The clichéd sentiment to express is that "nothing could be less real than reality TV." ... it's situationally real. We all know the conditions on these shows are contrived, but we also know that the characters are not actors. They are people who are trying to "act" like themselves . . . which is something everyone does, pretty much all the time. That's basically what it means to be alive.
[Esquire, December 2004]
It's not an especially long article. You could probably read it inconspicuously at your friendly neighborhood newsstand or drugstore. The issue is their annual "best & brightest," which is usually pretty decent.
There's a longer essay about the topic of reality television and the effect of mass media on celebrity and fame in Harper's (which I bought only in a moment of airport terminal panic). The full text should be online (at findarticles) soon if you don't want to spend $6 (!) on the hard copy.