Whose Reality?

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:

-infotainment formats

-surveillance reality formats

-fly-on-the-wall docu-soap formats

-lifestyle 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.

 Refernces

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

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It’s a mad world

Seeing as Mad Men is my favourite show on TV I can’t help but feel especially connected with this weeks screening. The episode of the ‘wheel’ explores multiple narrative themes as well as provides viewers with a deeper understanding of characters. A major focus of the episode for me is that of evolution, of change and in particular the role of women. The episode explores the notion of change in a number of ways. A character who exemplifies the change going on in society during this time is Peggy. Towards the beginning of the episode Peggy chooses a young girl over an older woman for a radio advertisement because she’s pretty and exudes confidence. When the young girl doesn’t live up to Peggy’s expectations she berates her even surprising chauvinistic Kenny Cosgrove with her harsh demeanor. Gone is the compliant Peggy of old who faded into the background towards the beginning of the series amongst a sea of pretty wallflowers. Peggy is now strong, defiant, seemingly one of the men. However this scene is also in contention with the idea that Peggy represent feminism and the feminist movement, Despite the fact that the older woman read better and as appropriate for the role, Peggy chooses the younger prettier girl. When Peggy is promoted from her job as a secretary to an accounts manager by Don Peter Campbell states that he doesn’t want ‘some silly little girl’ working on the account. However, the act of promoting Peggy to an account manager shows that there is a form of progression and change within society at the time. Don, the man of all men is allowing a woman into his world.  This key narrative plot is indicative of where the series may be heading. Even the name of the episode ‘the wheel’ indicates a reinvention. Don decides against using the term ‘the wheel’ in his pitch to Kodak and instead opts for the carousel. Don has ‘reinvented the wheel, it is now a carousel.

Despite her success Joan warns Peggy of upsetting the other women in the office by forgetting where she came from. In other words to ‘not get too big for her boots’. It seems that Joan is well aware of a woman’s role in society and is complacent in her role and in the role of women while Peggy is more of a dreamer.

However I feel that this dream of a modern woman competing in a man’s world is given a rude awakening when Peggy discovers she is pregnant at the end of the episode. This scene really sets the pace for what may be to come in the following season. It shows that despite her victory in the workplace she may be destined to live out her life as a housewife confined to her house like Don’s wife Betty.

In terms of narrative complexity th episode fits in well with the over-arching theme of a story that exists within a world that is rapidly changing, the 1960’s. Mad Men relies on in depth character relationships and the exploration of characters attitudes, motives and behaviors rather then on fast paced dramatic twists and turns. Despite the fact that this episode is the last of the first season it is quite slow paced up until the concluding sequence when Peggy has her baby. It relies more on character analysis then on drama. For example we find out that Don’s wife Betty does in fact already know that he has had numerous affairs. However rather then having this revealed during a dramatic fight or argument it is revealed while Betty is speaking with her psychiatrist and is brushed over without much discussion. This is perhaps more indicative of the era the narrative takes place in rather then the show itself but it is a constant theme where major discussion points are swept under the rug.

While change is an over-arching theme of the whole series, in particular the evolution of feminism, family is the major theme of episode thirteen. Peter is having troubles with his father-in law, Harry is still sleeping in the office after being kicked outIn the first sequence we see Don and Betty discussing thanksgiving. Don has said that he won’t make it to Betty’s father’s place due to work commitments. However following the discovery that his brother has committed suicide Don is feeling nostalgic about family. He presents a heart warming, intimate pitch to Kodak, which includes personal photographs of him with Betty and the children. Meanwhile Betty is seen with the psychiatrists talking about Don’s infidelity and the fact that he’s never even had a family. At the end of the episode Don comes home to an empty house after Betty has already left for thanksgiving without him. The empty house and sense of loneliness Don emits alludes to what may be to come. Don has taken his family for granted and is now alone. Although it is not a dramatic ending it does provide a narrative arc to be explored in the next season.

Big love for Big Love

I have big love for Big Love. From it’s controversial overarching storyline to it’s average everyday family problems it seems to tick all the boxes ( not to mention the fact that I love Chloe Sevigny). But it not only the scandalous relationships of bill and his 3 wives or Chloe’s fashion forward style on the red carpet that makes the show so appealing. There is something much more deep set within the show that draws viewers every week.

