Day 218 in the New Statesman office. The workmates are flagging, again.
While thankfully there are no hidden cameras in our newsroom, we can reveal that there are lots of hardcore reality TV fans among the NS team. And their mid-summer post-Love Island
slump inspiration means we’re spending this week looking back at our favourite – and most hated – retro reality shows.
Every day this week, we’ll be running pieces dedicated to the candid scenes that had the most impact on our youthful brains, or re-assessing past problematic concepts, from the genre’s dubious canon.
Below is a list of these pieces – and other articles on retro reality TV we’ve previously published – which will be updated throughout the week:
Pauline Bock recalls the impact this villa-based hit, featuring pool sex and a Champs-Élysées parade, had on French audiences.
Everything Eleanor Margolis learned from history’s most human makeover show.
Sarah Manavis recalls the holiday-swap show that was a front for snobbery.
Glosswitch re-watches the series she enjoyed before she had children, and sees sexism from all sides.
Julia Rampen on how the upstairs downstairs format lives on today in the gig economy.
If the idea of contacting the dead with an early-2000s girl band doesn’t excite the hell out of you, Eleanor Margolis is afraid you can’t be helped.
Indra Warnes harks back to a time when it was filth, rather than beauty and wealth, which drew us to how the other half live.
Exploring its effect on viewers with eating disorders, Amelia Tait speaks to online fans of a show based on fat-shaming and idealising thinness.
Myfanwy Craigie recalls “chicken wing arms”, “thunder thighs” and “tits like fried eggs” – a world away from Fab Five sensitivity.
Stephen Bush remembers tuning into MTV with his schoolfriend in hospital, and cringing over mothers miming their daughters’ curves.
For a comprehensive guide to bringing up children, just watch César Millán’s tips for rehabilitating dogs, says Sarah Manavis (and her mum).
Television’s most spectacular hoax was more of a life lesson for Anoosh Chakelian than a practical joke.
For Sophie McBain, the reboot is less progressive than its predecessor on injustice.
While experts opposed 2004’s challenge to stay awake for seven nights for £100,000, Josh Salisbury finds its participants think reality shows today are crueller.
Jonn Elledge doesn’t recognise the Brentwood of his youth we now see on our screens.
In January last year, Anna Leszkiewicz looked back on the case of mistaken identity that led to the most dramatic reality TV moment of all time.
When it reached its twelfth series in 2016, long-time fan Anoosh Chakelian argued that the bonkers entrepreneurship contest still hadn’t lost its magic.
Last summer, Thomas Hobbs reported on how the offensive TV dating show with a “twist” sowed the seeds for how trans people are depicted today.
Back in 2014, Rachel Cooke assessed the trend of welfare TV.
Looking back to Make Bradford British, Anoosh Chakelian analysed the ethics of “life swap” style formats to contrast cultures.