The Virgin debuts today.

The Virgin debuts today.
Twenty men meet a 26-year-old virgin and compete for her affections–and her virginity–on the new reality series The Virgin, which debuts today. Except it’s not on TV: “The Virgin” is a new novel by Erik Barmack, with lots of words and no pictures. Despite its remarkable similarities to the reality of unscripted TV, and to another reality show debuting this week (The Bachelorette, ahem), The Virgin is a work of fiction. Still, Erik Barmack‘s debut knows reality TV well, and takes us behind the scenes into a world where producers pick the clothes for the cast and conduct heavy-handed OTFs (“on the fly” interviews) during which the cast must speak in the “Precious Present” tense. Producers rename cast members and the executive producer even threatens the cast: “If you line-cross [by talking to the crew], I’ll mess with your story line. In other words, I’ll make you look like an asshole.”

The story is narrated by one of the virgin’s suitors, a man (Joseph Erin Braun) who decides, with the help of a friend, to construct an identity (“Jeb Brown”) solely for the show. It’s an intriguing set-up that becomes more complex once he meets the mysterious Virgin herself. In addition to the engaging story, Barmack gives us an examination of masculinity, identity, and celebrity. Most of all, though, despite its satirical bent and over-the-top caricatures, “The Virgin” is a work that gives us a fully formed perspective about the creation of reality television that we’ve not yet seen. This first-hand account of living in a house with strangers and cameras everywhere lets us experience reality TV from the inside. Even if it is fiction, it’s definitely pulled from reality, sort of like reality TV itself.
+ also: Read the first chapter.

The Sing-Off loses its star

Ben Folds

NBC's super-fun December a capella singing competition The Sing-Off is returning, but without its star judge, Ben Folds, and only as a two-hour special. Those are really depressing changes for a series that proved itself to be a super-fun show when it returned last December.


A film director talks about becoming a reality TV character

Anna Martemucci

What is it like to have your life turned into reality TV? Director Anna Martemucci, one of the two directors featured on Starz' exceptional reality series, talks about that, the competition, and her collaboration with her husband and brother-in-law.

Plus: How the show's producers tried to keep the $250,000 competition fair.

about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.