Academic journal article Communication Research Trends

Factual Entertainment and Reality TV: Editor's Introduction

Academic journal article Communication Research Trends

Factual Entertainment and Reality TV: Editor's Introduction

Article excerpt

Reality Television surrounds us, having become a local and international force in television programming seemingly overnight. People--well, all of us, really--have a fascination with watching our neighbors, with watching the "unscripted" behaviors of others like ourselves, with keeping up with how ordinary people behave or might behave. Though the more recent history of Reality TV may result from economic forces, Beck, Hellmueller, and Aeschbacher remind us that the reality model of television goes back almost to the beginning of programming in the United States, with the Candid Camera program. The recent popularity of Reality TV has prompted much more academic attention than the genre had received in its first 40 years.

The last 10 years have witnessed a sustained interest in Reality TV in the academic community. Beck, Hellmueller, and Aeschbacher introduce that academic attention to Reality TV in this issue of Communication Research Trends. For each of them, the topic forms a part of a larger, on-going, research project at the University of Fribourg-Freiburg under the overall direction of Professor Louis Bosshart. Bosshart and his students have investigated the roles of entertainment, broadly defined (including sports), of fame, of "well-known-ness," and of audience emotional engagement with the ordinary in popular culture. In 2003, Beck explored entertainment and sports in Trends (Vol. 23, No. 4). Seven years later, in 2010, Hellmueller and Aeschbacher reviewed the extensive academic literature on fame, calling attention to media and celebrity and how the two mutually reinforce and depend on each other (Vol. 29, No. 4). This review, then, expands on the others and draws several strands together to show how the cultural attention to entertainment, fame, and emotion has coalesced into the popular culture of Reality television.

By situating the phenomenon in the history of broadcasting and, more specifically, in the international and national worlds of television broadcasting, they argue that humans share a curiosity about others and about social comparison. They also firmly anchor the growth of Reality TV in the shifting business models of broadcasters around the work: of Eastern European television set free from state control, of Western European television acting independently of government oversight, and of U. …

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