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Other genres that predate the reality television boom have sometimes been retroactively grouped into reality TV, including hidden camera shows such as Candid Camera (1948), talent-search shows such as The Original Amateur Hour (1948), documentary series about ordinary people such as the Up Series (1964), high-concept game shows such as The Dating Game (1965), home improvement shows such as This Old House (1979), and court shows featuring real-life cases such as The People's Court (1981).Reality television has faced significant criticism since its rise in popularity.Queen for a Day (1945–1964) was an early example of reality-based television.The 1946 television game show Cash and Carry sometimes featured contestants performing stunts.Reality television as a whole has become a fixture of television programming.

In the United States, various channels have retooled themselves to focus on reality programs, most famously MTV, which began in 1981 as a music video pioneer, before switching to a nearly all-reality format in the early 2000s.There are grey areas around what is classified as reality television.Documentaries, television news, sports television, talk shows, and traditional game shows are not classified as reality television, even though they contain elements of the genre, such as unscripted situations and sometimes unknown participants.Debuting in 1948, Allen Funt's hidden camera show Candid Camera (based on his previous 1947 radio show, Candid Microphone) broadcast unsuspecting ordinary people reacting to pranks.In 1948, talent search shows Ted Mack's Original Amateur Hour and Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts featured amateur competitors and audience voting.Much of the criticism has centered on the use of the word "reality", and such shows' attempt to present themselves as a straightforward recounting of events that have occurred.