ABC News ’20/20′ Investigates World of Reality Television on Special Edition, June 8

The phenomenon of reality television… We are amazed by its allure and longevity. As viewers, we cringe with embarrassment as people stumble through their lives in public… but we don’t look away. Why do so many tune in? And why do some reality shows thrive on their stars’ sometimes toxic behavior? “Reality Rule$: When TV Gets Real,” a special edition of “20/20″ anchored by Deborah Roberts, airs Wednesday, June 8 at 8:00pm ET on ABC. Reports include:

The New Reality: In 1998 there were zero hours of reality TV in network primetime. Today there are as many as 15 network hours a week, with dozens more on cable, all hitting top ratings week after week. What are the rules guiding this new reality world, and how did the success of reality on cable TV affect the change at the network level? Chris Connelly introduces viewers to four of the creators of today’s top shows: Sally Ann Salsano (“The Jersey Shore”), Andy Cohen (“The Real Housewives” franchise), JD Roth (“Biggest Loser” and the new ABC show, “Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition”) and Michael Hirschorn (“Celebrity Rehab”). “20/20″ also gets unprecedented access to the control room of “The Jersey Shore,” now on location in Florence, Italy.

The Real Housewives Phenomenon: Bravo’s “The Real Housewives” franchise has become a breakout hit and pop culture guilty pleasure. Deborah Roberts takes a look at this reality phenomenon and examines why things often turn so nasty. “20/20″ speaks to Bravo VP Andy Cohen, Kyle Richards of the Beverley Hills show and Caroline Manzo of the New Jersey show.

Big Breaks – Big Bucks: From Bethenny Frankel’s “Skinny Girl” margarita to Kim Kardashian’s perfume to Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino protein-infused vodka to Nicole “Snooki” Pollizzi’s novel, Chris Connelly reports on how some reality stars are using their 15-minutes-or-more in the spotlight to set up earning opportunities apart from their shows.

From C List to A List: How did a rock superstar from the ’80s become a reality TV superstar, capturing the country’s imagination and turning himself into a brand? Bret Michaels tells “Reality Rule$”: “Nothing has ever come easy. I’m a junkyard dog that has been kicked a bunch of times. And so it’s kept me with a bit of an edge. I’ve got this fire in my gut and this passion. And my whole life is about fighting to, to make that passion somehow — try to make it succeed.” Chris Connelly reports.

Real Talent: As Deborah Roberts reports, from runway divas to cake bosses, some reality shows do require talent to win, and then succeed. “20/20″ profiles “Project Runway’s” Christian Siriano and Buddy Valastro, star of the hit TLC show “Cake Boss.”

I Want to be a Reality Star: How does one become the next big reality star? The reality star’s fate is in the hands of the casting director. Deborah Roberts gets an exclusive behind-the-scenes peak at a casting call in LA for a new reality series.

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