The story of a reality show contestant who suffered on live feeds and entertained millions

This American Life’s episode this weekend was about “Human Spectacle,” and although the intros drew connections to reality television, there was only one story about reality TV–and it was horrifying.

It’s the story of a comedian who starred in a 1998 Japanese reality show, Susunu! Denpa Shōnen, which left him alone in a room, naked and with no outside contact or supplies. He had to subsist only on what he won via sweepstakes, and couldn’t leave until he’d won about $10,000 worth of prizes. The show also broadcast a live feed to millions of viewers, edited to turn his suffering into hilarious comedy.

The year Nasubi spent doing that, which included eating dog food, pales in comparison to what producers did next. Listen to the story before reading on.

The incredible part was that he essentially admits he wasn’t trapped or held hostage; he could have left at any time and the door was unlocked. He also agreed to film what was basically a second season. On some level, at least at first, he allowed himself to be treated this way. Sadistic? Masochistic? Both? It’s a fascinating and horrifying story.

The story’s producer and narrator, Stephanie Foo, also talks to the show’s producer, who compares himself to a coach who pushed a player hard during practice, and talks about how the show revealed a lot about humanity. That may be true, but at what cost?

Surprisingly, man not eaten alive on Eaten Alive

Eaten Alive

Discovery Channel’s happy family holiday special Eaten Alive aired Sunday, rewarding viewers for their two full hours of viewing by ensuring that they spent quality time in the company of others instead of wasting that time doing something else that might not have been as satisfying, such as buying things that have labels which accurately reflect their contents.


Winter 2015 reality TV debut schedule

winter 2015 reality TV schedule

Mark your calendars with all these upcoming reality TV show debuts, including Celebrity Apprentice, The Bachelor, and another season of MasterChef Junior, all of which kick off in early January.

There are also 20+ shows debuting in December--including the one-off return of The Sing Off. No winter break for reality TV.

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.