, Many Faces of Death, Mondo Cane, Mondo movies and any othe real death pictures because I'm going to go through the whole lot of them at a future date... I love to eat red, raw-ish meat while watching these things because I'm a sick fuck. Eat me veg heads)
When I first think of reality TV in the horror world, in the modern age and as it would be defined by the masses it would be Fear Factor. Ever since I saw my first Herschell Gordon Lewis picture I've loved to see things that make me just a little queasy. You know that I watch these shows thinking "would I do that"? How much would you have to pay for me crawl through a pit of spiders or eat a bucket of cockroaches? Some of those things I was fairly certain I could do with ease. Others made me gag or actually gave me what might be described as a panic attack. Hey, it's a game show after all and beats watching Vanna fucking White for the 1000th time.
Scare Tactics was a whole lotta fun. I can safely say that I would have loved to work on this show. It's the modern day spook house for folks too lazy to get off their couches and head out to the a proper carnival. These fuckers creatively find ways to terrify unsuspecting victims in a candid camera fashion. Really it's nothing new. They just put the spooky spin on it.
Now what about Paranormal State, Ghost Hunters and Ghost Hunters International? Paranormal investigations shows seem to be all the rage despite the fact that nothing at all happens in these shows. I'm not even entirely certain that people classify them as reality TV, but really you're just watching the ghostie equivalent of Billy the Exterminator hunt ghosts instead of raccoon. I was having a conversation about this series the other day. Why do they feel the need to try to jump scare us while we're watching blurry, poorly produced pieces of television? There's nothing there or at least nothing we can see or even observe. Not even with their methods. It's the ultimate illusion act that might as well be like watching David Copperfield on a TV special then actual paranormal investigation. Just give us the facts, spare us the theatrics and if you're going to hunt some ghosts, just show us how you do it already. The dramatic recreations are terrible even though I think they offer an element of fun that is absolutely imperative to being able to watch this type of show.
I love Oddities. That's the show about the New York Based store, Obscura, where you can find the weirdest shit your heart could ever desire. There are regular characters that are both knowledgeable and have an excellent sense of humor. The artifacts they buy and sell have amazing history and you can actually learn something. I wouldn't urge you to watch any other show on this list except this one. It's a truly fun show, the kids seem to like it and might make for a fun tourist destination if you get the chance to visit NYC any time soon (bring your piggy bank).
Second to my love for Oddities is Halloween Wars. I'll watch any of the extreme Halloween shows from pumpkin carving to house decorating to scariest haunts to scariest attractions. I adore them all, but Halloween Wars is an excellent culinary competition featuring some horror royalty as guest judges, mega creative people and embodies everything beautiful about the reality of horror in our lives. Secret time... every so often I imagine that I have become a famous horror writer/director and the ultimate moment in my career is being asked to judge this damn competition. I hope it's around this year.
That's all I really feel like mentioning right now.I'd say Face Off but I simply haven't watched it and don't want to comment on it. I'll say that Mythbusters has a few episodes that cross over to the horror/sci fi world nicely. I'll also say that from watching American Pickers I have seen many an artifact that might appeal to the horror folks and of course... then there's Hoarders... and that's grosser than Fear Factor but also feels sad. If you wanna watch real horror just check out Intervention. Check out 16 and Pregnant... Check out Bridezilla! I can assure you that this is about as far away from quality cinema as you're going to find. It's the other side of found footage because it is reality that is being transformed into a work of fiction rather than a work of fiction made to appear real. The fact that we watch it, call it reality TV and continue to talk about it daily is truly frightening. Best watch Idiocracy and V for Vendetta to get a better grasp on the shape of things to come.
Do you want to...
Continue to the full V/H/S review which is already in progress (make sure you bought plenty of head cleaner because you're gonna need it after this one...
Continue to the [REC]3 review where you'll find that lovely young bride with the sexy garter and the even sexier chainsaw? ...
Continue back to the CONTINUUM where you might as well be on the Event Horizon with the gravity drive turned on...
Choose wisely... tee hee heeee