Reality TV: The fights! The sex! The fillers! The, um, historical impact?
Yes, while these (supposedly) unscripted primetime shows have always been the less-classy cousin of dramas and comedies, their brashness has forever cemented them in TV lore.
There have been so many wild moments: like when Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino shoved his meathead through a wall on “Jersey Shore” in 2011, or the jaw-dropping 2009 episode in which Teresa Giudice did not throw wine as expected of the “Real Housewives” — but flipped a table instead.
“Prostitution whore!” Giudice bellowed from the core of her gut. Shivers.
Before that, reality pioneer Tyra Banks wailed an Oscar-worthy monologue to “America’s Next Top Model” contestant Tiffany Richardson. “We were rooting for you, we were all rooting for you!” she screamed in 2005. You can still hear the anger and pain in Bank’s voice 16 years later.
“For Real: The Story of Reality TV,” the Andy Cohen-hosted seven-part special about the roller-coaster history of the genre, premieres on E! Thursday at 9 p.m. EST. Looking back at nearly 30 years of programs, viewers will learn the impact of “The Real World” during the AIDS epidemic and how “The Osbournes” actually paved the way for the Kardashians.
While entertainment is at their collective core, these series have also helped open up the public dialogue about once taboo issues, such as alcoholism, addiction and mental health.
As Mariah Smith, host of the “Spectacle” podcast tracing the genre’s history, told The Post: “Reality TV is a cultural touchdown of where we are.” That said, here are the most unforgettable, life-changing and sometimes reality-shattering moments from the genre.
“The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills“
Kyle Richards reveals Kim Richards’ alcoholism in the back of a limo
In 2010, Bravo fans were reintroduced to former child stars Kim and Kyle Richards. All grown up, the ingénue sisters from “Escape to Witch Mountain” (1975) and “Halloween” (1978) maintained that they were thick as thieves — even though most of their interactions were filled with tension. That all changed in the finale episode.
Attempting to leave a party in a limo, Kim said to Kyle, “you stole my goddamn house.”
A hurt Kyle shot back, “You are a liar and sick and an alcoholic.”
“My favorite moments in reality TV are when they can no longer keep up the facade, when whatever is boiling underneath comes up to the surface,” Brian Moylan, ghostwriter of “RHOBH” star Erika Girardi’s memoir and author of “The Housewives: The Real Story Behind the Real Housewives” (out May 25), told The Post. “You finally see that in this fight… All this undercurrent of stuff that you’ve been seeing between them all season finally made sense.”
Kim wasn’t the only housewife to star on “Beverly Hills” with a secret. Similar conversations later went down about the abuse Taylor Armstrong was suffering from her husband Russell, a disgraced venture capitalist who died by suicide in 2011, Adrienne Maloof’s use of a surrogate and Denise Richard’s rumored affair with Brandi Glanville.
Moylan added you won’t see this sort of rawness on other docu-soaps, particularly on “Keeping Up With The Kardashians,” where the stars of the show are also producing it. “Nothing is getting on the show that [Kris Jenner] doesn’t want,” said Moylan. But the “RHOBH” sister fight was nothing but authentic — the Richard sisters had too much to lose.
“There’s always that conversation: ‘Is this scripted? Is this real?’” said Moylan. “When you get a moment like that, there’s no way you can make that up. Tennessee Williams couldn’t write that speech in the back of the limo.”
Snooki gets punched in the face at a bar
Though Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi became the breakout star of “Jersey Shore,” most people forget that, originally, she wasn’t a welcome member of the familia.
Our favorite Meatball (sorry Deena) — a nickname coined by cast member Ronnie — at first came on too strong to her housemates in Seaside Heights. However, that all changed after a night on the town, when a bar-goer, Brad Ferro, punched Snooki in the face.
“[Snooki was] a little bit of an outsider,” Racquel Gates, Associate Professor of Cinema and Media Studies at the College of Staten Island, CUNY, who writes and teaches a course about reality TV, told The Post. “That’s the moment that locks her in and solidifies them as a family.” After the punch, the housemates banded together. “It essentially functions the same way for us as the viewers,” she added. “Now we’re locked in, because we’re protective of Snooki.”
Though the show was meant to be about funny “guidos,” the punch, “feels really pivotal in solidifying viewer empathy with the cast,” she said. “It’s like, these are our people.”
Brody Jenner and Kristin Cavallari say goodbye, revealing they were on a set the whole time
The series finale of “The Hills” ranks with “Lost” as one of the most controversial endings in TV history. From 2006 to 2010, fans wondered what aspects of the show were real and what were fake as Whitney Port, Lauren Conrad, Lo Bosworth, Heidi Montag and Kristin Cavallari tried to make it in LA.
