Each week I hear several of my colleagues discussing the previous night’s episode of “American Idol”, guessing who will be next to be eliminated and casting their votes for the next Idol.

Many people don’t know it, but reality television has been around since the 1970’s when the Loud Family allowed television crews into their homes to document their lives for a documentary/reality show called “An American Family”. Since then MTV’s “Real World” and a plethora of other reality television shows have saturated the airwaves turning everyday individuals into award winning musicians, celebrity chefs, corporate executives and super models.

Reality television has become such an ingrained part of our culture that many people take it for granted and don’t even realize its influence. Reality television has spawned a veritable cottage industry of “reality show experts” who offer their services to the networks and production companies as they film these shows.

Reality shows have become so popular they are now a Billion dollar industry. Many reality shows are scripted, but they are so well written it is difficult for the viewer to detect the deception. In many cases the shows are too realistic and leave the audience with a nagging feeling of unease. The constant over-emphasizing of certain words and actions (like “the way he says it is just like he really means it”) causes many people to question whether or not what they are watching is actually “real life”.

Reality television made its way into the wine industry with PBS’ “The Wine Makers” debuting in 2009 . Twelve persons were selected from a pool of 500 candidates across the nation to compete for the prize – the opportunity to create their own wine label. Candidates included an attorney from New York, a Master Gardener from Colorado, and two brothers from Napa, California among others.

Although none of the candidates had any professional winemaking experience, they participated in activities ranging from viticulture to enology to sales and marketing, as they sell 5,000 cases of their own wine.

The show was a hit, it was followed with a second season in 2010/2011. It has been a learning experience for all involved. “It’s opened my eyes to how complex wine really is,” say the show’s contestants. “I think it’s helped the public have a better understanding of the process that goes into making wine.”