Ordinary Lifestyles: Popular Media, Consumption and Taste

By David Bell; Joanne Hollows | Go to book overview

3 Whose lifestyle is it anyway?

Frances Bonner

This chapter starts from an observation about lifestyle programming – that in Australia, in addition to locally originating shows, house and garden makeover programmes like Changing Rooms and Ground Force are made locally from imported formats, while cooking shows are bought outright and screened as imported programmes – and investigates what this can tell us about the subgenres themselves and about the international trade in programmes and their formats. Australia is not alone in importing cooking shows. Most if not all systems import at least a few, even the notoriously parochial USA, though there they are not screened on the networks, only on cable. Two Fat Ladies was an international hit and Nigella Lawson and Jamie Oliver have followers almost as widely. Nor is Australia alone in formatting programmes, though game shows (including reality ones) rather than makeovers are more commonly studied as the examples.

It might be thought that the similarities between the UK and Australia were no greater (or no less) for interior design than for cooking. Furthermore, the social changes in the UK detailed by Charlotte Brunsdon (2003) in her discussion of the televisual transformation which has seen the 8 to 9 pm slot heavily marked by lifestyle shows – the increase of home ownership and of associated discourses of value and investment; increased female participation in the paid workforce; and the postponement of childbearing by ABC class women – are notable in Australia too (though home ownership itself was high before the 1990s). Yet no DIY or makeover shows are imported into Australia and no cooking shows formatted here.

Television and our use of it is so much a part of our everyday life that it is not difficult to see some aspects of it as natural or inevitable, rather than their being highly conventional. Looking at how different systems operate, even though the principal systems considered – the Australian and the British – are very similar (or perhaps precisely because they are), enables fresh insights to be generated by denaturalizing the situation to some extent. This chapter seeks to examine what it is about the genres which means that in Australia makeover shows are sold as formats while food shows are traded ‘as is’ and also the reverse of this, what the fact of direct sales or formatting can tell us about the genres.

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