Emily Nussbaum on reality TV’s origins and real world impact

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New Yorker staff writer Emily Nussbaum and Elvis Mitchell at KCRW. Photo credit: Rebecca Mooney.

New Yorker staff writer Emily Nussbaum has covered all aspects of the small screen: from prestige television, to the good, bad, and extremely ugly of reality TV. In 2016, she won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism. Her new book Cue The Sun: The Invention of Reality TV dives into the polarizing genre’s origins and the creative personalities who helped give it shape. 

Nussbaum tells The Treatment that reality TV began as a cost cutting measure to not have to pay writers or actors, but also allowed for great creativity, as it was inventing itself in real time. She talks about the early shows like Queen for a Day and Candid Camera that paved the way for our modern reality. Plus, she breaks down the impact of NBC’s competition show The Apprentice and how it likely led to host Donald Trump’s time as president of the United States.




Rebecca Mooney