A camera up on a wall recording what is happening in the room

Fly on the wall is a style of documentary-making used in film and television production. The name derived from the idea that events are seen candidly, as a fly on a wall might see them. In the purest form of fly-on-the-wall documentary-making, the camera crew works as unobtrusively as possible; however, it is also common for participants to be interviewed, often by an off-camera voice.[1]

Decades before structured reality shows became popular, the BBC had broadcast fly-on-the-wall film Royal Family (a 1969 documentary produced in association with ITV),[2][3][4] while 1974's The Family, is said to be the earliest example of a reality TV docusoap on the BBC.[5][6][7][8] In the late 1990s, Chris Terrill's docusoap series The Cruise[9][10][11] made a star of singer[12] and TV personality Jane McDonald,[13][14][15] while Welsh cleaner Maureen Rees[16] became popular after her appearances on BBC One's[17] Driving School.[18]

Other British examples include Dynamo: Magician Impossible and Channel 4's Educating... series, while in the United States popular examples include American Factory, Cops, Deadliest Catch, Big Brother and Weiner, a film about a political sex scandal which developed during a mayoral election in New York.[19]

See also


  1. ^ "BFI Screenonline: 'Fly on the Wall' TV".
  2. ^ "'Royal Family': the fly-on-the-wall documentary the Palace doesn't want you to see". HistoryExtra.
  3. ^ "Royal family documentary 'banned' by the Queen resurfaces online 50 years later". Stuff. January 29, 2021.
  4. ^ Shaw, Neil (January 29, 2021). "Banned Royal family documentary from 1969 resurfaces on Youtube".
  5. ^ "BBC - History of the BBC, April 1974 - The Family - the first 'fly-on-the-wall' documentary". BBC.
  6. ^ "The Family first episode". bbc.com.
  7. ^ Miller, Laura (August 18, 2008). "The family says goodbye".
  8. ^ "The Wilkinses of Reading: Where Are They Now?". The Independent. October 23, 2011.
  9. ^ "The Cruise" – via www.bbc.co.uk.
  10. ^ "BBC One - The Cruise, Let the Dream Begin". BBC.
  11. ^ "BBC One - The Cruise". BBC.
  12. ^ "Jane McDonald | Biography & History". AllMusic.
  13. ^ "Jane McDonald | full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company". www.officialcharts.com.
  14. ^ "New series of Cruising with Jane McDonald to start this Friday | GoCruise & Travel Franchise". www.joingocruiseandtravel.co.uk.
  15. ^ "Biography".
  16. ^ Owens, David (December 23, 2018). "In search of Mo from Driving School". WalesOnline.
  17. ^ "Driving School". bbc.com.
  18. ^ "MAUREEN REES | full Official Chart History | Official Charts Company". Official Charts.
  19. ^ Barnes, Henry (30 June 2016). "Weiner – how a film about a political sex scandal suddenly got more intimate | Weiner | The Guardian". The Guardian.