How might one best approach a persuasive paper on the topic of reality television's appeal to so many viewers?This has to be a Persuasive Report.
You could begin by tracing a short history of reality television. From there, you could look at the statistics showing the popularity and the ratings and the spin-off reality shows/competitions such as "Dancing with the Stars", "Design Star" and "Jersey Shore".
In terms of making this a persuasive paper, comparing it to addiction may not be successful. Perhaps your persuasive topic could be something along the lines of how reality television has transformed the world of television in terms of the drop in production of other shows, like sitcoms, dramas, etc.
It is noteworthy that some networks like USA have actually created a bit of a cult following with their off-season dramas such as "Suits" and "Covert Affairs". Some have speculated that the popularity of these programs is a backlash against the omnipresent reality type shows. This could be part of your thesis about the transformation of the television landscape.