• Talent and/or skill development (e.g. Dancing with the Stars,
Maestro, Strictly Come Dancing, Masterchef)
• Fly on the wall (e.g. The Osbournes, Keeping up with the
Kardashians, Kerry Katona: Crazy in Love)
• Lifestyle experiment or cultural 'journey' (e.g. Famous, Rich
and Homeless, Paddy and Sally, Celebrity Wife Swap)
• Charity specials (e.g. Let's Dance, Comic Relief Does Fame
Academy, Celebrity Bake-Off)
• Hybrid formats (e.g. I'm a Celebrity..., Celebrity Big Brother)
• Celebrities and the 'public' (e.g. Jade's PA, Paris Hilton's BFF,
Celebrity Bachelor, BB's Celebrity Takeover)
Appeal of celebrity reality
• 'With normal Big Brother we're making
ordinary people extraordinary. With this, we're
making famous people very, very ordinary'
(Phil Edgar Jones cited in Biressi and Nunn,
• A deconstruction of the celebrity facade?
• An insight into the 'real' person? (Holderman
2007, Payne 2009)
• A 'level' playing field? (Bonner 2013)
'It is surely in part the notion of celebrity as a 'risky lottery'
that fosters interest in the time-line of fame: we only need
think of the magazine/television appetite for featuring
articles and programmes on celebrities before or after 'they
were famous'. While these suggest different perspectives on
and investments in celebrity, interest partly emerges here
from tracking a trajectory through the process of fame, and
its temporal impact on the physical, cultural and economic
fortunes of the self... the media value of celebrity suggests
that the 'ordinary' world must be escaped from, although it
is paradoxically by making a claim to the 'ordinary' that this
very process occurs' (Holmes 2006: 47-48)
• Not famous: 'ordinary' people.
• Celetoids - Rojek (2001) - attributed fame
• Route to fame via 'regular' reality or factual television shows (e.g. X
Factor, Big Brother, Wife Swap, TOWIE)
• May be part of celeb/ordinary people reality TV (e.g. Chantelle
Houghton in Celebrity Big Brother; Celebrity Bachelor contestants,
Jade's PA entrants etc)
• Potential to extend fame through further reality television.
• Popular/well-known reality TV stars who progress through 'fame
cycle' useful for celebrity reality shows - not only are they free and
affordable, they understand the 'games' of RTV and how to make
• Well-known in a specialist or niche field (e.g. glamour models,
minority sports stars, professional dancers)
• Fame through association (e.g. spouse, parent/child, partner of a
celebrity) - ascribed fame (Rojek 2001). Help audiences speculate on
the 'real' X.
• Small amount of fame/renown through other reality TV, news events
or other media (e.g. Chris Crocker, Luisa Zissman) – prolonging
• May be celebrities in their home country trying to boost brand
globally (e.g. Heidi and Spencer)
• Celebrity reality TV about brand boosting and brand extension:
reaching a wider audience, prolonging initial 15 minutes of fame.
• 'Who are they? Why have they been cast?' - they raise questions for
• Using fame to promote another brand or programme - or their own
• Works well with talent/skill-oriented shows (e.g. Masterchef, Strictly)
as participants shown to also have 'day job' and thus strong work
ethic. (Bonner 2013)
• Stars often known, but maybe not to everyone (e.g. Hollyoaks actors)
• '[R]eality-talent shows enable in-house promotions to be seen at a
time when much viewing is done in modes which encourage the
excision of ads and promotion slots. In this they parallel the increase
in product placement... the products ‘placed’ within the
programmes are the other sites of the contestants' celebrity...
Celebrities' own brands are enhanced, too.' (Bonner 2013: 170)
• Not necessarily just “A-list”, but those who are well-known and
successful within their field.
• Does not need to participate - already successful and well-known.
• May take a role as a presenter, mentor or judge (on either celebrity or
'civilian' reality shows).
• May use reality TV (or its celeb equivalent) as a promo vehicle through
being a guest performer or commentator.
• Or may simply be 'too big' for reality TV altogether.
• Likewise - reality TV doesn't really need them - what is the interesting
story if someone is a success?
• Kim Kardashian possible exception here - but her fame largely came
through association with other celebs including reality TV (The Simple
• Some may use carefully-managed 'fly-on-the-wall' reality as promo
(e.g. Miley: The Movement)
• [In I'm a Celebrity] 'what apparently unites the participants, as the
Executive Producer claims, is that that they are not 'really really
famous' people. This, he explains, wouldn't work because: 'While
casting is crucial, part of the reason [we select the celebrities for the
programme] is that ... there's always a ... question mark about why
they're famous. It gives that slight edge to it - just the way they all
compete with each other for the camera. Here, the claim is that I'm a
Celebrity revels in the decline of a merited claim to fame, which is
apparently integral to the entire dynamic of the show'. (Holmes
• Appearance has a 'purpose' to it.
• Learning a new skill or talent - possibility for brand extension or
change of career direction (e.g. Maestro, Celebrity Masterchef).
• For some, raising awareness of politics or causes as motivation – but
is real purpose to be a (liked) celebrity?
• Reputation and image management as part of rehabilitative strategy
(e.g. Jim Davidson, Michael Barrymore).
• 'I never expected it to come out through Dancing With the Stars. You
clear 21 million sq. meters of landmine-filled land and you fitted
400,000 people with limbs and [people] go on to vilify you. You do
two-and-a-half to three dances and suddenly you're amazing. It's
crazy!' (Heather Mills, cited in Quinlan and Bates 2008: 69).
