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Reality Tv Essay

2389 words - 10 pages

Grierson referred to the documentary as a text that has ‘documentary value’(Grierson, 1926). Using this definition as a starting point, discuss whether ‘reality’ TV should be classified as a documentary.
“We take television for granted in the same way as we take everyday life for granted.” (Silverstone, 2000) Reality television, being a mix of the two, is often an over-looked and disrespected television genre, as it can seem worthless and therefore worthy of the term ‘trash TV’. However it appears that reality television has started to take over our screens and is pushing other, more reputable genres out of the schedule. John Grierson is said to be the man who first coined the phrase ...view middle of the document...

These lines between genres has consequently become more and more blurred and it is subsequently made harder to pin-point the genre of some television shows. Documentary as with all other genres “escapes any tight generic specification”, and “what we understand by ‘documentary’ is always dependent on the broader context of the kinds of audiovisual documentation currently in circulation.“ (Corner 2002: p.125) Nevertheless, the majority of documentaries are factually based and aspire to educate the audience about a certain topic that is often talking about political, ethical or social issues. It will usually also aim to ask and answer questions throughout the show and is often a stand-alone piece, or at least has no episodic ‘carry-on’ factor.

Reality television has become extremely popular over the past 10 years with the arrival of large budget talent contests, competition shows as well as the more recent structured reality shows. It may appear bland and basic, but it seems the content that the public like to watch the most involves ‘ordinary’ people. The fact that the audience can relate to them is a clear reason to why this may be; together with the attraction of how simple becoming a celebrity can be with just 15 minutes of fame. Regardless of the context, reality shows always show real people in a real environment and thrives off their different reactions to being put into specific situations. Therefore due to the factuality of it, it is easy to find examples of where the genre fits into that of a documentary. However the genre is incredibly broad, where “at one end of the continuum” between fact and fiction “are informative based programmes such as Animal Hospital, and at the other end are documentary gameshows such as Survivor”; (Hill, p.50) so it is therefore very likely that ‘reality’ will merge with other genres in some way.

Annette Hill describes in her book ‘Reality TV’ how reality television can be split into a number of sub-genres including “infotainment, docusoap, lifestyle, and reality gameshow” (Hill: p.39) with constantly more being added such as the recently popular ‘Structured Reality’ shows. Docusoaps are programmes, which contain a “combination of observational documentary, and character-driven drama” (Hill: p.27). An example of this would be Airline, which follows the daily tasks of certain members of staff who work at Easyjet airline. Through the series we begin to get to know the different characters in the show. The storylines of docusoaps often continue week by week, usually with an episodic roundup at the start of each episode, and a flash-forward to the next episode as a way to entice viewers back week by week. This format is very rarely used in documentaries due to there never being recurring themes or characters. This sounds similar to the more recent ‘structured reality’ programmes but the fact that we are also accompanied with a voice over narration, a characteristic fitting with the observational...

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