Reality TV: Audiences and Popular Factual Television

By Annette Hill | Go to book overview
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Chapter 1

Understanding reality TV

Welcome to Reality TV. It's Friday night and I'm watching the finale of Teen Big Brother. It's an emotional experience. The remaining housemates sit around a table, choosing who will win the first Teen Big Brother. Commissioned by 4 Learning, the educational wing of Channel 4 in the UK, Teen Big Brother is an experiment in the reality genre. Part observational documentary, life experiment, educational programme, gameshow and soap opera, this reality programme has hit the headlines for being the first UK Big Brother to feature sex. 'Bonk on Big Bruv', says the Sun. 'Horny Teens Show Big Bruv Way to Go', adds the Daily Star. Love it or hate it, the programme is a popular topic for public debate. I'm watching Teen Big Brother to see what all the fuss is about. I missed the tears and tantrums, the backbiting and bedroom antics, only to tune in to the last ten minutes of the final programme. I'm gripped. The housemates explain why they should win. They go around the group, each one speaking with tightness in their throat. Everyone says the same thing: 'I should win because I've been myself - what you see is what you get.' Everyone cries. Everyone votes. The winner bursts into tears of gratitude, excitement and something else known only to them. And I watch with mixed feelings - fascination, anticipation, and scepticism. As I watch I'm enjoying the drama of the moment, and judging the reality of what I see on my television screen. This is my viewing experience of Teen Big Brother.

During the course of writing this book, I have watched a lot of reality TV, from Cops to Children's Hospital, UK's Worst Toilet to Survivor, Celebrity Detox Camp to When Good Times Go Bad 3. I've seen all of these programmes, and more. But I also watched a lot of reality TV before writing this book. And will continue to watch reality TV long after the publication of this book. So, is this a book about my experience of watching reality TV? Like many viewers of reality TV, I only watch certain types of programmes. I like watching Animal Hospital because I'm an animal lover, but I dislike When Animals Attack because I think it's tacky. I enjoy Temptation Island because it is melodramatic, but I don't enjoy The Bachelor because it isn't dramatic enough. I love The Edwardian Country


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