• 'On one hand, such programming aims to uncover extra levels of
extraordinary talent among existing television personalities, often as
a cross-promotional device for the same network, all the while
reinforcing audience empathy with the stars' ordinary human
struggles to overcome new challenges. On the other hand,
audiences are given additional opportunities for what Jeffrey Sconce
(2004, 453) calls 'celebrity schadenfreude', in which we get to
spectate as minor stars of questionable talent make fools of
themselves, disproving any claim to extraordinary status'. (Payne
• Fame has waned - 'has-beens'.
• Reality television as vehicle to relaunch fame and re-enter 'special
place' (Holmes 2006).
• RTV as critique on fame (e.g. The Big Reunion).
• Part of appeal - strong story potential: why are they no longer
famous? Do they still have 'it'? What happens after fame?
• Post-celebrity > Pre-celebrity. Some stars fame has waned so much
they enter 'civilian' reality not 'celebrity' (e.g. Pauline, Big Brother;
Cleo, The Voice UK)
Perpetual reality stars...
Brigitte Nielsen: The Mole, The Surreal Life, Big Brother VIP
(Denmark), Celebrity Big Brother (UK), Killing Brigitte Nielsen,
Celebrity Rehab, Celebrity Makeover, La Ferme Célébrités, Let's
Dance, Come Dine With Me, Aus alt mach neu – Brigitte Nielsen
in der Promi-Beauty-Klinik, Ich bin ein Star – Holt mich hier raus!,
Maestro (Denmark), Promi-Hochzeitsplanern...
Goldie: Celebrity Big Brother (UK), The Games, Maestro (UK),
Classic Goldie, Goldie's Band, Strictly Come Dancing, Come Dine
Amy Childs: The Only Way is Essex, Celebrity Big Brother (UK),
It's All About Amy, Let's Dance for Sport Relief, The Bank Job, The
Jump, Celebrity Wedding Planner...
The reality cycle?
Shows and status
• Hill (2008): Viewers perceptions of ‘quality’ of reality shows
– often connected to broadcaster and to show format/aims –
e.g. educative vs 'sensational’ (See also Sconce 2004).
• Shows that encourage 'work' can have a higher calibre than
those that don't (Bonner 2013).
• Broadcaster also important (e.g. ITV2 vs BBC Two).
• Celebrity Reality TV as a way of testing a star's claim to fame.
• Useful for different celebrities at different points in their career.
• Can be a tool for profile boosting and prolonging celebrity, for
promoting a cause, product or brand, for achieving a purpose or re-
purposing one's fame, or for reviving fame that has dwindled.
• Different shows, formats and channels work in different ways and
can be beneficial to different celebrities.
• RTV is not a guaranteed 'success' - people win through trying hard
(Bonner 2013) and by being 'ordinary' (Holmes 2006).
• Successful RTV shows need a diverse mix of cast from different fields
at different points in the fame cycle.
• Biressi, A and Nunn, H (2004) 'The Especially Remarkable: Celebrity and Social
Mobility in Reality TV', Mediactive 2: 44-58.
• Biressi, A and Nunn, H (2005) Reality TV: Realism and Revelation, London:
• Bonner, F. (2013), 'Celebrity, work and the reality-talent show: Strictly Come
Dancing/Dancing with the Stars', Celebrity Studies 4 (2): 169-181
• Braudy, Leo (1986) The Frenzy of Renown: Fame and its History, Oxford: Oxford
• Cadwalladr, C. (2011), 'Goldie interview: the alchemist', The Observer, 30
January 2011, http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/jan/30/goldie-
interview-the-alchemist, accessed December 2011
• Couldry, N (2004) 'Teaching us to Fake It: The Ritualized Norms of Television's
"Reality" Games', in Murray, S and Ouellette, L (eds), Reality TV: Re-making
Television Culture, New York: New York University Press, pp. 57-74.
• Hill, A. (2005), Reality TV: Audiences and Popular Factual Television, London:
• Hill, A. (2008) Restyling factual TV : audiences and news, documentary and
reality genres. London: Routledge.
• Holmes, S (2006) 'It's a Jungle Out There!: The Game of Fame in Celebrity Reality TV'. In:
Holmes, S and Redmond, S (eds) Framing Celebrity: New Directions in Celebrity Culture.
London: Routledge, pp. 45-66
• Holderman, L. (2007), '"Ozzy worked for those bleeping doors with the crosses on them":
The Osbournes as Social Class Narrative' in Holmes, S. and Redmond, S. (eds), Stardom
and Celebrity: A Reader, London: Sage, 287-297.
• McLean, C. (2011), 'What Happens When Boy Bands Grow Up' in The Observer, 24 July
2011, available: http://www.guardian.co.uk/music/2011/jul/24/when-boy-bands-grow-
• Palmer, G. (2005), 'The Undead: Life on the D-List', Westminster Papers in
Communication and Culture, 2 (2): 37-53.
• Payne, R. (2009) Dancing with the ordinary: Masculine celebrity performance on
Australian TV, Continuum: Journal of Media & Cultural Studies, 23:3, 295-306
• Quinlan, M.M. & Bates, B.R. (2008): 'Dances and Discourses of (Dis)Ability: Heather Mills's
Embodiment of Disability on Dancing with the Stars', Text and Performance Quarterly,
• Sconce, J. (2004). 'See you in hell Johnny Bravo!' In: S. Murray and L. Oullette, eds. Reality
TV: remaking television culture. New York University Press, 251–267