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  1. 1. Docusoaps<br />Docusoaps:Living through other people's lives<br />
  2. 2. The various sub-genres that have branched from reality television make clear cut definitions nearly impossible. These sub-genres have made critics question the very foundation of reality television: reality. <br />In this Series of slides, the sub-genre, docusoaps, will be of interest.<br />It is obvious that this term, docusoaps is the result of two separate genres, namely, documentary and soap opera. <br />Therefore, in order to understand what a docusoap is, one must first understand what both a documentary and a soap opera refer to.<br />
  3. 3. A documentary is the term given to media that broadcasts real-life situations. <br />Already the similarity to reality television is obvious. Documentaries vary in nature, for example some are set up in such a way that the viewer experiences a personal video diary of an individual and their daily lives. Others may show the lifestyles of a certain group of individuals. No matter what form documentaries take they are allegedly showing reality.Contrary to these documentaries, are soap operas, which contain numerous parallel and overlapping stories involving many characters.<br />There is no stipulation for reality in soap operas, everything is scripted.<br />
  4. 4. A docusoap as mentioned, is a combination of two genres: documentaries and soap operas. It is obvious then that a docusoap is also a combination of fact and fiction. Docu-soaps use multiple character-led storylines, generate their own stars, are set around one physical location and use the day-to-day chronology of popular drama.<br />This means that they are similar to soap operas in that they involve many characters and stories occurring at one time. They are similar to documentaries in that they are showing the daily lives of individuals.However, differences among documentaries and docusoaps are present. Traditional documentaries tend to be serious in nature whereas, docusoaps strive to entertain audiences. This is very similar to soap operas, where entertainment is a big factor in content as well.<br />
  5. 5. However, differences among documentaries and docusoaps are present. Traditional documentaries tend to be serious in nature whereas, docusoaps strive to entertain audiences . This is very similar to soap operas, where entertainment is a big factor in content as well.<br />Additionally, documentaries are concerned with providing factual information. <br />Although it is known that fully objective information is impossible, people in this field of study (i.e. documentary theorists) see the lack of reality problematic. <br />
  6. 6. Docusoaps on the other hand, are not so concerned with showing truth; in fact, providing reality is taken lightly. Much footage is therefore scripted, edited, and voice over commentary as well as staged scenarios are present. MTV's Laguna Beach exemplifies this lack of reality characteristic vividly. Producers of the show planned get togethers for the cast, notified cast when they would be shooting, and had cast re-do scenarios if need be <br />
  7. 7. Over the past few years’ people could be mistaken for thinking that we have become a nation of voyeurs.<br />Where once we looked to (still popular) soap operas to see representations of our lives on screen, we now<br />have Reality TV and Docusoaps; programmes about real people, but just as compelling as any soap opera.<br />At their most popular programmes such as THE CRUISE and DRIVING SCHOOL were attracting 11-12.5 million viewers and making stars out of their participants.<br />Definitions for both Docusoaps and Reality TV have in the past been relatively difficult to pin down and attempts to define these genres are only now being addressed. <br />
  8. 8. Both stem from the more traditional ‘fly-on-the-wall’ or observational documentary: people-based, capturing events as they unfold in front of the cameras, with little analysis of what is happening. <br />The focus is on “the personal and intimate” (1). <br />With Docusoaps however, any social commentary is displaced by its need to entertain. The name ‘Docusoaps’ was a term of derision used by journalists, who saw this brand of factual television contaminate “the seriousness of documentary with the frivolity of soaps” (2). <br />However, they turned into ratings gold for TV companies – low cost programming that was popular with viewers.<br />
  9. 9. The definition of Reality TV has changed over time. Originally used to describe programmes that showed how the emergency services worked, the term has now been expanded to include: <br />Talk Shows, Docusoaps and ‘constructed’ documentaries (Castaway, Big Brother etc.). Though these elements may sound disparate they are “unified by the attempt to package particular aspects of everyday life as entertainment” (3).<br />As an example, Big Brother “provoked conversation, argument and intense investment on the part of its audiences. This fascination proved to be the basis for the first truly international new TV genre of the twenty-first century” (4).<br />
  10. 10. A Documentary that follows a group of people in a certain profession around, through their professional and sometimes personal lives. It could in some ways be considered a form of Reality Show in that it shows real people, unscripted, doing day-to-day things, though the situations are (usually) not as contrived as what one would typically expect for such a show. <br />
  11. 11. Why are Docusoaps so popular?<br />Easy to relate to because they are 'real' <br />Makes viewers feel better about themselves? <br />Exciting and involving <br />Inspiring because they connect directly to viewers <br />
  12. 12. Why are Docusoaps sometimes problematic?<br />Cheaply produced, therefore often bad quality TV <br />Can be exploitative of the participants <br />Pose as education to give themselves added credibility, therefore can use television's authority to 'dupe' viewers <br />TV has the power to make participants look foolish <br />A fast growing genre: are docusoaps taking over television? <br />
  13. 13. General Information about Docusoaps <br />Although docusoaps are a form of reality TV, this genre should not be confused with other types of viewer-led television - for example, Ricki Lake is not a docusoap it's a talkshow. <br />Docusoaps should not be considered as "access television" either, the participants are the subjects of the program, not the creators. <br />
  14. 14. Definition <br />Docusoaps could be defined as "programs about ordinary people and events, made by professionals to entertain as well as instruct".<br />Origins of the genre <br />Influences may include: Documentary, Soap, Social Drama (eg. Ken Loach), Docudrama, Cinema Realiste (eg. Godard), NeoRealism.<br />
  15. 15. Some examples of Docusoaps<br /><ul><li>The Real World
  16. 16. Rescue 911
  17. 17. Cops
  18. 18. Airport
  19. 19. The Dating Story </li></ul>The Wedding Show and Driving SchoolPolice, Camera Action, Scariest Police Chases 5 and The Dumbest Criminals Ever are also docusoaps of a more sensationalist nature. <br />
  20. 20. Techniques and Structures of Docusoaps<br />A docusoap is a hybrid genre made up of elements of both documentary and soap opera. <br />A docusoap will combine the fly-on-the-wall aspects of an observational documentary with an emphasis on the everyday, like a soap. Docusoaps are concerned with the representation of real ordinary people on television. <br />Techniques include:<br /><ul><li>Interview (usually with unseen interviewer)
  21. 21. "Voice of God" which comments on the participants
  22. 22. Dramatic reconstructions (eg. Crimewatch)
  23. 23. Editing heightens suspense
  24. 24. Storylines followed from one week to the next </li></li></ul><li>Critical theories on Docusoaps <br /><ul><li>Elements of docusoap theory include:
  25. 25. Tension between docusoaps as social dialogue (education) and ideological construction (entertainment).
