Reality Television / Edition 1

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Overview

Reality programming—a broad title for unscripted shows that involve non-actors—is really an updated version of a classic television genre that had its first successes decades before The Real World or Survivor made their premieres. NBC launched Try and Do It, a show in which audience members attempted to complete tasks such as whistling with a mouthful of crackers, in 1949. In the 1950s Queen for a Day crowned the most down-trodden of its four contestants, draping her in a sable-trimmed robe and granting a previously declared wish. The wild success reality television has achieved of late has pushed the envelope of such programming ever further away from the genre's innocuous beginnings. The time is now ripe for a look back on how this genre has developed, what it reveals about us, and what has transformed it into one of the most powerful forms of entertainment on television today.

Reality programming—a broad title for unscripted shows that involve non-actors—is really an updated version of a classic television genre that had its first successes decades before The Real World or Survivor made their premieres. NBC launched Try and Do It, a show in which audience members attempted to complete tasks such as whistling with a mouthful of crackers, in 1949. In the 1950s Queen for a Day crowned the most down-trodden of its four contestants at the end of each show, draping her in a sable-trimmed robe and granting a previously declared wish. The wild success reality television has achieved of late has pushed the envelope of such programming ever further away—from the genre's innocuous beginnings. The time is now ripe for a look back on how this genre has developed, what it reveals about us, and what has transformed it into one of the most powerful forms of entertainment on television today.

Using interviews with network insiders, reality producers, and other experts, Richard Huff supplies fascinating insights into the diverse content and often erratic development of reality television programming, augmenting this information with illuminating general connections between the past and present forms these shows assume. From Queen for a Day through Extreme Makeover, from Cops to Fear Factor, the genre is placed before us in this exhaustive and many-sided account, an account that uncovers the foundations and the future potential of the compelling and dominating phenomenon that is reality television.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Demonstrating that television's reputed decline may actually be a permanent conditions, Huff, the television editor and writer for the New York Daily News, discusses early examples of that genre, such as Queen for a Day and Try and Do It, as well as its current permutations. He uses interviews with network insiders, reality television producers and other experts to explain the transformations of reality programming and to provide insights into its past and future."

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Reference & Research Book News

"Reality-show fans are likely to enjoy reading Huff for his encyclopedic knowledge of the genre, including overall development of the genre and scores of particular factoids and anecdotes associated with individual programs, including both hits and failures. The book should serve as a reality check for those who believe that the castaways on Survivor are in actual danger of starving, as well as for those who are convinced that every moment of MTV&Apos;s The Real World is scripted."

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Television Quarterly

"Recognizing that there is nothing real about these programs, the industry uses the term unscripted for them. US audiences do not seem to care that they are watching artificial environments in which strangers are brought together in fabricated competitions with multiple cameras recording their every movement….Recommended. Lower-division undergraduates through faculty and professionals."

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Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780275981709
  • Publisher: Greenwood Publishing Group, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 6/30/2006
  • Series: Praeger Television Collection Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 200
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

RICHARD M. HUFF has been a working journalist and author at both trade and consumer publications for the past 22 years. He is currently the television editor and writer for the New York Daily News. His breaking news reports, celebrity interviews, and analytical features on the television business appear daily and are syndicated to newspapers around the country. He is also a journalism instructor at the New School in Manhattan, where he teachers courses on basic journalism and sports reporting.

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Table of Contents

1 Survivor : the start of it all 1
2 Where does this stuff come from? 11
3 Casting : finding the freaks, the geeks, and the stars 31
4 Celebrities sing, dance, and claw their way into reality 45
5 Altered reality : the makeover craze 67
6 All is not what is seems : reversed reality 79
7 This show seems awfully familiar 95
8 Love is in the air 107
9 Singing for fame, fortune, or just attention 121
10 Liars, cheaters, and scandals 129
11 Working for a living 143
12 There is a life after reality 157
13 Real or not, it doesn't matter 167
14 The gift that keeps giving 177
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