14 episodes

Reality TV is dismissed as guilty pleasure, low brow... even trash. But whether you want to admit it or not, you probably have heard of Snooki, Lisa Vanderpump or Kim Kardashian. Over the past 30 years, reality TV has become a place to see the social and political moment play out in real time -- from racial tensions on The Real World New York to gender dynamics on The Bachelor. On this season, join host Mariah Smith as she dissects the history of the genre one show at a time, revealing how it's shaped our culture and how our culture shaped it.

Spectacle: An Unscripted History of Reality TV Neon Hum Media

    • Society & Culture
    • 4.7 • 318 Ratings

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Requires subscription and macOS 11.4 or higher

Reality TV is dismissed as guilty pleasure, low brow... even trash. But whether you want to admit it or not, you probably have heard of Snooki, Lisa Vanderpump or Kim Kardashian. Over the past 30 years, reality TV has become a place to see the social and political moment play out in real time -- from racial tensions on The Real World New York to gender dynamics on The Bachelor. On this season, join host Mariah Smith as she dissects the history of the genre one show at a time, revealing how it's shaped our culture and how our culture shaped it.

Listen on Apple Podcasts
Requires subscription and macOS 11.4 or higher

    Coming soon, Spectacle: Las Vegas

    Coming soon, Spectacle: Las Vegas

    It's a city that has defined popular culture. An oasis in the desert, a mirage — it’s a city of buzzing neon, world-class performers, and fortunes made and lost. A city that invites you to explore your deepest desires: a playground for adults replete with casinos, showgirls, and all-you-can-eat buffets. But how did Vegas become “Sin City”? A place that promotes a fantasy of adult freedoms: a vacation from boundaries, rules, accountability? A place where people from all over the world visit to be their wildest, most uninhibited selves, even if it’s just for just a couple nights? We’re going to dive deep into all things Las Vegas. From the genesis of shotgun weddings, to film portrayals of the mob-era, to the social engineering behind mega-casinos...this is Spectacle Season 2: Las Vegas, what Sin City tells us about American culture. 
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 2 min
    Introducing: The Sellout

    Introducing: The Sellout

    From Neon Hum Media and L.A. Taco, this is Smoke Screen: The Sellout, a podcast about a politician dogged by allegations of corruption, harassment and pathological pettiness. It’s about the residents who fought gentrification even as their neighborhoods were auctioned off to the highest bidder. And it’s about a community that feels the pain of betrayal – from one of their own.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 8 min
    Introducing: I Am Rama

    Introducing: I Am Rama

    Rama was a spiritual teacher in the 80s and 90s who inspired many of his students while helming what many of his detractors would describe as a cult. He defied society’s archetypal vision of a New Age leader, eschewing minimalism for wealth and celebrity. He was also a man ahead of his time, encouraging his students to develop careers in computer science before that was mainstream.

    For some, following Rama's lead worked out spiritually, and financially too. But for others, Rama's actions contradicted his cool persona; some eventually came forward with accusations of abuse, others vanished, whistleblowers went to the media, and the group began to shrink and splinter.



    In this 10-part investigative series, Jonathan Hirsch explores the life, death and impact of Rama. "I Am Rama" drops June 22.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 5 min
    E10: The Circle & the future of reality TV

    E10: The Circle & the future of reality TV

    In 2021, it’s not enough to just become famous. To really capitalize on your 15 minutes, you need to tell a story and be authentic. The Circle perfectly captures this shift. It’s like the Real World but ...dystopian? Host Mariah Smith talks to S1 US cast member Chris Sapphire and journalist Etan Smallman about how the show demonstrates we can form real connections -- even through a screen. She also brings back scholar Racquel Gates and her producer Joanna Clay to discuss where reality TV is headed.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 37 min
    E9: The subversive sweetness of the Great British Baking Show

    E9: The subversive sweetness of the Great British Baking Show

    All the winner of the Great British Baking Show gets is a cake stand. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t a nail biter. In fact, we argue it’s one of the most anxiety-producing shows on TV and that it subverts the competition show paradigm. The Great British Baking Show doesn't need villains, a cash prize or crazy stakes. It's ...nice? Host Mariah Smith talks to 2019 winner David Atherton, journalist Scott Bryan and scholar Elizabeth Nathanson about how kinder, more earnest television can be just as captivating as its cutthroat counterparts.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 32 min
    E8: 90 Day Fiance, the delusion of love

    E8: 90 Day Fiance, the delusion of love

    90 Day Fiancé is the trainwreck TV show we can’t stop watching. The secret sauce could be the romance. The tricky tropes. The desperation. I think it's desperation, actually. In this episode, we’re going to get into why 90 Days is so compelling as a social experiment. What do these chaotic relationships teach us? And what does the backdrop of the K1 visa process say about the immigrant stories we tell? Join host Mariah Smith as she dissects the franchise with comedians Marcy Jarreau and Nicole Byer and journalists Alexis Soloski and Shamira Ibrahim.
    Learn more about your ad choices. Visit megaphone.fm/adchoices

    • 47 min

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
318 Ratings

318 Ratings

I watch too many movies ,

I want more!!!

I love Mariah! I loved her exploration! I’d love her to do more, maybe more reality game shows like America’s Next Too Model and Drag Race (pleaseeee do Drag Race). Also, I wish the episodes were longer because the context is so fascinating and how it is related to American culture as a whole.

Goosemmmm ,

Needs a better description

It’s a shame the pod asters chose to emphasize race above most other social dynamics inherent in reality TV. Race in reality tv is a huge issue and worthy of its own podcast. But this was not billed as such a study. One example: talking about how the (well, 2) White tribe members on Survivor went back to the White tribe when given the chance. Would this season’s Black cast members be similarly criticized for forming an alliance based solely on their race? Additionally, it belies a lack of understanding of the show to simplify the White members’ decision. Alliances are formed every season based almost solely on how a contestant can get further in the game. Are there inherent biases that mimic real life? Absolutely. But that’s one part of the analysis, not the amount spotlighted on this show. The host never delved into the fact that alliances weren’t initially baked into the game (I believe there weren’t even 2 tribes); it was something that formed organically, on which the show and future contestants capitalized. This speaks to the tribalism and survival instincts within us all, having nothing to do with race, which would have been fascinating to explore but was ignored in favor of calling out two (out of many other) White cast mates who may have made a decision that, conscious or not, factored in race. We don’t know that for sure, but the host’s bias sure presented it as fact. She should do a podcast devoted solely to this topic and/or be clearer about the focus of this one.

meeshism ,

Love!

Loved this series, would love to hear more… maybe Wife Swap?!?

Top Podcasts In Society & Culture

Serial Productions & The New York Times
Apple TV+ / AT WILL MEDIA
Adam Thorne
Pushkin Industries
This American Life
Glennon Doyle & Cadence13

You Might Also Like

Sarah Marshall
Aubrey Gordon & Michael Hobbes
Wondery
Pineapple Street Studios / Gimlet
Slate Podcasts
Slate Podcasts