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Shirtless Machiavellian men determined to win at all costs. Giggling girls transformed into sobbing wrecks in the back of limousines. Pillbox hat-wearing fashionistas creating dresses out of leaves and twigs. Say what you will about reality television – the form of entertainment that’s dominated our small screens for the past decade – but there’s no denying the fact that it gives us characters that make the fictional ones we follow seem downright dull. Ridiculous challenges, hair-pulling catfights and hot tub make-outs dripping with the kind of regret that a viewer but not a participant can see are only part of what makes reality TV addictive for anyone interested in pop culture, people, or life. In this collection of wry and moving essays – curated by novelist and media watcher Anna David – a cast of leading young writers explores the programs we obsess over, cringe at and occasionally feel inspired by. From a Real World casting call and American Idol tattoo to an in-depth analysis of what makes one woman a “Heidi” and another a “Lauren,” a slew of best-selling authors dish on the shows that have left them speechless, triumphant, or both.

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