Reality TV - English and Media Centre

January 6, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: Arts & Humanities, Performing Arts, Drama
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What is Reality TV?

Cartoon © Benrik Pitch

Some Definitions Reality television is... 

 

a genre of television programming that presents purportedly unscripted dramatic or humorous situations, documents actual events, and usually features ordinary people instead of professional actors. (Wikipedia, a catch-all category that includes a wide range of television programmes about real people. Sometimes called popular factual television, reality TV is located in border territories, between information and entertainment, documentary and drama. (Annette Hill, Reality TV, 2005) programming that is unscripted and follows actual ‘real life’ events as they unfold, usually involving members of the public or groups of celebrities. ( the television genre where situations are created by the show’s producers, but the show itself is unscripted. Cameras capture the participants’ natural reactions and responses to the situations created, which are then edited as a programme or series. (Product Placement Glossary,

© English and Media Centre


The Infotainment Show 

The oldest variation: classic shows that combine public information messages to the public on crime, health, etc with real life experts and examples, and reconstructions of events or issues. Usually use on-camera presenter, celeb or specialist for added authority.

999: tips to the public about how to save lives, alongside reconstructions of crises where people are saved by the emergency services. Click for 999

Crimewatch: reconstructions of crimes with particular instructional message to the public, to get involved and try to support police in reporting and solving crime.

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The Docusoap a hybrid of observational documentary and soap opera 

Vets in Practice: narratives around vets, suffering pets, and their owners and the drama, highs and lows of the daily life of a veterinary practice.

Traffic Cops: motorway stories, seen from the point of view of the daily work of traffic police. Click for Traffic Cops

The Family: 28-camera set-up records the minutiae of everyday family life over 8 months. Massively edited into a highly constructed narrative. Series 1 observational with voiceover, focusing on small moments of family conflict set entirely within the home; Series 2 incorporates talking heads, interview and more continuing story strands, with external footage. Click for The Family (clip 1); Click for The Family (clip 2).

Added value for Broadcasters    

after initial set-up, relatively cheap to produce no costs for screenwriters, cast/talent, etc ongoing ready-made drama, with inbuilt storylines information content; opportunities for spin-off shows, viewer interaction, debate.

© English and Media Centre


The Lifestyle Programme 

Remodelling of homes, gardens, bodies etc for ‘ordinary’ people, e.g: Bargain Hunt, Cash in the Attic, 60-minute Makeover. Features include:  observational (usually) with expert gurus and a ‘journey’  a narrative consisting of a problem; a solution process; a final resolution  often, but not always, a final ‘transformation’ moment, or a surprise.

You Are What You Eat or Freaky Eaters, where experts try to make a life-changing difference for real people by encouraging us to eat healthier types of food, or overcome problems or fears: Click for Freaky Eaters

Gok’s Fashion Fix, Ten Years Younger, What Not to Wear where real people with problems of body image, style or confidence are exposed onscreen, remodelled by experts, re-invented as better people, and ‘premiered’ to the world.

Added value for the Broadcasters   

websites with merchandising and marketing opportunities (recruits ads) opportunities for spin-off shows, return visits to the participants, etc. feel-good programming, sometimes with educational input.

© English and Media Centre


The Social Experiment Show 

A ‘people experiment’ where a situation is set up and observed, e.g. Wife Swap – conflicting class values and life-styles within the home – exploring parenting, social relationships, domestic organisation, gender roles, work, etc. Click for Wife Swap

Blood Sweat and T-shirts – assumptions of affluent Western teens challenged through experience of harsh lives of other cultures. Click for Blood Sweat & T-Shirts

Secret Millionaire – a social experiment with positive outcomes.

Click for Secret

Millionaire 

The Choir – encouraging participation; teaching boys to enjoy singing; uniting divided communities; mending ‘Broken Britain’ through song.

Added value for the Broadcasters 

usually a worthwhile socially useful mission – good for the reputation of the producers/channel can be useful in promoting campaigns, charities, raising awareness of social issues can change the way people think and behave towards each other.

© English and Media Centre


The Reality Talent Show       

Competition – auditions, tension, conflict, skills development A format – recognisable, familiar, same but different Talent (or not) – entertainment and diversion – it’s fun! Celebrity judges, real-life personal stories or journeys Inclusiveness – anyone can enter A long-term process building to a mega-event A vote and a winner – resolution! (e.g. The X Factor, Britain’s Got Talent).

Added value for the Broadcasters     

long-running – occupies many hours of air-time, and builds to climax endlessly recyclable format, which can be copyrighted huge audiences, national profile, can generate massive tabloid promotion can use celebrity judges already associated with the broadcaster’s ‘brand’ generates a massive income for the channel via:  sponsorship from advertisers  revenue from voting process.

© English and Media Centre


The Reality Game Show 

Essentially a popularity contest set in a highly constructed experimental situation under 24-hour surveillance. Includes elements of many other reality genres, e.g.:     

tasks and challenges – create tension and entertainment personal confession – as in the Diary Room personalities selected for their ‘conflict potential’: heroes and villains suspense – evictions and a final resolution controversy – opportunities for discussion, water-cooler moments, press coverage e.g. Big Brother, I’m A Celebrity…

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Added value for the Broadcasters 

long-running – occupies many hours of air-time, and builds to climax endlessly recyclable format, which can be copyrighted and franchised globally huge audiences, national profile, can generate massive tabloid promotion generates a massive income for the channel via:  

sponsorship from advertisers revenue from voting process. © English and Media Centre


But … Where Would You Fit Shows Like These? 

