In recent years, reality-based programming has become one of television’s most popular and influential genres. But while the term “reality show” may be relatively new, unscripted programming isn’t. TV’s first decades were dominated by amateur talent competitions, high-concept game shows, and documentary programs featuring non-actors. PBS even dipped its toe into the proto-reality genre in the 1970s with An American Family, a mash-up of cinema verité and soap opera.
If they made an all-star team of actors from television’s first 75 years, William Shatner would be its captain. From his humble beginnings in live TV, to unforgettable roles on The Twilight Zone, to his career-defining performance as Captain James T. Kirk, to his current role as nerd culture’s elder statesman, Shatner has been an icon for more than 50 Earth years.