To begin to think critically about Reality TV and what it
can offer audiences.
In recent years there have been a number of television programmes
that seem to blur the lines between fact and fiction.
Walking with Dinosaurs (1999) used computer-generated images of
dinosaurs to shows scientists’ impressions and understandings of
how dinosaurs lived thousands of years ago.
Another media genre that blurs fact and fiction and realism
is reality TV.
Reality TV is hard to define as it is a hybrid genre that is
continually shifting and developing.
It was initially understood to present everyday life as
entertainment; however most contemporary shows place
participants in in highly constructed situations. Reality TV
now involves presenting a range of very structured
scenarios, heavily edited to provide audience
The genres that reality TV draw upon are:
• Documentary - using real footage of real people (not actors)
• Soap opera - using multiple enigma narrative
• Game show - with a prize for the which participants compete
• Voting - such as talent shows
A narrative that
audience by setting
questions or puzzles
for them to solve.
Recurring elements of reality TV include:
• Transformation – of an individual, group, workplace,
object or even pet
• Symbolic violence - when experts or other contestants
criticise participants or the show’s format
Although not all reality TV contains each of
these elements, it has become hugely popular
in recent years. Even on prime-time.
Some explain the rise of reality TV based on the entertainment
value that these texts offer their audiences.
Suggests the popularity of reality TV rests upon the dynamics of
‘anxiety and security’. In some texts, such a s I’m a
Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!, audiences enjoy risk, danger and
then relief at successful outcomes in the programme.
In other programmes the audience, who are usually guaranteed a
favourable outcome, enjoy the excessive drama, pain and trauma
that emotionally or physically vulnerable participants
• Driving School (1997)
• Ramsey’s Kitchen Nightmares (2004)
• Supernanny (2004)
• The Apprentice (2004)