The Perils of Reality TV

Is the genre truly lethal for our culture—or just its stars?
8 stories

The apparent suicide of Russell Armstrong, the estranged husband of Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Taylor Armstrong, has once again called in question the negative impact of reality television.

The Daily Beast's Kate Aurthur investigates the Armstrong death just a few weeks after she had explored the decline of former Hills stars Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag in "When Reality-TV Fame Runs Dry."

It's a familiar lament. In 2009, Vanity Fair's James Wolcott begged for mercy in "I'm a Culture Critic...Get Me Out of Here!" And in "Hitting Bottom," Chris Norris questioned America's addiction to the genre in a profile of Celebrity Rehab's Dr. Drew Pinsky.

But not everyone is down on reality TV.

Jonathan Van Meter gave a spray-tanned smoosh to Snooki and The Situation in "The Lure of the Jersey Shore," and in "The Case for Reality TV," Atlantic columnist Michael Hirschorn explained the appeal of the genre to the culture snobs who just don't get it. Then again, he's also one of the most successful reality television producers.

From the Web

The Case for Reality TV

What the snobs don’t understand.

May 2007
From the Web

When Reality-TV Fame Runs Dry

Spencer Pratt and Heidi Montag made millions via MTV’s hit docusoap The Hills. But they admit to Kate Aurthur that they were wrong—being famous for nothing can’t last forever.
Jul 2011
From the Web

Hitting Bottom

Dr. Drew Pinsky uses TV’s most exploitative form (reality TV) to treat the most desperate people (addicts). Is this therapy or tabloid voyeurism?

From the Web

The Reality Principle

The rise and rise of a television genre.

May 2011
From the Web

Meet Dr. 90210 Surgeon to the Stars

With his own reality TV show, cosmetic surgeon Dr Robert Rey is fast becoming more famous than his clients. But is everything fantastic in his plastic world? Sanjiv Bhattacharya finds out …

Mar 2007

The Lure of the Jersey Shore

What has made America fall in love with the Côte Crass?

Jun 2010
From the Web

I’m a Culture Critic … Get Me out of Here!

Amid the smoldering wreckage of the popular culture, the author blames Reality TV, which has not only ruined network values, destroyed the classic documentary, and debased the art of bad acting, but also fomented class warfare, antisocial behavior, and murder.

Dec 2009
From the Web

Death of a *Real Housewives* Husband

Two weeks before the season-two premiere of Beverly Hills, Taylor Armstrong’s estranged husband, Russell, is dead in an apparent suicide. Kate Aurthur and Maria Elena Fernandez on the couple’s money woes and on-camera unraveling—and Bravo’s plans for the show.

Aug 2011