Reality Television

Reality television is a genre of television programming in which ordinary people are put into dramatic or humorous situations and their emotions and behavior are monitored. Such programming is unscripted and relies on real or true events from everyday life or it sometimes takes the form of contests or talent shows where a prize is awarded. Reality television productions are called reality shows and they began forming in the late 1940s but did not become popular until the late 1990s. They especially proliferated around 1999–2000 after the success of shows like Big Brother and Survivor.

Reality shows are often produced in a series and they use film or video footage of sensational and scandalous events to attract viewers and advertisers because they are often broadcast in prime time. Usually footage is deliberately manufactured and speech and actions of the participants are directed and follow a script, but pretend to recreate reality. Reality television actually has an element of unreality because in most of the shows participants are aware that they are on camera and some moments are emphasised over others to create a dramatic and emotional effect.

Reality television programming is less expensive than traditional programming because it uses less and cheaper equipment, smaller crews, fewer sets and not as many paid performers. It started on the radio with a radio series which was later moved to the screen.

The first reality television practitioner, also called "granddaddy of reality TV genre," was Alan Funt who in 1948 introduced his TV series Candid Camera based on his 1947 radio show Candid Microphone. He replaced the hidden microphones with hidden cameras but still created artificial realities and pranks for ordinary people and observed their reactions. At the end of every prank someone from the crew or Funt himself would go to the "victim" and say "Smile. You're on Candid Camera." The 1950 game shows Beat the Clock and Truth or Consequence also put participants in funny situations and competitions and frequently used candid cameras.

Modern reality shows borrow a lot of elements and ideas from these pioneering series which paved the way for reality television. For example the radio series Nightwatch (1951–1955), which followed the daily activities of police officers in Culver City, California, is the precursor of the modern version of the TV show COPS. Audience-participation elements in reality television were borrowed from the series You asked for it (1951–1955) in which viewers requested what they wanted to see on television and dictated the content.

The first reality television show in the modern sense, which became a hit in 1973, was An American Family on PBS. It showed the daily life of an ordinary family called the Louds who decided to divorce in the course of the show. The show's genre was a documentary but it was ground-breaking because of the on-screen coming out of the Louds' gay son which shocked the 1970 audience. Celebrity reality shows like The Osbornes, Nick & Jessica or Hogan Knows Best borrowed the idea for reality-soap genre from the 1973 pioneering show.

An American Family was also an inspiration for other family-based reality programmes like The Real Housewives of Orange County, Little People and Big World which emphasised the drama in dysfunctional households.

In summer 2000 reality television programmes reached their peak of popularity with the successes of Big Brother and Survivor in the United States. Survivor and American Idol, in particular, have topped the American season-average television ratings for a few consecutive years. Those shows along with The Amazing Race, America's Next Top Model series, the Dancing With The Stars series, The Apprentice, Fear Factor and Big Brother have had a global effect on reality television and many countries around the world have produced their own national versions.

Reality television programmes consist of several subgenres such as documentary-style, competition/game shows, self-improvement/makeover, renovation, social experiment, dating shows, hidden cameras, supernatural and paranormal, talk shows and hoaxes.

Documentary-style reality television and competition/game shows are divided into various subcategories. The former focuses on the daily personal and professional lives of ordinary or famous people. Consequently, the variants are either filmed in special living environments with artificially created challenges or include celebrities and certain professionals on the job.

The reality competition or reality game shows present participants competing to win a prize which is not necessarily monetary. Within this category there are different formats such as dating-based competitions like The Bachelor and its spin-off The Bachelorette and job search competitions like The Apprentice or Hell's Kitchen.

Reality Television: Selected full-text books and articles

Reality TV: Audiences and Popular Factual Television
Annette Hill.
Routledge, 2005
The Tube Has Spoken: Reality TV & History
Julie Anne Taddeo; Ken Dvorak.
University Press of Kentucky, 2010
Screen Media: Analysing Film and Television
Jane Stadler; Kelly McWilliam.
Allen & Unwin, 2009
Librarian’s tip: "Reality Television" begins on p. 205
An Exploratory Study of Reality Appeal: Uses and Gratifications of Reality TV Shows
Papacharissi, Zizi; Mendelson, Andrew L.
Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Vol. 51, No. 2, June 2007
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Reality Television Programming and Diverging Gratifications: The Influence of Content on Gratifications Obtained
Barton, Kristin M.
Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Vol. 53, No. 3, September 2009
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Publicized Intimacies on Reality Television: An Analysis of Voyeuristic Content and Its Contribution to the Appeal of Reality Programming
Baruh, Lemi.
Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Vol. 53, No. 2, June 2009
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Media Discourses: Analysing Media Texts
Donald Matheson.
Open University Press, 2005
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 5 "Making Sense of Images: The Visual Meanings of Reality Television"
Reality Television and Third-Person Perception
Leone, Ron; Peek, Wendy Chapman; Bissell, Kimberly L.
Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, Vol. 50, No. 2, June 2006
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Reality TV: More Mirror Than Window
Breyer, Richard.
The World and I, Vol. 19, No. 01, January 2004
Transformation as Narrative and Process: Locating Myth and Mimesis in Reality TV
Ibrahim, Yasmin.
Nebula, Vol. 4, No. 4, December 2007
Media Studies: The Essential Resource
Philip Rayner; Peter Wall; Stephen Kruger.
Routledge, 2004
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 7 "Audience Participation and Reality TV"
Voyeur Nation: Media, Privacy, and Peering in Modern Culture
Clay Calvert.
Westview Press, 2000
Librarian’s tip: "From The Real World to Big Brother" begins on p. 34
Welcome to the Jungle of the Real: Simulation, Commoditization, and Survivor
Wright, Christopher J.
Journal of American Culture (Malden, MA), Vol. 29, No. 2, June 2006
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Surviving Survivor: Reading Mark Burnett's Field Guide and De-Naturalizing Social Darwinism as Entertainment
Murray, Keat.
Journal of American & Comparative Cultures, Vol. 24, No. 3/4, Fall 2001
Weighing in on NBC's the Biggest Loser, Governmentality and Self-Concept on the Scale
Readdy, Tucker; Ebbeck, Vicki.
Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport, Vol. 83, No. 4, December 2012
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Frontier House: Reality Television and the Historical Experience
Rymsza-Pawlowska, Malgorzata.
Film & History, Vol. 37, No. 1, January 1, 2007
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
Revisiting the Osbournes: The Hybrid Reality-Sitcom
Morreale, Joanne.
Journal of Film and Video, Vol. 55, No. 1, Spring 2003
PEER-REVIEWED PERIODICAL
Peer-reviewed publications on Questia are publications containing articles which were subject to evaluation for accuracy and substance by professional peers of the article's author(s).
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