These factors make docusoap not so ‘real’, but the audience appreciate it for the entertainment value and these factors do not affect their enjoyment. However, by the end of 1990s, this new documentary format had gradually lost its popularity. Critics and executives of TV channels began to complain the similar content with in the same format between series. It was also blamed as a challenge of ‘serious’ documentary. Then new factual programmes emerged and replaced docusoap in TV schedules. Docusoap is remembered as a creative hybrid of documentary and fiction with high ratings in the history of reality TV.
Serve the Public: Prevalence of Lifestyle Lifestyle is another sub-genre of reality TV, of which BBC has been one of the biggest providers (Gareth Palmer; Holmes and Jermyn, 2004: 173). It originated in the 1990s and is still popular today. It occupies a large part of TV schedule, shown usually in the daytime and prime time. There is ‘a series of choices in di?? cor (House Invaders [Bazal for BBC1, 1999-2002], Changing Rooms [Bazal for BBC1, 1996- ]), clothes (What Not To Wear [BBC2, 1999- ]) and manner (Would Love To Meet [WLTM, BBC2, 2001-3])’ (Holmes and Jermyn, 2004: 174).
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People now have strong sense that they are citizens and consumers. They are eager to improve their lives. Many are glad to show their private life in front of camera. For habitus, Gareth Palmer commented: ‘Britain is a nation of homeowners clutching close the belief that the home represents a sort of castle. Hence, it makes sense to produce programmes aimed at the house-proud’ (Holmes and Jermyn, 2004: 179). For fashion, according to Palmer, ‘in looking at fashion programming we come closer to seeing how the individual should ideally be styled according to the new class of experts’ (Holmes and Jermyn, 2004: 181).
There is a debate as to whether fashion shows need be bitchy. Palmer has an interesting opinion: ‘fashion without bitchery, like academia without snobbery, is inconceivable’ (Holmes and Jermyn, 2004: 184). Bitchery makes fashion programming as amusement. It does happen frequently in our life, which is a factual element of lifestyle. Lifestyle programming is an innovation that television is not only observing people’s life, but also changing people’s way of life. It ‘serves the audience’ by giving instructions, which is the nature of European television, compared to ‘marketing the audience’ of American commercial television (Ang, 1991).
Lifestyle is a good illustration how culture affects social life. New Interactive Reality Show: World Success of Big Brother Endemol’s ‘jewel in the crown’, Big Brother was thirty months in development and was the brainchild of co-principal, John de Mol. First broadcast on Veronica in 1999 and an immense ratings success, the programme has been adapted in over eighteen territories in Western Europe, the UK, the US and elsewhere. (Albert Moran, the Global Television Format Trade; Hilmes, 2003: 120) Big Brother, a new reality programme is based on established genres such as game show, quiz show, documentary and soap opera.
It is a social experiment, in which we witness the reaction of the participants to their new environment and changing circumstances are often beyond their control. With the feature of game show, Big Brother sets its game rules as: The programme involved ten housemates interned together over a ten-week period in a specially designed hermetically sealed environment. The housemates were supplied with food and drink and had access to all amenities, but were isolated from all contact with the media and the outside world; there were no television sets, radios, newspapers.
Every week each housemate had to nominate for eviction two fellow-contestants; the two with the highest number of nominations would then be subject to public voting. It was the role of the public to select, by telephone vote, which of the two was to survive. By the final week there would be only two housemates remaining the winner was decided by the public, and took away a cheque for i?? 70,000. (Palmer, 2003: 182) From the above description, it is obvious that this programme innovatively uses interactive voting. The audiences have opportunities to join the programme and play a crucial role in deciding the result.
In early 1990s, Mike Wayne criticized programmes at that time: ‘broadcasters and programme makers have paid relatively little attention to the way in which people watch television. They have been concerned with how many people see a programme, rather than the way audiences interact with the images on the screen: what they absorb, what they challenge and what they discard’ (Hood, 1994: 43). It seems that Big Brother answers all these criticisms. Compared to the audience, the participants are powerless to control the programme. They are observed at all times and their lives are exposed to the public.
‘We’ve been looking at the housemates through the eyes of thirty-one unforgiving cameras – we have seen them at their best and also at their worst’ (Ritchie, 2001: 279). What they need is just to relax and enjoy their time. ‘For all of them, without exception, it has been an amazing experience. They have learned a great deal about themselves, and the rest of us have learned not just lots about them, but also about human nature in general’ (Ritchie, 2001: 279). However, all the participants are under much pressure exposing their lives to millions of audience. There is probably some negative effect on the psychology of most participants.
Gareth Palmer calls the programme ‘a psychological experiment’. Programme experience is not always as wonderful as Ritchie’s comment in the above paragraph. In Sweden there was a suicide of a participant on a similar programme (Palmer, 2003: 185). So in Big Brother ‘a team of mental health professionals will oversee both the selection process and the psychological well being of the participants while they are in the house’ (Palmer, 2003: 185). Big Brother creates a small society for the housemates away from the outside world. There are conflicts and also friendship. The participants are competitors and also partners.
As the audience watch the trivia of their daily routine, the voiceover commentary helps them understand the situations. Big Brother, a hybrid of different forms with popular interactive elements, is a new format of reality TV. It is leading a new trend of reality programming. Many independent television production companies are professional and experienced in making these new reality shows. Channel 4 and ITV, such non-mainstream commercial channels have shown many this kind of reality programmes. The audience are looking forward to more innovation of reality TV.
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