At some time around the end of 2002, I needed to come up with a very short definition of Reality TV. It had to be short and simple because it was going to go in the glossary of key terms in my book An Introduction to Television Studies. Even though I was in a rush to finish the book, I took a long time trying to define Reality TV in about ten words. The definition that I came up with was not very satisfactory. It was ‘programmes where the unscripted behaviour of “ordinary people” is the focus of interest’ (Bignell 2004a: 313). Clearly this definition is problematic because it could apply to all kinds of programmes that might not normally be considered under the label of Reality TV, so one of the subjects of this book is what both academic discourse and ordinary conversation is referring to when using that term. A second issue follows from that, which is what the use of the term ‘Reality TV’ makes possible. Once some kinds of programme are grouped by the term, patterns of continuity among them become discernible at the level of their production, the aesthetic qualities of the programmes as audio-visual texts and in terms of their reception by audiences.
KeywordsAcademic Discourse Programme Type Aesthetic Quality Academic Writing Television Form
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