There's a growing trend toward reality-based shows like COPS and The Real World, but just how "real" are they?
COPS and MTV's The Real World offer a slightly different picture of reality. COPS is a one hour show that allows tv cameras to ride in a patrol car next to real police officers as they go out on the streets and enforce the law. The Real World brings a group of young people together in a large city. They live together for about 6 months and agree to have their lives taped. As the teaser promises, viewers will find out what happens when "people stop being polite and start getting real."
Unlike candid camera however, the individuals featured on COPS and The Real World know that they are being taped. Though these shows claim to depict life as it actually is, the presence of a camera and the scrutinizing gaze of an audience affect the actions of the people being taped. "This is a world in which media is not just an observer of events, but an active participant." (Rushkoff. 55.)
reenactments and docudramas
Docudramas are entire programs of simulated reality that are usually about actual events. In 1992, all three networks broadcast their own docudramas on the "Long Island Lolita" scandal. Producers like these programs because they are relatively inexpensive and make real events conform to dramatic scrtucture.