Reality Television

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Semester 1 – Level 5 – MFC5312 - Television Genres Essay - Deadline 7th December

Explore in detail the development of one television genre of your choice. In this essay I am going to explore the development of reality television and throughout this essay I will consider generic characteristics, the genres place in television schedules, the needs and expectations of audiences and also the future of the genre on television. ‘The word genre simply means order. As applied to artistic works, a genre is a type, class, or category of presentation that shares distinctive and easily identifiable features. Examples of genres include romances, science fiction, situation comedies, and news programming.’ (Art Silverblatt, 2007).  Reality TV is said to be a mix of apparently ‘raw’ and ‘authentic’ material which brings with it media hype from magazines and newspapers as well as an informational programme to the viewer. It combines commercial success of tabloid content within a public service mode of address. It has continued to engage its audience through the invention of new technological advancements, higher budgets, and huge media involvement. Reality TV shows use expensive venues, such as ‘The X Factor’s’ huge studio and ‘Big Brothers’ luxurious modern house fully equipped with a swimming pool and Jacuzzi. This is so that the narrative is continuously moving on to bigger and better things so that the audience don’t get bored with the same tedious routine which links with Steve Neale’s theory of the difference in repetition; things must continually change to keep the audience engaged. There is constant enigma codes running throughout the series to keep the audience engaged such as when will the next argument break out? What will the next task be? Who will be up for nomination? Surprisingly enough, reality TV is ‘cheap’ TV, with a small production company behind it. This is because of the static location; therefore no money has to be paid out for travel costs and multiple sets. Reality TV was first described as the particular genre of magazine-format programmes based on crime and accidents such as ‘Police, Camera, Action’ (ITV 1994-2002). However, the biggest controversy and audience figures came from ‘Big Brother’ which first aired on 18th July 2000. The show took on a voyeuristic approach, where people are placed into a house and an audience watches their every move. There were often close up shots of contestants so that the audience could read their body language which often brought connotations of tension in the house. Also many full screen shots were used to get a sense of claustrophobia as it showed the limited space the contestants had. As the programme gained in popularity, it had more money poured into the set allowing it to be more extravagant; enticing the audience as the show was ever more pleasing on the eye. Also, it meant that more and more people were hearing of the show and discussing it. This resulted in how Clay Calvert put it, ‘Discussion is replaced by watching. Indeed the flipside of the death of discourse is… the birth of voyeurism’ meaning the public felt they had to get involved and join in. De Fleur said ‘The mediated world is a world seen by some on behalf of others and it is therefore a constructed reality.’ Reality shows are artificial and constructed with ‘abstract socio-televisual discourse’. The location seems to be ‘real’ to the viewer but is in fact a constructed set. We also believe we are getting a fair portrayal of each person, however, the shows are very heavily mediated and we only see what the producers want us to see. The more extreme the contestants; the more people want to watch, though they know they shouldn’t. Germaine Greer said in 2005 that watching ‘Big Brother’ was like ‘peering through the key hole of a teenage girl’s bedroom’. There is something seedy about it but the audience still have to look, meaning the show was still able to engage its audience as people could not do...
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