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13 articles
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Leaving Reality

Life after The Real World.

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The First 48 Makes Millions Off Imprisoning Innocents

What happened when 21-year-old Taiwan Smart became the target of both police and a reality TV show.

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HD Immortality

A lifelong obsession with becoming a reality TV star takes its final turn.

"I have to hand it to this show’s producers. They have real balls to do something so big,so real. They got carnage right. Around me lie bits of charred metal, a hand, and two smoldering tray tables. The air smells like our kitchen Christmas Day but without the garlic.A gray haze hovers to the left, fed by smoke chimneys swirling from plane parts. Where are the other contestants? Where are the camera crews? Filming with hidden cameras is common, but this level of innovation in shooting unnerves me. Hey, the whole scenario unnerves me. Who wants to see a disembodied hand on a scrubby dune? I knew to be ready for challenges and twists and drama whether the show was about fashion or losing weight, but tragedy is new for me–an aspect of reality I haven’t studied."

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The Perfect Level of Fame

A day at the mall with the cast of Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.

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Leaving Reality

Life after a stint on The Real World.

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Ink, Inc.

How reality TV has changed tattooing.

Tattoos and tattoo artists have an undeniable power to attract, repulse, and intimidate. But when confronted with all this life and color, reality TV steamrolls it into the familiar “drama” of preening divas and wounded pride. “Everybody thinks they’re gonna change it,” said Anna Paige, an artist who said she’d turned down her chance at TV stardom. “Everybody thinks they’re gonna have some power.” But wait, isn’t she profiting from tattooing’s mass appeal? “I would have made money anyway.”

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China TV Grows Racy, and Gets a Chaperon

On “If You Are the One”, the smash hit Chinese dating show that raised the ire of censors.

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The Curse of Reality TV

On the tortured afterlives of cast members.

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Meet the Original JWoww and Snooki, Would-Be Stars of Bridge & Tunnel

The failure of MTV’s Staten Island-based reality show and the fate of its cast members:

While Bridge & Tunnel hangs in programming purgatory, the DeBartolis are hamstrung by Draconian network contracts that reportedly don't allow them to have agents or managers or even talk about any of this publicly for five years. So while JWoww shills her own black bronzer line and Snooki slams into Italian police cars for $100,000 an episode, Gabriella and Brianna have been working respectively as a secretary and a pizza-order girl in Staten Island. The papers they signed as passports off Staten Island are effectively keeping them there.

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When Reality-TV Fame Runs Dry

Less than half a decade after The Hills brought them massive celebrity, Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt are broke and his living in his parent’s vacation house. Their onscreen relationship was mostly fake, but the reality, as their current situation attests, was far worse:

By the end of 2009 (and the show’s fifth season), their lives seemed insane. Instead of riding bikes, Spencer was holding guns. Heidi’s plastic surgeries gave her a distorted quality, but she vowed to have more. Spencer grew a thick beard, became obsessed with crystals, and was eventually told to leave the series. There were daily updates on gossip sites about them “living in squalor,” publicly feuding with their families, and attacking The Hills producers (or claiming The Hills producers attacked them). By the time they announced they were (fake) splitting, followed by Spencer threatening to release various sex tapes, and Heidi (fake) filing for divorce, it seemed like they had ventured into, at best,Joaquin Phoenix-like, life-as-performance-art notoriety and, at worst, truly bleakStar 80 territory that could end with one or both of them dead.

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The Celebrity Rehab of Dr. Drew

Dr. Drew has turned addiction television into a mini-empire, offering treatment and cameras to celebrities who have fallen far enough to take the bait.  His motivations, he insists, are pure:

Whether the doctor purposefully cultivates his celebrity stature for noble means or wittingly invites it because he himself likes being in the spotlight, he is operating on the assumption that his empathetic brand of TV will breed empathy instead of the more likely outcome, that it will just breed more TV.

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Hitting Bottom

Is Dr. Drew’s “Celebrity Rehab” therapy or tabloid voyeurism?