Reality Television

Susan Murray

in Cinema and Media Studies

ISBN: 9780199791286
Published online October 2011 | | DOI:
Reality Television

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While we can locate the start of the most recent wave of American reality TV in the 2000–2001 season with the premiere of Survivor and Big Brother, the history of the genre reaches back to the very earliest days of broadcast television, with programs such as Queen for a Day and Candid Camera. The current, and perhaps most significant and long-lasting, wave of reality television developed out of a moment of financial destabilization for the broadcast networks. In an environment of rising production costs, intense competition from cable networks, and the appearance of a range of new digital technologies that threatened the very basics of the financing and production of broadcast television, networks welcomed reality formats—many of which were created and sold by European packagers—into their prime-time schedules. The genre has become so profitable over the past decade that not only has it formed the base of network prime-time schedules, but it has also seeped into virtually all cable programming, often helping form a cable network’s brand identity. Media scholars quickly took note of these industrial changes and also considered how cultural and political changes might also be fueling the popularity of the genre at the turn of the 21st century—particularly the increased acceptance of surveillance and the intensification of neoliberal strategies and discourses. As a result, reality television became a catalyst for not just the restructuring of the television business, but also for the study of television in an academic environment. Over the preceding decade, the focus and methods of television studies had been remade as scholars considered the social, economic, philosophical, and political implications of a genre that makes claims to the Real, the ordinary, and the spectacular simultaneously. This article details some of the most relevant and important works related to the project of understanding the global phenomenon of reality television.

Article.  6819 words. 

Subjects: Media Studies ; Film ; Radio ; Television

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