Wrapping up the series, the producers leaned into the rumors that that rocked fans’ worlds.
“Kristin Cavalleri says goodbye to Brody [Jenner] in front of the Hollywood sign, and then the backdrop raises, and it reveals that they’re on a set,” said Gates, who appears in “For Real.” They even filmed an “alternate ending,” in which Jenner bids adieu to Conrad instead. “It’s bringing to the foreground all the viewer conversation that had been going on for so long about ‘Is this real?’ ‘Is this phony?’”
The professor called the moment “stunning,” adding that it’s really smart on the part of the show because they’re saying that they’re in on the joke… That if you’re speculating that we’re fake, you haven’t found out our secret.”
It’s like “Inception” for reality TV. The Hills finale “is revealing the show to be fake,” said Gates. “Even though I don’t think the show was totally fake.”
Keeping Up With The Kardashians
Kim Kardashian hits Khloé with her purse, Kris Jenner encourages Kim during a Playboy shoot
Furious with her sister, Khloé, Kim barges into an apartment to physically beat her with a purse.
“‘Don’t be f–king rude’ is part of American lexicon,” argued Smith. The family quickly learned to speak in catchphrases, such as “You’re doing amazing sweetie,” when Kris cheered on Kim during her Playboy shoot, or “This is a case for the FBI,” the time Kris learned someone was trying to sell nude photos of Kourtney taken when she was a teenager.
“Those moments have become cultural touchstones beyond the show, that people who have no awareness of what the show is, where the moment came from, these moments are still quoted, GIFed, memed, what have you,” added Smith.
Because of those one-liners, the show achieved longevity that early hits such as “Flavor of Love” didn’t — or couldn’t. Because of the “advent of social media,” the silly things that came out of the Kardashian clan’s mouths are immortalized in the way we speak, said Smith.
An alliance convinced Erik Reichenbach to give up his immunity idol during Tribal Council and voted him out
Name a cunning, manipulative reality TV star who is also considered a gay icon. No, it’s not Lisa Vanderpump. It’s Parvati Shallow from “Survivor: Micronesia” according to MEL Magazine staff writer Joseph Longo, who has spent the last year bingeing (and tweeting and writing about) episodes of the long-running CBS show. Longo isn’t alone: Comedian Matt Rogers also called Shallow a “gay icon” when speaking to Entertainment Weekly.
During 2008’s Season 16, commonly known as “Fans vs. Favorites,” Parvati, along with Amanda Kimmel, Natalie Bolton and Cirie Fields, devised an ingenious plan. “As four women, they are going to convince this single man to give up his immunity necklace and vote him out, which they successfully do,” said Longo.
Though the manipulative move speaks to the minds of all the contestants, Longo has a passion for Parvati, who would go on to win the season. “She’s like that Erika [Girardi] ‘Housewives’ quote, ‘I’m going to give the gays everything they want,’” he said. “She is sort of this vixen character, is a huge flirt and uses it knowingly, and is so flawless in it. Parvati just knows herself so well and [does] not apologize for who she is and being a woman, and being athletic too. She’s a triple threat.”
Mama June: From Hot to Not
June Shannon refuses an intervention from her family and Honey Boo Boo takes the stage again
June Shannon, otherwise known as Mama June, otherwise known as the mom of Alana “Honey Boo Boo” Thompson, has made her way around the reality TV circuit. After her go-go juice-guzzling daughter made waves on TLC’s “Toddlers & Tiaras,” the family got several spinoffs. One called “Mama June: From Not to Hot” was mostly focused on Shannon’s weight loss journey and their eccentric family. That changed during Season 3, said Lauren Lazin, executive producer of “Mama June” and “For Real.”
“She had a drug addiction and never turned the cameras off,” Lazin told The Post. “The family had an intervention that went awry. She was not responsive to it, she left [and] a few weeks later she and her boyfriend Geno got arrested.” Though it was a “dark turn” for the series, “that’s when she became incredibly relatable, because so many families are dealing with drug addiction,” said Lazin. “It was riveting and real.”
The season also marked a full circle moment for Thompson, now 15. Returning to her “Tiaras” roots, the pageant queen appeared on “Dancing with the Stars: Juniors.”
“She just took over and owned the stage,” said the EP. “She had really honed her skills as a reality star that she just made such engaging television.”
If you or someone you know is affected by any of the issues raised in this story, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or text Crisis Text Line at 741741.