  26. 26. Hierarchy of the medium - visual images have more power over viewers than sound
  27. 27. People behave differently when they know they are being filmed
  28. 28. Docusoaps are cheap, fresh and immediate - they connect to people in a very real way </li></ul>"Reality TV shares many of the characteristics Modelski assigns to fictional soap operas such as a participatory quality; a sense that characters or social situations are 'like me'...and emphasis in knowledge of what others might do and think...rather than strictly factual 'know-how'; acceptance and acknowledgement that viewers are subject to 'interruption, distraction and spasmodic toil'; multiple plot lines; and casts of characters who may not know each other." Bill Nichols, Blurred Boundaries: Questions of Meaning in Contemporary Culture. <br />
  29. 29. Fans of docusoaps have often said that they like the access which they get into other people's lives, they feel as though they can connect with a real person and relate to the issues presented far better than they could to a fictional character. <br />There is a voyeuristic aspect to docusoaps, a window into somebody's life, yet the participants are all very willing for their problems to be aired to millions of viewers. This is sometimes known as the "15 minutes of fame" syndrome.<br />Docusoaps and docudramas have been considered problematic, as dramatization of an opinion may be perceived by the viewer as unmediated truth. The 'omnipotent voice-over' often used in docusoaps has a lot of authority - viewers will believe what it tells them, but this voice-over is not provided or approved by the participants, it is added to the footage later by the editor. <br />An interview for television can be heavily mediated before it reaches our screens. The editor and director choose what to include and how to present it. A testimony can be shaped even by what questions the interviewer chooses to ask. Good television practice dictates that program makers should not alter the meaning of an interview, but it is entirely possible to do so. <br />
  30. 30. PRESS RELEASE FEBRUARY 2010<br />Notting Hill: Channel 4's docusoap to replace Big Brother<br />When Channel 4 announced it was axing Big Brother, the broadcaster said it would embark on "the most fundamental creative overhaul" of its history, using the substantial amount of cash and television hours saved to invest in drama and entertainment programming.<br />What exactly that means has, this morning, become a bit clearer. There will be no Big Brother – an observational show about the lives of people living in a house just outside London. But there will be Notting Hill – an observational show about the lives of people living in an area of west London. Those taking part will be selected, rather than auditioned; they won't be locked into a house; they will only be onscreen for an hour a week; viewers presumably won't be able to vote them out of their own community – it would be unfair to say Notting Hill is more of the same. But "creative overhaul"? On present evidence I'm not entirely convinced.<br />Stephen Lambert, who will be making Notting Hill for Channel 4, tells the Independent this morning that: "It wouldn't be unreasonable to compare it to the multi-character structure of an EastEnders or Coronation Street." A live soap – the show's run has been left open – sounds very appealing. But not entirely groundbreaking - Paddington Green, the BBC's docusoap about everday life in, erm, west London, first aired over a decade ago, albeit unfolding in less of a real-time manner.<br />
  31. 31. Notting Hill: Channel 4's docusoap to replace Big Brother<br />And then there's the choice of location. What do viewers really need? Another programme about London, obviously – and even better a bit of London that has had its fair amount of exposure already, what with the film and everything, and the very many Tories that appear to inhabit it. Hello broadcasters! You can make a programme about somewhere you don't actually live! You won't actually die if you head to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, or even the north of England! (BBC Radio 5 Live presenters excluded, obviously.) Try the Midlands, if you're really worried.<br />Anyway, while we're all looking forward to another bit of London-centric programming, albeit one with what could be a really interesting premise, the Channel 4 head of programmes, Julian Bellamy, has also said that the broadcaster has been in touch with Jonathan Ross about returning to the channel. I'm not sure I think that falls within a "creative overhaul", but would it be such a terrible thing if Ross turned up on Channel 4? He remains a talented broadcaster, would be safe from cross licence-fee payers, and might have the chance to get back to doing what he does well. And, compared to the £180m three-year-deal Channel 4 had with Endemol for Big Brother, his fee might even look good value.<br />