So what kind of show is Big Love? Sam Ford said that shows that are distinctive in their narrative strategies are “invested in expanding the vocabulary of prime time television, both by incorporating serial form (which had been a growing trend for two decades) and by embracing more overt narrative experimentation’. If you take a show like Big Love for example you can see that while it does show traditional aspects of a serial form of narrative it does push the boundaries and ‘experiment’ with the notion of what a family is. The central family consists of a husband who has three wives and seven children who all live in adjacent houses. Not your everyday American family. This challenges the traditional belief of what a family should be as well as exploring the notion of fundamentalist religion within American society.

There is something very complex about Big Love besides the relationships between the central characters. The show seems to show greater depth. As Kackman put it it’s [the] engagement of cultural tensions, instabilities, and anxieties. While Big Love shows an extreme view of religion part in American culture it stills reflects the cultural tension often felt between different religious groups in America. Characters in the show become ‘anxious’ that those around them are losing their faith, which is an issue for many religious groups in America. This is a major characteristic of a ‘complex narrative’ The narrative has the ability to accurately reflect the society in which it exists.

Kackman has said that quality television depends on a basic formulation that goes something like this: narrative complexity generates representational complexity; representational complexity offers the possibility of political and cultural complexity. For a show like Big Love this formula would be presented as the complexity of the antagonists polygamist relationship; polygamy within Mormon communities; fundamentalist / religious views in America. However while the show does explore areas of complexity it also contains more traditional content in line with that of a soap opera. This includes  an emphasis on family life, personal relationships, sexual dramas, emotional and moral conflicts.

Big Love tends to fall under both categories; the soap opera and complex narrative. Mittel describes as the function of soap operas  as– “immersive, slow-paced, dialogue-driven melodramatic storytelling that rewards long-term accrual of character knowledge” this definition rings true of Big Love as a lot of the narrative is character driven. You need to ‘know’ the characters to fully understand the context of the drama being played out each week. However. Ford has said that primetime shows that tie with soap operas mode of melodrama lack ‘self-aware storytelling mechanics, the play with temporarily and subjectivity, and the commitment to a longterm accural of plot clues and mechanistic interconnectivity that I believe is central to the mode of “narrative complexity.” I would disagree with this notion when it comes to Big Love. While Big Love shares characteristics with soap operas such as the at times melodramatic relationships between characters on the show I think it still retains quite a high level of narrative complexity. You can tell by just watching the first episode that there will be a high level of complexity in the relationships of the characters. The jealousy and insecurities of the wives, the embarrassment of the teenage children and Bills strained relationships with his family and past are all hints at what’s to come. I think that these little snippets pave the way for long term plot clues rather than an issue to be resolved in the next episode.

Big Love’s themes of polygamy and fundamentalism are not the aspects of the show that challenge what considered to be ‘the norm’. I think the shows ability to be both complex in its issues and narrative as well as fall under the ‘genre’ of a soap opera shows its true ability as a show to be different and exciting,

 

The silver screen wins gold

While Jason Mittell says that he prefers watching high-quality conventional programs such as The Dick Van Dyke Show and Everybody loves Raymond I would have to say that all of my favourite television programs are complex narrative. There is something about the in depth character portrayals and ongoing plot lines that keep me coming back for more. There is something about the complex drama that draws you in and gives the viewer a unique experience that simply does not compare to the conventional form of television programs or film.

Mittell sates that a key influence on the rise of narrative complexity is the changing perception of the mediums legitimacy and its appeal to creators.  Many of this new genre of television’s creators have come across from film such as Joss Whedon of Buffy and Aaron Sorkin of West Wing and Sports Night. I however, would go one step further than this and talk about the actors who have made the transition from film to TV. I am no talking here about actors who move purely for the big bucks (think Charlie Sheen) but actors who have made the move because of the increase in quality, complex programming . Some prime examples of respected actors who have made the move include Martin Sheen in the West Wing or Glen Close in Damages. I would ague that actors are making the move into TV due to the in depth character roles now available thanks to complex narrative TV.

