Cue the Sun!: The Invention of Reality TV

Cue the Sun!: The Invention of Reality TV

By Emily Nussbaum

"A rollicking, deeply reported story about how the early reality TV business metastasized into an industry that now dominates entertainment in the United States. Starting in 1948, Nussbaum pulls back the curtain on the cultural meat grinder that created a generation-defining form of entertainment, examining shows from The Real World to Survivor to The Apprentice.

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Book Information

Publisher: Random House
Publish Date: 06/25/2024
Pages: 464
ISBN-13: 9780525508991
ISBN-10: 0525508996
Language: English

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The rollicking saga of reality television, a "sweeping" (The Washington Post) cultural history of America's most influential, most divisive artistic phenomenon, from the Pulitzer Prize-winning New Yorker writer--"a must-read for anyone interested in television or popular culture" (NPR)

"Passionate, exquisitely told . . . With muscular prose and an exacting eye for detail . . . [Nussbaum] knits her talents for sharp analysis and telling reportage well."--The New York Times (Editors' Choice) Who invented reality television, the world's most dangerous pop-culture genre? And why can't we look away? In this revelatory, deeply reported account of the rise of "dirty documentary"--from its contentious roots in radio to the ascent of Donald Trump--Emily Nussbaum unearths the origin story of the genre that ate the world, as told through the lively voices of the people who built it. At once gimlet-eyed and empathetic, Cue the Sun! explores the morally charged, funny, and sometimes tragic consequences of the hunt for something real inside something fake. In sharp, absorbing prose, Nussbaum traces the jagged fuses of experimentation that exploded with Survivor at the turn of the millennium. She introduces the genre's trickster pioneers, from the icy Allen Funt to the shambolic Chuck Barris; Cops auteur John Langley; cynical Bachelor ringmaster Mike Fleiss; and Jon Murray and Mary-Ellis Bunim, the visionaries behind The Real World--along with dozens of stars from An American Family, The Real World, Big Brother, Survivor, and The Bachelor. We learn about the tools of the trade--like the Frankenbite, a deceptive editor's best friend--and ugly tales of exploitation. But Cue the Sun! also celebrates reality's peculiar power: a jolt of emotion that could never have come from a script. What happened to the first reality stars, the Louds--and why won't they speak to the couple who filmed them? Which serial killer won on The Dating Game? Nussbaum explores reality TV as a strike-breaker, the queer roots of Bravo, the dark truth behind The Apprentice, and more. A shrewd observer who adores television, Nussbaum is the ideal voice for the first substantive history of the genre that, for better or worse, made America what it is today.

About the Author

Emily Nussbaum is a staff writer at The New Yorker, where she's worked since 2011, originally as the magazine's television critic. In 2016, she won the Pulitzer Prize for criticism.

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