Dating in the Dark: singletons meet, live together and date completely in the dark. Click for Dating in the Dark (Clip 1); Click for Dating in the Dark (Living)

The Missing Link: 8 humans meet 8 apes in the Ugandan jungle. Click for ‘Missing Link’ article

Someone’s Gotta Go: Workers at a failing recession-hit company decide who gets a pay rise, a pay cut, or the sack. Click for Somone’s Gotta Go link (Reuters)

Stars of Science: 16 contestants from across the Arab world develop new scientific innovations under constant surveillance, voted for by a jury. Click for Stars of Science article

© English and Media Centre


A Reality TV Time-Line blasts from the past

Reality Television is... 

A response to changes in technology and economic crisis in the world of broadcasting:   

 

the arrival of TV for mass audiences in the US – and then the UK lots of new programmes needed – and shows which involve the audience new lightweight cameras create new types of documentary: the ‘real people on TV’ show is born daytime TV launches in the UK – more programmes needed to fill the schedules! strikes and crises in the broadcasting industry lead to less drama, more ‘real people’ TV, from talk shows to docusoaps the digital revolution begins! new satellite, cable and digital channels arrive! the internet.

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1940s-1950s The early days 

The arrival of TV for mass audiences in the US leads the way. Lots of new programmes needed – and shows which involve the audience, e.g.:  

1948 – Candid Camera: the first ‘prank’ show Beat the Clock, Truth or Consequences: stunts and wacky tasks undertaken by ‘real people’ 1948 – the first US TV talent shows with audience voting – precursors of The X Factor etc 1950 – You Asked For It: hosted by Art Baker (ran till 1959, later revived): viewers sent in postcards describing a stunt that they wanted to see on television, e.g. the re-enactment of William Tell shooting an apple off his son’s head. Live broadcast, so risky! Precursor of Jim’ll Fix It? 1954 – Miss America Pageant televised – winner becomes a celeb Radio series Nightwatch recorded daily activities of California Police dept – paving the way for reality TV.

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1960s-1970s Getting Real 

New lightweight cameras create new types of documentary: the ‘real people on TV’ show is born 

1964 – Seven Up (Michael Apted, Granada TV): interviews with 12 ‘ordinary’ 7year-olds from a cross-section of society on their reactions to everyday life, with a new film of same individuals every 7 years (e.g. 21 Up). The ‘ordinary people’ become celebrities (often reluctantly). Click for 7-Up link

1973 – An American Family (PBS): 12-hour documentary series (edited from 300+ hours of footage) following a Californian family’s divorce. Gave rise to…

1974 – The Family (Paul Watson, BBC): fly-on-the-wall observational documentary following the working-class Wilkins family from Reading. The ‘heroine’, matriarch Margaret Wilkins, later seen as the first ‘reality’ star. Director Paul Watson is later appalled that his shows should be seen as the original docusoaps. The family continues to be a recurrent source of reality interest.

© English and Media Centre


1980s-1990s From Talk Show to Docusoap 

Daytime TV launches in the UK – more programmes! 

Strikes and crises in the broadcasting industry mean drama, more ‘real people’ TV, from talk shows based on the format of 1940s radio talk shows to docusoaps. The pioneer was The Oprah Winfrey Show, first transmitted 1986.

1992 – Sylvania Waters (Paul Watson, ABC): Australian docusoap. Tracking daily lives of nouveau riche family in affluent Sydney suburb, starring loud matriarch Noeline Donaher. Accused of anti-Australian bias and manipulation.

1992 – The Real World (MTV): America’s longest-running reality show. Remind you of anything? This is the true story... of seven strangers... picked to live in a together and have their lives taped... to find out what happens... when people stop being polite... and start getting real...

1993 – The Living Soap (BBC): 6 students shared a house in Manchester, under constant surveillance. Aired weekly, so audience response distorted the ‘authenticity’ of the experience. Highly controversial, dropped after 5 months.

© English and Media Centre


1990s The Docusoap Gets a Makeover 

The digital revolution begins! New satellite, cable and digital channels arrive!

More ‘real’ content needed. Internet expands the possibilities of interactivity, crossplatform promotion to ‘niche’ audiences, and opportunities to vote and comment.

1996 – Airport (BBC2): fly-on-wall docusoap based in Heathrow Airport, following lives of passengers and staff, making stars out of several. Ran to 10 series.

1996 – Changing Rooms: birth of lifestyle/makeover subgenre. Presenters are now national treasures and the programmes franchised and a global property.

1997 – Driving School (BBC1): made Maureen Rees, serial test-failer, a celeb.

1998 – World’s Wildest Police Videos: real police videos from across the world. Massively popular worldwide.

1999 – The 1900 House (C4): daily family life in historical context; Popstars launched in New Zealand – precursor of the Idol format.

© English and Media Centre


New Millennium, New Technologies, & Made-for-TV Talent Formats 

1997: John de Mol Produkties develops Big Brother in the Netherlands for Endemol. First UK tx 2000. Now franchised to 70 countries worldwide. The rest is history.

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