While Reality TV is not my personal favourite genre I would have to say that I do enjoy the lifestyle format from time to time. I enjoy seeing people create something and appreciate that the intent of the show is not to pit contestants against each other or to enjoy the suffering of others but to often celebrate the talents of other people in areas that I have no talents. Reality TV is a best described by explaining the different sub-genres that exist today under the broader umbrella of Reality TV. Laurie Oulette categorises the different genres of Reality TV in her Reality TV: Remaking Television Culture as including the gamedoc ( Survivor, Big Brother, The apprentice), The dating program ( Joe Millionaire, The Bachelor), The makeover program (What not to Wear), the docusoap (The Real World, The Real Housewives of…) talent contests (Idol, The Voice) sitcoms (The Osbournes,The Simple life) and Celebrity variations ( Celebrity boxing) . However these shows can also be categorised as mentioned in this weeks lectures as being the following;
Reality TV as a category can cover:
-surveillance reality formats
-fly-on-the-wall docu-soap formats
-reality game formats
-reality life experiment formats
-reality talent formats
-celebrity reality -reality clipshow
In terms on this post I will focus on my personal favourite sub-genre, The lifestyle format
According to Ouellette what ties together all the various formats of reality TV genre is their professed abilities to more fully provide viewers an unmediated, voyeuristic, and yet often playful look into what might be called the ‘entertaining real’ This fixation with ‘authentic” personalities, situations, problems and narrative is considered to be reality TVs primary distinction from fictional television and also its primary selling point.
Take a show like The Block for example. It takes a task as simple as renovating a house and turns it into an entertaining, primetime TV show. It takes an ordinary, everyday activity and turns it into the extraordinary. The Block plays into The Australian Dream, to own a house and further to improve your house with DIY renovations, The format provides viewers with a ‘fly on the wall’ experience in which that can view the trials and tribulations of an everyday Australian couple as they attempt to renovate a house.
Anne Jerslev stated that Reality TV combines a global format with a very glocalised perspective: the global audience is all over the world looking into the real or staged events of everyday life at a very local level. The Block epitomises this idea. Australians are not viewing wealthy, beautiful talented people renovating a mansion with a never ending supply of money, they are viewing their sister, their brother husband or wife renovate a house that could easily be your own. Their budget is strained and they are often strapped for cash, which causes friction between contestants. Viewers are able to identify themselves with the ‘characters’ of the show and to empathise with the experience of the drama that can entail during a renovation. However the show is adaptable. Enjoyable for a global audience because a global audience can get a look at
Jerslev also commented that some [reality] programs are creating an almost obsessive public fevor, especially reality-shows like Big Brother which have turned reality TV into major events where the poplar and everyday representative of reality are met by severe elite criticism and moral rejection for its commercial infotainment version of reality. This is also the case in a show like The Block. A task as mundane as decorating a room can be met with harsh criticism by a panel of expert judges when they rip the design to shreds for being messy, cluttered, unfinished or just plain bad. The contestants are left heartbroken, arguing and deflated while the audience is left wanting more.
Throughout the season viewers become experts in renovating. The Block even sparks an influx of DIY Reno’s and everyone is talking about the show for both the renovating aesthetics and more importantly who they hate and love. The contestants on the shows become characters in a drama. Who secretly hates each other, who is dating who. Viewers are pinned against the resident ‘bady’ and fall in love with the loveable larikin brothers from Queensland. As Jerslev says ‘Public and private behaviors merge and create new forms : when ordinary people suddenly become public stars or ‘role models’ after appearing in reality shows.’ Even after the series ends people want to know more about the contestants. They become stars. Magazines cover stories about their post-show nuptials. Who still speaks to each other, who has become a professional renovator or who has hit rock bottom, The drama of the show carries on for some time after it has ended as the line between public drama of the show and private drama of contestants lives becomes blurred.
Scholar June Deery said that “Reality TV has become a key site for experiments in “advertainment,” or the merging of advertising and entertainment programming,” The Block along with many other lifestyle reality TV programs such as Masterchef use contestants and situations with the show to advertise sponsors. The Block contestants rush to Bunnings Warehouse to get their supplies and then furnish their houses with furniture from Freedom Furniture. This ‘advertianment’ aspect of reality TV is unique in the way that a regular fictional show cannot be so blatant with their advertising. While other genres use product placement none are as successful as reality TV shows because they are able to depict real people finding the products useful in their everyday lives. The viewer is able to see how the product, store or service is useful for a real everyday person and furthermore, for themselves.
It is these aspects of the everyday. Ordinary scenarios that make shows like The Block so successful. The people are average Joes, using items you could find yourself at your local Bunnings, Viewers connect with the characters but are also entertainment by the entertaining goings on and antics of someone else’s life. This would have to be the key aspect of Reality TV that makes it so successful. It has the ability to be entertaining, insightful, relatable, informative and most importantly real all at the same time.
Jerslev. A ‘Realism and ‘reality’ in Film and Media’, Museum Tusculanum Press 2002
Oueleette L, ‘Reality TV: Remaking Television Culture’ NYU Press 2008
Deery. J ‘Reality TV as Advertainment’. Popular Communication: The International Journal of Medi and Culture, Volume 2, Issue 1 2004