March 11, 2005

Nightline Tonight

David Letterman is in reruns tonight so you have no excuse for not watching Nightline tonight. Without much fanfare, Friday nights on Nightline have become a pop culture treasure trove. Here's what's on tap for tonight, as cribbed from the show's email announcement:

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The Lost World: Mitchell and Kenyon
March 11, 2005

Reality television is all the rage these days -- the newest fad. Why are we so fascinated by watching other "real" people go about their "real" lives? As you'll see tonight, reality TV is not a new phenomenon. And its pioneers were not Mark Burnett, Donald Trump or anyone at MTV.

Instead, a few of the pioneers of reality TV were two British guys ... born in the 19th century: Sagar Mitchell and James Kenyon.

Never heard of them?

OK, I hadn't either. But as you'll learn tonight, they were among the first to introduce an entertainment business model that today reaps billions.

In 1994, an amateur film historian named Peter Worden discovered more than 800 rolls of film in the basement of an empty workshop, which he quickly realized were from another world - -a 100-year-old world -- Edwardian England. With help from the British Film Institute, the films were eventually restored. And for the first time, through the fog of decades, we are able to see with astounding clarity what life was like at the turn of the 19th century.

It was the birth of leisure time for the middle class in England; and Mitchell and Kenyon filmed everyday people going about their daily lives. You will see workers emerging from factory gates, electric trams, street parades, horse-drawn carriages, seaside holidays, and some of the first professional sports games caught on film -- including a match between the famed Manchester United and Burnley football clubs.

You will also see people looking strangely at the camera's eye, stopping and staring as they gaze, perhaps for the first time, at a camera. Their fascination proved profitable for Mitchell and Kenyon, who would screen their "actualities" in tents and civic halls, where people were enticed to, "Come and see yourself as others see you."
But Mitchell and Kenyon weren't limited to reality television. Already nostalgic for "NYPD Blue"? Tune in for a look at one of the first police dramas on film.

It's probably the closest you'll get to time travel on a Friday night.

We hope you'll join us.

Hillary Profita & the "Nightline" Staff
ABC News Washington Bureau