Reality Television Timeline
Timeline Description: Reality television includes shows that follow people around and competition shows. The shows are unscripted, affordable to produce, and attractive to viewers, whether they're rooting for a favorite on Big Brother or following the lives of the Kardashians.

Date Event
August 1948 Candid Camera

After a successful radio show, Candid Microphone, host Allen Funt takes his show to television. Candid Camera surprises people with unusual situations.
January 1956 Queen for a Day

Queen for a Day went national on NBC in January 1956. On this show, four housewives competed to become queen for a day.
December 1965 The Dating Game

The Dating Game premiered in December 1965, allowing viewers to watch romances begin. The guest asked several potential dates questions on the show.
January 1973 An American Family

PBS's five-part series documents the ordinary life of an American family with five children, the Louds.
March 1980 That's Incredible

1980's That's Incredible let ordinary people share their talents and tricks on national television. The show featured acrobats, people who could catch arrows, and more.
March 1989 COPS

COPS debuted in March 1989, following real-life police officers. The show has remained successful through some 20 seasons.
1996 Before They Were Stars

Before They Were Stars shares the lives of celebrities before they became famous. It is the first celebrity reality television program.
May 2000 Survivor: Borneo

Survivor: Borneo premiered in May 2000, featuring a group of contestants stranded to compete for limited resources and the opportunity to stay on the island and win the prize. The series was a success and has continued for fifteen years.
June 2001 Fear Factor

Fear Factor debuted in June 2001, with the goal of disgusting both contestants and viewers. By the second episode, contestants were forced to eat worms.
June 2002 American Idol

A summer season show, American Idol began rather quietly, but went on to make the careers of a number of well-known performers. The show marked its final season some dozen years later.
September 2002 Osbournes won Emmy for Nonfiction Show

The Osbournes, a series following musician Ozzy Osbourne and his family, won an emmy for best non-fiction show in September 2002.
2003 Emmy for Outstanding Reality Competition

In 2003, the Emmy for outstanding reality competition show was introduced. The Amazing Race was the first Emmy-winning reality competition.
December 2003 Bachelorette Wedding

After the success of the Bachelorette, ABC aired the contestant's wedding to her fiancé, in exchange for a generous payment.
2005 Dancing with the Stars

In 2005, the Dancing with the Stars finale secured a massive audience, as viewers cheered for their favorites to win. The show remains successful a decade later.
July 2008 Emmy for Outstanding Reality Host

In 2008, The Emmy Awards introduced an Emmy for outstanding reality television host, again acknowledging this successful television genre.