The List July/August 2005

Local Realities

This past spring Fox Cable Networks announced the debut of Fox Reality—a television network with a mission to provide reality programming twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, to more than six million American homes. Fox Reality is no pioneer: it is the third all-reality channel either in the works or already available in the United States, following Reality 24-7 and Reality TV.

But reality TV, of course, is not an exclusively American phenomenon. India and other parts of Asia have had 24/7 access to it since 2003, and homegrown reality shows—often distinctly local in flavor—have become popular around the world. Here are five recent shows.

1. Human Resources (Argentina): Two unemployed contestants compete in a series of interviews and tests before facing the viewers, who choose between them. The winner receives a blue-collar job; the runner-up gets six months of health insurance.

2. Terrorism in the Grip of Justice (Iraq): Imprisoned terrorist suspects confess to the camera, discuss their motives (usually financial), and sometimes face the families of their victims. The show airs six nights a week on a state-run network.

3. Sperm Race (Germany): Samples of the contestants' frozen sperm are sent to a studio in Cologne, where they are placed in a petri dish and raced toward an egg. The winner receives a red Porsche and the title "Germany's Most Virile Man." "Sperm Race is serious," Boris Brandt, the show's producer, told a German newspaper. "Fertility is a big thing in Germany."

4. The Ambassador (Israel): Fourteen young Israelis compete to bolster Israel's international image. Challenges include defending Israel at Cambridge University and selling Israeli vacation packages in Paris. The last attaché standing receives a one-year job as a spokesperson for Israel with a PR firm in New York.

5. Spets (Russia): Produced by the real-life mobster Vitali "Spets" Dyomochka, who was irked by TV depictions of organized crime in Russia, the seven-part series portrays mafia life in Ussurisk, a city near Vladivostok. The gangsters play themselves.

Presented by

Abigail Cutler is a staff editor at The Atlantic.

 Marshall Poe is a writer and historian. He is the editor in chief of the New Books Network.

Never Tell People How Old They Look

Age discrimination affects us all. Who cares about youth? James Hamblin turns to his colleague Jeffrey Goldberg for advice.

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Never Tell People How Old They Look

Age discrimination affects us all. James Hamblin turns to a colleague for advice.

Video

Would You Live in a Treehouse?

A treehouse can be an ideal office space, vacation rental, and way of reconnecting with your youth.

Video

Pittsburgh: 'Better Than You Thought'

How Steel City became a bikeable, walkable paradise

Video

A Four-Dimensional Tour of Boston

In this groundbreaking video, time moves at multiple speeds within a single frame.

Video

Who Made Pop Music So Repetitive? You Did.

If pop music is too homogenous, that's because listeners want it that way.

More in Entertainment

More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In