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Understanding Reality TV

jeremy | Monday March 01, 2010

Categories: GCSE, AQA GCSE, Television, Reality TV, Understanding Media, Understanding Key Topics

Andy Warhol predicted in 1968 that everyone would be famous for 15 minutes. Contemporary observers such as David Weinberger suggest that Internet technologies will make everyone famous to 15 people.  But Reality TV shows confirm to viewers that anyone can become famous to an audience of millions – well almost anyone… 


Reality television is a hybrid genre. It is like a documentary as it is a factual form concerned with investigating human behaviour and relationships using ‘fly-on-the-wall’ camera techniques. The dialogue is unscripted and actual events are shown, featuring ordinary people not professional actors.

The hybrid nature of the genre comes from the way ordinary people are put into situations from other genres such as sitcom, as in Channel 4’s Big Brother where all the action takes place in one sitcom style location.

Reality TV is like drama in the way it is edited for interpersonal drama based on detailed exploration of character. The ‘live’ element of the show gives it unpredictability, but usually makes less interesting viewing than the edited highlights.

It is like a game show in being based on competition, where contestants compete to stay on the show, and win a prize, even if they are called housemates by Big Brother.

Reality TV is like a talk show as it is a way of reflecting on social issues – for example contestants can react to someone who does not share the same social background or sexual orientation, and create a debate in the press as well as on the show. Also confession is usually an important aspect of reality TV shows such as the Big Brother Diary room. A Reality TV show is often mediated by a presenter(s) who stokes up the competition between contestants and steers the audience towars the interpersonal drama. 

Reality TV is like lifestyle TV with its emphasis on showing that a person can change and learn from each other.

One of the most important aspects of Reality TV is its...

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