While many people my age are tuning in to see the latest reality TV program, I would have to agree with Mittell when he says that complex narrative provides viewers with something reality TV can not. While I have no doubt that reality TV is a major competitor (you only have to look at a TV guide to realise this) the producers simply do not have the ‘carefully controlled dramatic and comedic manipulation of plots and characters’. Take a show like Jersey Shore for example. The producers are confined to the limitation of the ‘real characters’. There are only so many funny situations he producers can put the characters in with the hope it forms some sort of entertainment. The producers of a show like Mad Men on the other hand are able to take the characters anywhere they want to. They can create complex relationships with other characters, interesting pasts and unexpected twists and turns in the plot line. The producer is able to have greater control of how the drama is played out and more so, the quality of the drama.

I would also agree that the Internet plays a major role in the success of narrative complex TV shows. Once the show has finished viewers have the ability to involve themselves in complex discussions about the narrative with other viewers. Internet forums allow viewers to gain control over their programming just like the VCR did before it. Viewers can download their favourite programs and watch them as they please and in whatever order they please. In my own personal experience I know I have sat down and watched consecutives episodes of my favourite shows. For me, this allows for a better understanding of the relationships between characters and to keep up with the ongoing narrative. I don’t want to wait until next week to see what happens next. A show like Seinfeld allows you watch episodes at random because there is no real sense of linear narrative. However a show like The Sopranos leaves you wanting more, to see where the plot will go next.

Another notion that Mittell discusses is the interplay that often occurs between storytelling and stand-alone episodes. Televisions that fall under under this genre are often torn between the ‘ongoing plot’ characteristic of a complex narrative and ‘completeness’ of a serial. Take Sex and the City for example. An ongoing plot is seen through all six seasons of the series. There is the ongoing relationship between Carrie and Big which plays out across the entire series as well as several other sub-plots that play out among the other central characters. This is characteristic of a complex narrative as it gives the producers he chance to develop ‘complex’ relationships between characters. However, this can be problematic in that each episode would not seem to have a definitive ending. This is where the cross-over between a serial and a complex narrative TV program comes into play. In order to give each episode it’s own ending, while still leaving the over-arching plot to be further discussed in later episodes, the producers of the show create a small story within each episode. This story usually involves one of  Carries friends having an issue within a relationships. This begs Carrie to ask a rhetorical question and then to subsequently write an article about it. The issue is always resolved or the question is answered by the end of the episode which enables each episode to be able to be watched on its own, as its own complete episode while the over-arching plot is continued next week. Just as this post will be…..

Thy will not judge others based on their television preferences

Following this weeks study on ‘taste’ I have come to the realisation that I have at times been guilty of judging people according to their taste in television. When somebody tells me that their favourite shows include ‘Keeping up with the Kardashians, Being Lara Bingle or worse still, The Shire I can’t help but feel a slight judgmental twinge. I do hope however, that I do not make gross generalisations about half the population based on whether they will or will not enjoy a certain type of genre.

On reading Gina Bellafantes review in the New York Times og Game of Thrones I couldn’t help but feel a little embarrassed to be pinpointed as a sex crazed female.

“The true perversion, though, is the sense you get that all of this illicitness has been tossed in as a little something for the ladies, out of a justifiable fear, perhaps, that no woman alive would watch otherwise.”

I know I cant speak on behalf of the female population but I can honestly say that sex scenes between the brother and sister characters just didn’t do it for me, nor do I think hey have been placed in the series purely for us ladies.  I, in fact, did enjoy the show and no, it was not because of these scenes. The idea that the fantasy genre is not only for the boys is only further reiterated by geek girl when she says “Any geek girl (wait, do I need to explain that term to you) would happily tell you that she’s looking forward to Game of Thrones. Not because of the sex, but because of the story, the intrigue, the swordplay and — oh yeah, I forgot — the fact that it’s based on books they’ve read.”

David Barnet of The Guardian tends to agree with this notion when he stated “despite Ginia Bellafante’s misguided comments in her review, the growing numbers of modern female fantasy fans might suggest that the genre is heading in the right direction.”

Was Gina Bellafante’s review based solely on her own personal taste? Based on other reviews it would seem that Game of Thrones has received a lot of positive critical acclaim. Perhaps Bellafante was so misguided by her assumptions that fantasy genre is low brow she was unable to be objective.

This got me to thinking about taste in terms of what is considered and what is considered bad. We often make assumptions about people based on their likes and dislikes. It is quite easy to pigeonhole a person based on the TV the watch.

