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A reality show is a type of documentary show which is unscripted and does not feature actors playing roles but rather—in most instances—ordinary people behaving naturally, except that they are filmed while doing so.
Originally, the term was used to describe such shows as America's Funniest Home Videos, which featured video footage shot by amateur photographers of everyday events which went awry, or COPS, which featured police officers doing their jobs as normal while camera crews followed them around. However, it soon came to be a genre distinct from those early progenitors. It is distinguished from documentaries in that reality TV is almost always artificial—in other words, the producers of the show put the people into the situations they are in for the purposes of making the show. For example, in The Amazing Race, the producers provide the rules of the race and the course and follow the competitors around to see how they react to the situations they have invented.
Many reality shows are game shows, in that they involve competitors working to achieve a goal, but some reality shows, such as the early example The Real World, merely thrust ordinary people into an extraordinary circumstance and filmed their reactions. In general, those reality shows with competitors are distinguished from their game show cousins either by the openness of the sets—whereas game shows such as Jeopardy! are filmed on one set, reality shows such as The Amazing Race or Survivor have theoretically the entire world as their "set"—or because the audience is allowed to participate in and ultimately decide the outcome—for instance, in American Idol, viewers vote for who will return next week, and the contestant with the fewest votes is gone.
Celebreality is a subset of reality programming that portrays people going about their lives as they normally would, except that there are cameras filming them as they do so. The genre is called "celebreality" because the people whose lives are filmed are celebrities. Examples of celebreality shows include The Anna Nicole Show (featuring actress/model Anna Nicole Smith), The Osbournes (featuring musician Ozzy Osbourne and his family) and Newlyweds (featuring actress/musician Jessica Simpson and her then-husband Nick Lachey).
- See the Reality category for a list of reality shows.