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A Writers' Workshop Alum Writes of His Love/Hate Relationship with Reality TV

Vintage Books

  This program origionally aired on 5-3-2018. 

For more than 25 years, U.S. TV viewers have been captivated by "reality television," watching "real people" in supposedly unscripted events.  Author Lucas Mann is not immune to this guilty pleasure.

Mann, a New York native and graduate of the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop, has written a new book called "Captive Audience--On Love and Reality TV." (Vintage Books)  He analyzes this pop culture phenom and reflects on what his fascination with it says about reality.  He told Charity that reality TV began with MTV's "The Real World" in 1992, "a pop culture phenomenon," he says. 

Mann told us, "I was the perfect generation for it, six years old when 'The Real World' started. In high school in the early 2000s, reality TV hit its boom moment.  Its hold on the culture coincided with my exitence as a cultural citizen."  Of course Mann understands the dark side of this kind of TV programming.  "There's always something in these shows that are intense, stylized and weird, going way back to the 'hidden camera' shows of the 60s and 'An American Family' in the early 70s on PBS--truly 'groundbreaking TV' in the reality television world."

Mann went on to tell us that Reality TV shows have always been critically scorned.  "What interests me is that it is so ubiquitous in people's lives--people watch it but don't like to talk about watching it.  But it's a huge part of your life that you've connected with, but this doesn't stop viewers from writing it off as wasted time."

Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Dennis Reese was the mid-day host for Iowa Public Radio