When Kate O’Hare wrote a negative review for Game of Thrones one fan of the show commented, on her review “Once you said you watched trash like dancing with the stars, your opinion became worthless.”

The comment by this fan made me think of the assumptions I sometimes make about people according to their taste in television. The fan made the assumption that the reviewer’s comments didn’t matter because she enjoys reality television. Similarly, Bellefante made the assumption that Game of Thrones was only suited to the male population because it falls under the fantasy fiction category and what female could possibly enjoy that?

While taste is a very personal thing is it possible to measure what is good or bad? Some would say that awards season is a good indication of what makes quality viewing and what doesn’t. While there are obviously many fans that love the fantasy genre it rarely receives any nominations at the Emmy. Does this tell us that fantasy fiction is in bad taste? Non-horror genre shows earned 17 nominations from the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Thursday, and nearly all of them were in technical categories. In fact, only “Game of Thrones” broke out of that with a nomination for Outstanding Drama and another nod to last year’s winner in the Supporting Actor category.

Historically the fantasy genre has not fared well at awards nights. However, Game of Thrones seems to be paving the way for greater success in the genre of fantasy. Like music, what we watch on TV changes and evolves over time and what is considered good and bad changes dramatically from one year to the next.

If Bellafante’s article has taught me one thing it is to not make generalisations about people or TV shows based on gender or genre. So from now on when my little sister turns on ‘Toddlers and Tiaras I think I will just politely exit the room.

Korean new wave

In a country where the majority of what appears on our television is from the US it is refreshing to see what is happening on TV’s in other parts of the world. After last weeks lecture on transnational television I was left intrigued by Korean soap operas. I’ve always had a keen interest in the world of K pop and the Korean wave in general. I found that the clip we watched closely resembled that of a Korean film clip I have seen where a man loses his eyesight but somehow reunites with his love by the end of the song. Both of these viewings made me want to understand the success of this melodramatic style of TV and why it may not work on an Australian audience (me).

 

Kochi Iwabuchi makes reference to the increasing popularity and rise of Korean TV dramas and pop music in East Asian markets. He stated that ‘Taiwanese viewers now perceive Korean TV dramas as ‘ours’ even more than Japanese TV drama. The Korean wave is sometimes called Hallyu that comes from the Korean pronunciation. This trend stemmed from the rise in export of Korean dramas, but has now spread to include pop music, film, clothing, food and the language itself. Today, South Korea is among the world’s top ten cultural exporter.

 A prime example of Korean ‘new wave’ television drama is Winter Sonata. The series based on the relationship between Jung-Sang and Yu-Jin was so popular it sold out within 4 hour’s of the DVD release. After viewing some clips from Winter Sonatas myself I made the observations that the storylines often bordered on ridiculous and that many of the scenes were over dramatised. Scenes often involved characters lurking near-by without anyone noticing them or emotional, heart wrenching declarations of love followed by long, distant stares .  However, I still found it extremely entertaining. That begged me to ask the question why did I enjoy it? During the lecture we were asked whether what we felt about the program was based on the sense of foreignness. I found that the ‘foreignness’ of what we were viewing was so intriguing and at times so comical in its execution that I was being drawn into the drama of it. What might be viewed as over dramatic or unbelievable in an Australian TV show was somehow acceptable in a Korean soap opera.

 

This concept obviously works, as the series is extremely popular not only in Korea but in many other parts of Asia and in particular, Japan. Japanese fans don’t not simply watch Korean soap operas, they participate in many other ways. Japanese fans buy memorabilia and hold themed weddings and parties in honour of  Jun-Sang and Yu-Jin’s love. While this perhaps reflects more on Japanese fan culture I am unable to picture hysteria of such epic proportions over a Korean TV show in Australia. While I enjoyed the dramas of the show I couldn’t help but feel disconnected from it. I couldn’t relate to the concept of having to leave your country to pursue further education for more opportunities,. However for Korean and Japanese audiences this would be an all too real reality. This could help explain why the Japanese empathize so much with the characters. Then there is of course the language barrier. While of course we can read subtitles I felt that lot of what was being said was lost in translation or that I wasn’t fully understanding the dialogue between characters. Every language has specific terms, sayings or even a way of saying things that simply can not be translated and can often leave you with a feeling of disconnection from the characters and the storyline.

