Ordinary Lifestyles: Popular Media, Consumption and Taste

By David Bell; Joanne Hollows | Go to book overview

9 Playing the tourist
Ideology and aspiration in British television holiday programmes

David Dunn

Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in
your living room by people you wouldn't have in your home.

(Sir David Frost)

This chapter is about British television holiday programmes, a genre which pre-dates and in some ways stands at a slight angle to more recent developments in lifestyle. Holiday programmes are as much about the getting of taste as are other lifestyle strands; but whereas programmes about home improvement, gardens, fashion and the like have favoured the makeover of ordinary people with the climactic moment of revelation at the heart of a linear narrative structure, programmes such as BBCl's Holiday and ITV's Wish You Were Here? have conventionally offered surrogate sightseeing and advice through the mediation of presenters. These presenters have stood for the ordinary viewer-asholidaymaker without necessarily engaging with the diversity of popular democratized tourism. There are logistical reasons for this. Holidays do not necessarily occupy the conveniently compact unities of place and time which are afforded by the televisual makeover. They involve often unfamiliar space, not the ordinary of home and garden. Their narrative is not a linear one with the resolution of transformation, but is cyclical, offering fragmented experiences which are given order in the memory and in the retelling back home. However transforming holidays are, beyond a few photographs, a few displayed souvenirs, they do not leave much mark as physical signifiers of taste and achievement in ordinary people's homes.

In other words, holidays have to be interpreted. Elsewhere in this volume, Frances Bonner draws attention to the centrality of the presenter in lifestyle subgenres which do not feature linear narratives of personal transformation; and much the same has applied in holiday programmes, where the need to condense holiday experiences into five minutes has privileged the professional presenter. Palmer (2004: 178) suggests that at the heart of lifestyle is the acquisition of ‘good taste’ and consequent class status, and that viewers ‘who lack self-assurance may put themselves in the hands of lifestyle experts (whose success is

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