It's almost impossible to imagine now, but when the decade began, reality stars were still a novelty of sorts. Over the next ten years, however, the line between "real" and "reality" stardom became increasingly blurred.
Richard Hatch, 2000: Survivor was the network show that kicked off the reality craze, and Richard Hatch was both its first victor and first villain. Hatch was unlikeable, rude, and "not here to make friends," which made him an excellent prototype for the reality villains of the era. Hatch's life away from the show, including a conviction for tax evasion in 2006, also lent itself to the tabloids, creating a crossover of sorts for "ordinary people" from reality shows to have their dirty laundry aired just like the celebrities would, a trend that has only gotten stronger and more insane as the years have gone on.
O-Town, 2001: A manufactured pop group thrown together during the first season of MTV's Making The Band O-Town represented a growing trend in reality programming; the ability to make dreams come true through a recording contract (see also: Popstars, The X Factor, American Idol, Making The Band 2, 3, and 4). They had a hit with the now hilariously dated "Liquid Dreams" and faded away soon after. Band member Ashley Parker Angel later got his own "road back to stardom" type show on MTV, with similar results.
Howard K. Stern, 2002: One of many "celebreality" shows of the decade, the Anna Nicole Show was an attempt by Anna Nicole Smith to regain a bit of fame after her career dropped off in the late 90s. The show was an absolute trainwreck, and it was clear things would not end well. Stern, who was Smith's lawyer, always seemed to be lurking in the background, making decisions for the often-incoherent starlet and attempting to explain her erratic behavior. Smith died of a drug overdose in 2007, and Stern is currently on trial facing charges that he provided the drugs that led to her death.
Evan Marriott, 2003: The star of the wildly popular Joe Millionaire, Marriott played the role of a super rich guy looking for love, though the audience was well aware that Joe was anything but a millionaire. At the end of the show, the lucky winner had to figure out whether she really loved Joe or just his imaginary bank account. Did she stay for love? I honestly don't remember, but it doesn't matter now, as Marriott and Joe Millionaire are just a distant memory.
Laguna Beach, 2004-2006: The show that launched a thousand mascara tears, Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County premiered in 2004 and introduced us to the likes of Lauren Conrad and Kristen Cavallari, who went on to to star in a second MTV reality show, The Hills. As for the rest of the cast, I'm sure they're all doing well and cringing every time they hear their Hilary Duff penned theme song on the radio.
Flavor Of Love, 2006-2008: Vh1, tired of being the channel best known for playing videos your mom likes and handing out tidbits of pop information via bubbles placed in videos, decided to spent the better part of the decade dealing in the love lives washed-up celebrities. Flavor Flav had three seasons of Flavor of Love on the network, but it was the contestants, including Tiffany "New York" Pollard, who stole the show. Soon enough, Pollard was considered celebrity enough to receive her own dating "celebreality" show, I Love New York. VH1 has since become a hotbed of sorts of reality dating show "stars," giving them multiple opportunities to extend their 15 minutes via an endless array of spinoff shows.
Sanjaya Malakar, 2007: A contestant during the sixth season of American Idol Sanjaya's inexplicable longevity on the show became a gift for some and a curse for others. The split between Sanjaya's supporters and detractors only served to make him a bigger star...until the next season started. If there's any show where careers are made and destroyed as quickly as possible, it's American Idol. By the time the next group of wannabes comes around, the majority of "stars" from the past seasons are instantly forgotten.
The Kardashians, 2008 It's pretty much impossible to walk past a supermarket checkout without seeing one of the Kardashians on the cover of a tabloid mag. The family has been documenting their lives on screen since late 2007, and though Kim was the breakout star, sisters Khloe and Kourtney got their own show in 2009 and have since become her rivals for coverage with stories of their weddings and pregnancies and various other important life things. The Kardashians, like the Osbournes and Hogans before them, found a place in the county's weird obsession with watching famous families go through relatively scripted ordeals.
Jon Gosselin, 2009: And speaking of family television, here's Jon Gosselin. Ugh, I can barely write another word about Jon Gosselin. You know who he is, right? He's a father of eight who wears bejeweled tigers on the back of his jeans. Gosselin started out as one of the stars of a "nice" reality show, the type of "educational" programming based around big families, little people, and neighbors who swap houses for a fun day of remodeling. Yet by the time his show was over, he'd hit every "naughty" reality show cliche in the book, proving that it's not that hard to move from "beloved" reality star to "international jackass" when your life falls apart on camera.
Jersey Shore, 2010: Get used to these faces. After a decade of villains, heroes, messed up families, hair-pulling fights, rock stars dating on buses, people taking shits on carpets, "bad girls" screaming at each other, pop stars rising and falling, top models being born, and Idols being worshipped, this is the new face of reality television. Welcome to 2010. It's going to be a Bumpit ride.