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                                                             date: 16.1.06
                            That’s Entertainment
                         A Survey of British and American TV

                                  Jung & Dewhurst


               REALITY TELEVISON
What is reality TV?
   “it was first applied to news magazine programmes based round
    emergency service activities” (Jon Dovey. In: Creeber, TV Genre Book, 135)
   “‘Reality TV’ is now used as a genre description of any factual programme
    based on an aesthetic style of apparent ‘zero-degree realism’ – in other
    words a direct, unmediated account of events, often associated with the
    use of video and surveillance-imaging technologies.” (Jon Dovey. In: Creeber, TV
    Genre Book, 136-7)


Reality TV is a general term for any type of TV program that
focuses on real individuals and/or real situations.
The term has even been used to describe daytime talk shows,
docusoaps, re-enactments.

Characteristics of Reality TV
   unscripted
   ordinary people instead of professional actors
   depicts actual events (often live)
   often viewer/audience participation (i.e., voting)
   shares characteristics with other genres
       documentary techniques
       competition from game shows
       melodramatic features of soaps


Common Themes
   ordinary people in ordinary situations (An American Family)
   ordinary people in extraordinary situations (Survivor)
   extraordinary people in ordinary situations (The Osbournes)
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   extraordinary people in extraordinary situations (I’m a Celebrity, Get Me
    Out of Here!)

    Note: often ordinary people sometimes become celebrities after starring in
    a reality TV show (American Idol)

Reality TV exploded in the 2000s.
Many reality TV shows originated in Europe and then later spread
to the U.S.

Contribution to the Success of Reality TV in mid 2001
 contracts between studios, writers unions, actors unions were set to expire
 union strikes were expected
 networks looked for alternative programming to avoid possible problems
 never a shortage of “ordinary people” to fill reality TV shows
 no strikes ensued, but the reality shows remained


Producing Reality TV Shows
   Advantages
       less expensive than other types of shows
            cheaper sets
            volunteers not professional actors
       involves fewer people to produce

   Disadvantages
       not marketable a second time around
       often has repercussions on the real lives of the individuals


                                Docudramas or
                                Reenactments
What is a docudrama?
   a melodramatic recreation of a historical event or of a historical figure’s life
    (Himmelstein)
   “a combination of dramatic and documentary elements” (John Corner, In:
    Creeber. TV Genre Book)
   “reenactments allow actors and other masters of stagecraft to formulate a
    scene that approximated events from the past.” (Postman & Powers. How
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    to Watch TV News, 88)

Characteristics of Docudramas
Types of Docudramas
 biographical
       characters in the drama are based on real-life historical figures
   ‘novelized’
       based on historical events, but with invented characters
   How to analyze Docudramas
     questions of reference
            how the drama relates to the real world
       questions of depiction
            technical devices used to depict the event


                                   Early Docudramas
Crime Reenactments
   Unsolved Mysteries (1987) America’s Most Wanted (1987)
   techniques
       used surveillance equipment
       eye-witness testimony
       reenactments of crimes in a narrative style
       studio and commentary from professionals
       expert statements from emergency personnel, psychologists, policemen, etc.
   show often served a higher purpose than just entertainment
       how to avoid becoming a victim yourself, what to do in case of an emergency, how to
        help solve a crime


Criticism of Docudramas
   a distortion of reality
   audience confusion about what they are watching (Is it really
    happening?)
   documentary style and use of and TV reporters as hosts add to
    the confusion

"dramatic reconstruction has found its way into a variety of
 documentary formats in recent years, including the newer
                   'reality TV' shows."
                       (John Corner, In: Creeber. TV Genre Book, 33)
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EARLY REALITY TV
An American Family (PBS, 1973)
   television’s first reality show
   twelve episodes
   chronicled the daily life of the Loud family in CA
   parents were getting a divorce
   extremely successful show for PBS
   American Family Revisited (1983)
    Lance Loud: A Death in an American Family (2003)


Real People (NBC, 1978)
   real people shown to be funny, talented and entertaining
   interviewed individuals and reported about ordinary people in strange
    situations
     all-male swimsuit competition judged by women
   precursor for a series of “reality” shows including That’s Incredible and
    Those Amazing Animals


Types of Reality TV
   Documentary Style
   Historical Recreation
   Dating Shows
   Law Enforcement /Courtroom /Military
   Makeover
   Celebrity Shows
   Hidden Camera
   Game Shows
   Talent Shows

Documentary Style
   also called: cinema vérité, “fly on the wall”
   camera crews follow people around and record their daily
    interactions in the real world
   closest reflection of reality
   Examples: An American Family, Cops, The Real World (1992)
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Cops (FOX, 1989 – present)
   one of the longest-running television programs
   often considered the original reality television program
   camera crews film police officers and sheriff's deputies during patrols and
    other police work
   no reenactments, no narratives in the form of voiceovers, no professional
    actors
   set in 140 different US cities and in a few other international cities (Hong
    Kong, London)
   3 segments within a half hour episode