While I find Korean soap operas extremely entertaining I fear it may be for all the wrong reasons. Soppy, romantic scenes don’t make me feel all lovey inside but rather slightly amused and embarrassed. Similarly, dramatic sequences do not conjure feelings of anticipation or dread as intended but lean more towards anything from embarrassed giggles to having to fast forward to avoid the awkwardness.  . While I can appreciate that Korean soap operas have a massive cult following worldwide and have been extremely successful, I think I’ll stick to my HBO box sets for climatic dramas.

 

 

L.Miller, Korean TV Dramas and the Japan-Style Korean Wave , Volume 27 : 3 Post script

 

http://koreanculture.org.au/

When television just isn’t enough

After last weeks lecture on webisodes I was enlightened. Not only had a never watched a webisode I had never realised that Offspring, one of my favourite shows on Television, in fact had a series of webisodes on the channel 10 website. I immediately went home in search of extra viewing pleasure and was excited by what I found. Not only was there more Offspring to watch (yay) but the content was both funny and extremely insightful. The webisode that most struck me most was called ‘The Dawn Game’. What struck about it was its ability to convey so much emotion and depth in such a small amount of time. The webisode gave viewers the chance to see a side to characters that they would not normally see during a regular television episode. Characters who are not central to the show such as Jimmy and Zara are explored more in depth in the webisode and we are able to get a better sense of who they are as well as their relationships with other characters

After viewing numerous webisodes of The Nurses from original series Offspring I brought my train of though back to last weeks lecture and the idea of transmedia. Characteristics of transmedia such as its ability to extend narrative as well as offer more information about the narrative seemed to connect with the clips I viewed of Offspring.  In the particular clip I analysed we see Jimmy and Zara taking a moment from all the stress and worry of their newborn to have a joke with each other. This rare insight into their relationship is not conveyed as well as it was within the webisode.

I personally enjoy the webisode for Offspring as it provides me with more content to view while it’s not on all while showing me a differing angle on the characters that I am not presented with in the regular series. However I understand that there is an underlying purpose for the webisode that is not merely my enjoyment as is explained in this weeks reading.

Max Dawson explains that there is a fine line between content and promotions when creating a webisode for an original series. NBC’s webisode “The Accountant’s’ came under fire as to whether it was a web promo for The Office or a series in it’s own right. While the WGA and the AMTPD reached a compromise over where studios and networks would draw the line between promotions and content it doesn’t seem to be quite clear where that line is. Take the webisode series The Nurses for example. The Nurses is a made for web series based on television series Offspring. There is a very fine line between whether it is in fact merely a promotional tool for the television show or is a show within itself. Despite the fact that it has a different name with scenes shot specifically for the webisodes it is advertised at the conclusion of each episode of Offspring screened on television and is shown on Channel 10’s website. Another connection made with that of The Accountants is the fact that at the beginning of each webisode for The Nurses there is an advertisement for a sponsor. Despite the fact that there was a strike to draw a conclusion to the issue it seems that there is no real way of deciphering how legitimate the purpose of the webisode is.  While the war wages on about the legality of the webisode I think I will continue to tune in to find out what The Nurses are up to.

 

 

The Ashes of TV spectacular

  1. This week I couldn’t help but this of my two very similar yet very different experiences of viewing the London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony

    Having recently spent time in London nothing struck me as much as the experience of watching the Olympic Games opening ceremony amongst as group of English family and friends. What was the spectacle of the opening ceremony was in many ways heightened by those around me fierce patriotism and sense of pride in what they were watching. In fact a party was held in the spectacles honour in which bets were made on who would light the flame and kids were told to either be quiet or get out so that the ceremony would have the rooms undivided attention.  The spectacle of the opening ceremony had literally brought together members of the nation in what felt to be patriotic unity. Tears were shed and great respect was shown for every aspect of the show with many saying it was ‘the best opening ceremony they had ever seen”. On going through this week’s reading I couldn’t help but be reminded of my experience in London last week. The opening ceremony did seem to  “penetrate the private world of the residence” with many party guests getting up to sing and dance along to the music sequence. The guests seemed to be so engaged with what they were watching it almost felt like the ceremony was in our lounge room, that Sir Paul McCartney was performing Hey Jude just for us because he knows it’s our favourite song. The exploration of music through the ages seemed to speak very personally to everyone in the room as they yelled and screamed “this was my song in the 80’s!”. These seemingly very personal fragments of the spectacle were in a way the ‘fragments of cultural memory that compose the invisible information structure which constitutes a person’s sense of their homeland.

