Real People

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Real People
Real People cast.jpg
Cast photo from left to right: Bill Rafferty (Bottom Left), John Barbour (Top Left), Sarah Purcell (Middle), Skip Stephenson (Top Middle) and Byron Allen (Top Right)
Directed byDave Caldwell
Narrated byJack Harrell
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons5
Executive producer(s)George Schlatter
  • Bob Wynn
  • John Barbour
Production company(s)
  • George Schlatter Productions
  • NBC
DistributorTelepictures Corporation
SFM Entertainment
Original networkNBC
Original releaseApril 18, 1979 (1979-04-18) – July 4, 1984 (1984-07-04)

Real People was an NBC reality television series that aired Wednesdays at 8:00-9:00 on NBC from 1979 to 1984. Its initial episodes aired live in the Eastern and Central Time Zones.[1] Real people featured "real people" (as opposed to celebrities) 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 in by viewers, who were awarded a Real People T-shirt. According to a 2008 interview with producer George Schlatter,[where?] who also co-created Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In for NBC, the series also covered serious topics, such as war heroes.

Regular hosts included John Barbour, Sarah Purcell, Byron Allen, Skip Stephenson, Bill Rafferty, Mark Russell, Peter Billingsley, 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 such unique talents as Pittsburgh Police traffic cop Vic Cianca.[2]

When repeats of the show were initially 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. The former, Speak Up, America, starred former child televangelist Marjoe Gortner and basically expanded the opening segment of Real People (in which audience members were encouraged to sound off about any topics they wished) into a full hour program. The latter, 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.[3]

A one-hour retrospective special aired on September 16, 1991 with hosts Sarah Purcell and Fred Willard.


Season Rank Rating[4]
1978–79 N/A N/A
1979–80 14 22.1 (Tied with House Calls)
1980–81 12 21.5
1981–82 21 19.7
1982–83 30 17.2 (Tied with The Dukes of Hazzard)
1983–84 N/A N/A


  1. ^ "TV Playbook: Let's Add a Kid!". IGN. Retrieved 2010-08-15.
  2. ^ [1][dead link]
  3. ^ "George Schlatter Biography - Yahoo! Movies". Archived from the original on 2012-10-16. Retrieved 2012-12-24.
  4. ^ Brooks, Tim; Marsh, Earle (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946-Present (Ninth Edition). Ballantine Books. p. 1689-1690. ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4.

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