“Bad Boys”
Historical Recreation
   Frontier House
   (PBS, 2002)
       living like settlers on the American frontier of 1880s
    ColonialHouse
     (PBS, 2004)
       living in Colonial America in 1628




Dating and Relationship Shows
Early Dating Game Shows
   The Dating Game (ABC, 1965-73)
       created by Chuck Barris
       a bachelorette chose one of three men to go out with on a date
       sometimes bachelors chose a lady
       sometimes celebrities
   The Newlywed Game (ABC, 1966-74)
       Produced by Chuck Barris
       newly-married couples answered questions to find out how well they knew each
        other


Modern Dating Game Shows
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   The Bachelor (2002)
       young women compete for one eligible guy
       the bachelor proposes to the winner at the end of the season
       many sequels including The Bachelorette
   Temptation Island (Fox, 2000)
       four couples sent to a Caribbean beach resort
       26 attractive single men and women tried to break these four couples apart by
        leading them astray
       the couple that stayed together the longest won


Courtroom Reality TV
   The People’s Court (1981-93)
       real court cases on TV that were resolved in a ½ hour time slot (civil
        action suits)
       Judge Wapner decided the case
       game-show format
   justice becomes entertainment
   similar show: Judge Judy
                 (1996-present)

Makeover Reality TV
   Extreme Makeover (ABC, 2002)
       volunteers (men & women) receive an extensive makeover (e.g., plastic surgery,
        new haircuts and new wardrobes)
       at end of episode, subjects go back to families and friendsjust see the "finished
        product" at the end
   The Swan (FOX, 2004)
       average-looking women are given extreme makeovers (i.e., plastic surgery)
       a beauty pageant held at the end of the season


Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (Bravo, 2003)
   stars five openly gay men
   the “Fab Five” each one has a particular talent
       (food & wine, grooming, design, fashion, culture)
   they transform a straight man in each episode
   straight man is made over for an important event at the end

Celebrity Reality Shows
The Osbournes (2002)
The Simple Life (2003)
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Hidden Camera Reality Shows
   Candid Camera (1953)
       a hidden camera secretly recorded how people reacted to a staged situation
       usually embarrassing for the individual
   America’s Funniest Home Videos (ABC,1990)
       Bob Saget , the host, invited viewers to send in their funniest home videos
       game-show format
          studio audience voted on their favorite video
          the winners received $10,000
   Punk’d (MTV, 2003)
       a modern version of Candid Camera
       hosted by Ashton Kutcher


Reality Game Shows
   competitive like other game shows
   set in artificial living environment
   cameras filming 24 hours a day
   team work vs. competition
       contestants encouraged to work together as a team
       but they are all competing for same the prize
   plots are “constructed”
       edited or planned to create certain responses from the contestants and the viewer
   viewer can sometimes participate in the elimination process


Survivor (CBS, 2000-present)
   the highest rated summer series in TV history
   based on Swedish TV show called Expedition Robinson (1997)
   game show, adventure series, sports competition, soap opera all
    in one
   16 contestants sent to a remote location to compete for $1 million

Reality Talent Shows
   Star Search (1983-95)
       hosted by Ed McMahon
       a talent show that helped launch the careers of several current stars
          (e.g., Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Justin Timberlake)
   American Idol (2002)
       based on UK Pop Idol
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The Apprentice (NBC, 2004)
   originated in the United States, but has spread to many other countries
   hosted by Donald Trump
   game/talent show format
       contestants compete against each other
       they must complete a business-related task each episode
       the person who wins gets to work for Trump (a job contract for over $100,000)



Criticism of Reality TV
   Poor Taste (trashy)
       carried over from trashy daytime talk shows like Jerry Springer
       viewers are trained to expect absurd situations
       nothing seems to be taboo on reality TV
   humiliation for the purpose of entertainment
   situations have affected real life of participants even after the show ended

 “The Temptation Island setup seemed structured to take
real people who might have found their partner for life and
potentially ruin that real-life relationship, just for the sake of
             entertaining the viewing audience.”
                            (Castleman & Podrazik. Watching TV, 411)


                           How Real is Reality TV?
   producers have a say in the format & outcome of the show
   footage is edited
       situations portrayed more dramatically than they were in reality
       individuals portrayed as heroes or villains
   “ordinary people” are selected based on stereotypes
   setting & scenarios are designed to create certain behavioral responses
   settings are often far removed from real-life (e.g., Survivor, Temptation
    Island)

				
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