    In comparing this experience with that of watching it in class I became very aware of how important the intent of the spectacular was. Many people in the lecture had not in fact seen the opening ceremony yet, and why would they? While the opening ceremony is supposed to be entertaining for everyone watching it around the world it played to the hearts of the English. While it was entertaining to watch in class that feeling of an emotional connection seemed to be lost on a group of Australians. We are not tied to the experience in the way the Brits are. I didn’t get a sense that the ceremony was in my lounge room because I knew that it wasn’t made for us. I didn’t feel as though as I was a part of the experience as I did in England. The story isn’t our story so while we can enjoy it from a far we will never be a part of it.

    Image

    Not only was did the cultural differences make it a different viewing experience but the fact that I wasn’t watching it live. Watching the opening ceremony live in London gave a sense of excitement that what you were viewing was actually happening in real time and that you were among the first in the world to see and experience it. There was a sense that anything could happen and that you had to expect the unexpected. The unknown and unexpected is part of what makes the spectacle spectacular. Watching it repeated days later in a way lessened the experience made it feel used and old. By then everyone knew what it was about, they had seen the highlights and the surprises performances. It is these reasons that make live TV exciting and popular. People like to know they are of the first to see it and that anything could happen. Live television gives the viewer the sense that the person on television is experiencing what they are. This is true of morning shows. The live TV format gives the viewers the impression that the hosts are literally ‘waking up with them’. The live banter between the hosts makes viewers feel that they are a part of that conversation and it is these elements that make live TV successful in both morning breakfast and the TV spectacular format.

Television is not so black and white

In a society where fridges have interactive computers and televisions ( who doesn’t search the net while searching the fridge?) cars have built in DVD players and catching up with friends consists of either tweeting them or having to check yourselves in on Facebooking it is hard to say we are not living in a digital age.

Over the past decade in what is known as the post-broadcast era television has filtered its way into irregular platforms. Television as such can now be viewed on Youtube or in a viral videos through social net working sites such as Twitter or Facebook. So what actually constitutes television?

Television for our parents (for those of us in our 20’s) consisted of sitting around a black and white television set with the family to watch whatever was on for the night. It was a social activity shared with those around you. There was no Foxtel, TiVo or TV’s in every room, mobile phones, iPad or intenret-fridge for that matter. Just good old fashioned TV. However it seems TV is not so black and white anymore (pardon the pun).

Television has become an interactive experience where the viewer can be involved with what they are viewing. Programs such as The Voice allow us to text in and vote for our favourite contestants or better yet to take to Twitter and rant about who our favourites are, what turtleneck they are wearing and who they may or may not be dating. This is known as Multi screening. Multi screening gives a person the ability to not only laze around on the couch and watch TV but to be able to tweet on their phone or upload their status or blog on their iPad all while viewing their favourite show. In fact more than half of mobile phone owners have used some sort of interactive communication to talk about something happening on TV.

 The Voice allowed people to vote for who they wanted to stay and go by texting or voting online. The Voice integrated these forms of interactive media successfully gaining a cult following on twitter which generated conversation about the show often resulting in discussion spilling out into traditional forms of media such as newspapers and television.

While TV shows such as these are entertaining it is regular old News programs that remain the most watched TV programs on free to air TV. So what makes television news its own genre? if you look at all the major free to air stations in Australia they all run a ‘news program’. All of these programs have a very distinctive look. There is the attractive but not too attractive lead anchor, the distinctive introduction and welcome. The news begins with the important news of the day that is stories that are ‘newsworthy’ followed by a sports segment, weather segment and of course the closing feel good story about a cat being rescued from a tree. Other characteristics of the ‘news genre’ include the ever helpful graphic, the shot of people in the street or scientists working hard in a lab whenever the story involves a medical breakthrough. The list goes on but it is all these similarities or formulas that each station follows that make the news a genre in itself. No it is not just a coincidence that all these programs look, sound, feel and I assume even taste exactly the same.

 

 

Turner. G (2009)  “Television Studies After TV: Understanding Television in the Post-Broadcast  Era” Taylor & Francis.