Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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Foreword

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pp. vii-viii

Reality TV continues to grow in popularity as television programming that offers “real,” albeit edited and scripted, experiences before the handheld camera and proliferates to include children (Kid Nation) and animals (Pet Psychic). With roots in documentary film, originally used for education or persuasion, and television news, including heart-wrenching...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-x

Life often takes you in directions you least expect, and this is true of my relationship with my coeditor, Julie Anne Taddeo, with whom I first discussed this project during a telephone call in 2002. She inquired about my call for papers distributed on H-Net for a proposed anthology on the PBS historical Homes series. Julie, a British historian steeped in Victorian...

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Introduction

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pp. 1-8

As the title of this anthology suggests, reality TV is both a historical and a programming phenomenon. From Allen Funt’s Candid Camera of the 1950s to 2007’s Kid Nation, reality TV owes much of its format and techniques to the documentary genre, in particular the camera’s focus on “ordinary” citizens and the drama and humor of their day-to-day lives...

Part I: Reality TV as Social Experiment

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p. 9

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Citizen Funt: Surveillance as Cold War Entertainment

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pp. 11-26

A New York City bus station phone operator receives a series of phone calls from an annoying customer. In the first call he asks the operator for the scheduled departures and the length of the trip. In the second call he asks if he will get a seat and if the bus drivers are good. The third call brings further questions: Do the buses ever get lost? Is Spring Valley a nice...

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From Social Experiment to Postmodern Joke: Big Brother and the Progressive Construction of Celebrity

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pp. 27-46

According to Su Holmes, one of the significant factors to emerge from the growth of reality TV is that it “has made it impossible to escape the fact that we have seen an appreciable rise in the number of ‘ordinary’ people appearing on television” (“All you’ve got” 111). It is this process that this essay will explore, examining the reality TV program...

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From the Kitchen to 10 Downing Street: Jamie’s School Dinners and the Politics of Reality Cooking

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pp. 47-64

In an average week in September 2007, viewers of British television would have had difficulty avoiding programs with some kind of cooking element. On terrestrial television there were at least a dozen weekly or daily shows of this sort, including the magazine show Saturday Kitchen (BBC1, 2006–), the celebrity cookery show...

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The Patriotic American Is a Thin American: Fatness National Identity in The Biggest Loser

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pp. 65-80

These words from the theme song of the television show The Biggest Loser are typical of depictions of fatness in American culture. The phrases “we need a change” and a “break for freedom” are typical in that fatness is constructed as a self-imposed prison that can be “cured” through altering one’s diet or level of exercise. Joyce L. Huff’s essay “A ‘Horror of...

Part II: Class, Gender, and Reimaging of Family Life

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p. 81

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Disillusionment, Divorce, and the Destruction of the American Dream: An American Family and the Rise of Reality TV

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pp. 83-97

The 1970s were a disturbing transitional period for many Americans. Decline of social institutions that formerly solidified and signified the American identity contributed to much of this turmoil. Politically, culturally, and economically the country was going through changes that were affecting it in adverse ways. Vietnam veterans were coming home...

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“The television audience cannot be expected to bear too much reality”: The Family and Reality TV

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pp. 98-122

Paul Watson produced the twelve-part documentary serial, The Family (BBC1, 1974),¹ which is widely regarded as the British counterpart to An American Family (PBS, 1973). Although speaking from his reluctant position as the “godfather of Reality TV” (Hoggart), Watson’s comments invoke familiar dismissals of the form. Reality TV, seemingly cultivating an...

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Reality TV and the American Family

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pp. 123-144

Reality television shows are reframing ideas of the family in U.S. culture. The genre titillates by putting cultural anxieties about the family on display, hawking images of wife swapping, spouse shopping, and date hopping. Its TV landscape is dotted with programs about mating rituals, onscreen weddings, unions arranged by audiences, partners testing their bonds on...

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Shopping, Makeovers, and Nationhood: Reality TV and Women’s Programming in Canada

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pp. 145-170

As has been the case in a number of countries, the emergence and rapid proliferation of reality TV in Canada has prompted a variety of critical responses. For some, reality TV appears to have initiated a decline in quality on television as more expensive (and seemingly more culturally valuable) domestic dramas are increasingly being replaced with cheaply produced...

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Babes in Bonanza Land: Kid Nation, Commodification, and the Death of Play

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pp. 171-194

On the Web site for the CBS reality show Kid Nation (2007) the tagline reads: “40 kids have 40 days to build a brave new world without adults to help or hinder their efforts.” The show takes place in a New Mexico ghost town called Bonanza City, where one can just imagine Lorne Green or Michael Landon lurking somewhere off screen. The children are charged...

Part III: Reality TV and the Living History Experiment

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p. 195

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“A Storybook Every Day”: Fiction and History in the Channel 4/PBS House Series

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pp. 197-216

When the first of the British-themed and -produced historical House series, 1900 House, aired in the United States on PBS in June 2000, the network described the project as “classy voyeurism” and the place where “the sci-fi drama of time travel meets true-life drama.”¹ The success of 1900 House has since led to other Anglo-American...

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“What about giving us a real version of Australian history?”: Identity, Ethics, and Historical Understanding in Reality History TV

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pp. 217-235

In the last few years, Australia’s colonial history has become bitterly contested terrain, picked over in public in a series of debates known as the “history wars.”¹ These debates have centered on conflicting interpretations of indigenous-European history and the violence of colonization and have been fought not just between academics, but also among politicians and...

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Living History in Documentary Practice: The Making of The Colony

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pp. 236-256

In a television environment where potential audience ratings remain integral to any program’s success (whether news or entertainment, commercial or public broadcaster), the boundaries of the documentary’s form and practice have been undergoing significant shifts. Ten years since Renov made this statement, and ten years since the reality TV format really took...

Contributors

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pp. 257-260

Index

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pp. 261-275