History Slam Episode Thirty-Seven: Historical Figure Reality Shows

By Sean Graham

Love ’em or hate ’em, reality shows have fundamentally changed television over the past 20 years. Every night networks put on hours of reality programming that is inexpensive to produce and draws ratings (and advertising revenues). While some shows are based on competition, others simply follow ‘real’ people as they go about their daily lives. The (main) problem I have with this, however, is that there is no connection to the people on the show.

So that got us to thinking – what would make us care about reality shows? The answer – put on historical figures. Granted, actually doing such a thing would be extremely difficult given that most historical figures suffer from the unfortunate medical condition of being deceased. Despite this obstacle, we invited back popular History Slam regular Aaron Boyes and tried and put together some reality shows featuring historical figures that we would want to watch.

In addition to some shows that didn’t quite make the cut and one minor program, each of us ‘executive produced’ a season of popular reality programs (full casts are listed below). The rationale for our decisions can be heard on the podcast as well as our predictions of what would happen and who would win.

Let us know what you think would happen or if you have other ideas for historical figure reality shows.

Aaron’s Season of Survivor

Group 1                                                         Group 2

George Washington                                   Napoleon

John A. Macdonald                                   Rosa Parks

Nelson Mandela                                          Nellie McClung

Queen Victoria                                            Joan Of Arc

Vladimir Lenin                                            Mahatma Gandhi

Catherine the Great                                  Charles Darwin

Marie Curie                                                  William the Conqueror

Henry VIII                                                   Florence Nightingale

Sean’s Season of The Amazing Race

‘The Odd Couple’                                                                        ‘The Originators’

Torquemada & Theodore Herzl                                                 Adam & Eve

‘The Explorers’                                                                              ‘The Married Couple’

Ferdinand Magellan & Christopher Columbus                      Cleopatra & Mark Antony

‘The Redeem Team’                                                                   ‘The Bombshells’

R.B. Bennett & Herbert Hoover                                                   Marilyn Monroe & Mae West

‘The Mothers’                                                                                  ‘The Showstoppers’

Martha Washington & the Queen Mother                                George Burns and Gracie Allen

‘The Daredevils’                                                                              ‘The Iron Wills’

Amelia Earhart & Charles Lindbergh                                          Laura Second & Harriet Tubman


Sean Graham is a doctoral candidate at the University of Ottawa where he is currently working on a project that examines the early years of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He has previously studied at Nipissing University, the University of the West Indies, and the University of Regina and like any red-blooded Canadian his ultimate dream is to be a curling champion while living on a diet of beer and poutine.

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