Real People

Real People is an American reality television series that originally aired on NBC from 1979 to 1984, Wednesdays from 8 pm to 9 pm Eastern time. Its initial episodes aired live in the Eastern and Central time zones. Real People featured "real people" with unique occupations or hobbies.


Real People featured a panel of seated hosts in front of a large studio audience. The hosts introduced pre-filmed segments and engaged in comedic banter about them. Each segment was a visit to someone with a unique occupation or hobby. Occasionally, someone was brought into the studio to interact with the audience.
In its early seasons, Real People was NBC's most popular series, often scoring at the top of the ratings, and was a rare hit for the network at a time when NBC was a distant third in the ratings and struggling with numerous flops. Segments included "funny pictures" and funny newspaper errors sent by viewers, who then were awarded a Real People T-shirt.
Regular hosts included John Barbour, Sarah Purcell, Byron Allen, Skip Stephenson, Bill Rafferty, Mark Russell, Peter Billingsley, David Ruprecht, and Fred Willard.
The success of Real People led to a batch of imitators, the best known and longest-running of which was That's Incredible! which aired on ABC, and That's My Line on CBS, hosted by Bob Barker. Real People gave fitness instructor Richard Simmons his major break into the mass media and spotlighted unique talents such as Pittsburgh Police traffic cop Vic Cianca.
When repeats of the show initially were syndicated by Telepictures to broadcast stations, it was edited into 30-minute segments and retitled More Real People.
In 1980, NBC launched two attempts at spin-offs: Speak Up, America and Real Kids. Speak Up, America starred former child televangelist Marjoe Gortner and basically expanded the opening segment of Real People into a full hour program. Real Kids starred Peter Billingsley and a cast of child hosts in a format that mirrored Real People, but focused only on kids. Both spin-off formats quickly failed, though Billingsley went on to join Real People as a recurring host / contributor.
A one-hour retrospective special aired on October 1, 1991 with hosts Sarah Purcell and Fred Willard.


Popular culture

The show was spoofed on Sesame Street with "Real Grouches", hosted by Oscar the Grouch who described his show as a program that "searches the world for interesting real-life Grouches and brings them right into your living room." Oscar's guests were Romeo Scuggs from Gila Monster, New Mexico; Luba Merquick from Slime Bottom, Arkansas; and "Bob the Blob". While the previous guests played terrible music, the Blob plays "yucky sweet flute music", and it is revealed that it was Bob McGrath disguised as a Grouch.
A 1980 Saturday Night Live episode spoofed the show, alongside contemporary hit That's Incredible!, in a sketch called "Real Incredible People", in which the hosts were astounded by relatively mundane individuals such as a woman who reads before going to bed and a man who eats raw fish.