Saturday, 8 September 2012

Genre and Narrative: An Analysis of an Episode of The Sopranos


Explain ‘narrative’ and ‘genre’ as related principles of analysis for television drama, with reference to at least three (3) set unit readings on these terms. Illustrate the main points of your explanation with an example from a television drama program of your choice.


Genre and narrative are terms that get bandied around with regularity however the terms are not as clear-cut as they seem.  Human experience is able to be  “reconstructed, rearranged, and reimagined” (Newcomb 2004, p.143) through genre and narrative, but to fully appreciate their importance they need to be understood. The Sopranos (HBO, 1999-2007), described as a “television landmark that leaves other landmarks in the dust” (Shales 2006, para.3), has a hybrid approach to both genre and narrative. The programme is unique in that it blends “long-form serial narrative for television in a genre hybrid” with production values “at a quasi-cinematic level” (Nelson 2007, p.38), which fit David Chase’s claims to being more interested in episodes that are stand-alone mini-movies as opposed to “the connective tissue between”  (Carter 2001, para. 15).  In this essay I will define genre and narrative while applying the terms to The Sopranos episode, ‘Whoever Did This’. 

For Newcomb, “Genres are systems of classification or grouping” (2004, p.423).  The Sopranos, listed as a crime/drama (iMDb, online), can perhaps be better described as a “hybrid genre of post-Godfather decline-of-the-mob movie and soap opera, with plenty of sex, violence, domestic melodrama, and comic irony” (Willis 2002, p.2).  While the classification of drama is accurate, gangster, a subgenre of the media crime story” (Nochimson 2002, p.3), should perhaps replace crime.  According to Patricia Keeton, people watching the pilot of The Sopranos, “expected a conventional gangster narrative, but what they saw did not match their expectations” (2002, p.132).  According to Selby and Cowdery, “When we watch a TV programme we bring to it a considerable amount of knowledge and understanding about media texts in general” (1995, p.6), and it is this prior knowledge that allows the audience “to operate with an understanding that transcends and cuts across genre” (Casey et al. 2002, p.110). Perhaps the biggest anomalies with The Sopranos being labeled a gangster are Tony’s depression and love of animals.  However, while these are unusual for the gangster genre, they comply with drama.

The episode being analysed is a clear example of the gangster genre: Corrado’s RICO indictments; heavy-set Italians milling about; oversized jewelry adorning sausage-like fingers; shared meals; and of course the murder and dismemberment of Ralph.  Tony is often framed by himself indicating his ‘boss’ status and when he is framed with another person, he is positioned in a way to express his power.  An example of this is when his (naked) mistress is dressing in the background when he takes the call informing him of Pie-Oh-My’s death.  Lighting varies between low for scenes in Tony’s office or at the Bada Bing and high for scenes in the various houses.  This contributes towards the separation of Tony’s two families – his biological one and his crew. 

The episode includes aspects of family drama (Justin’s near-fatal accident and Tony’s roughhousing with A.J in the family kitchen) and melodrama (Pie-Oh-My’s death).  According to Nochimson, “the domestic melodrama of the gangster subgenre is muscularized” (2002, p.4) which is demonstrated by the brutality of Ralph’s reaction to his son’s accident, the physicality of the play fighting and Tony’s eventual killing of Ralph in retribution for Pie-Oh-My’s death (and that of Tracee in Season 3).  These examples support Casey et al.’s assertions that “television programmes are likely to combine across genres” (2002, p.110).   

According to Alan Sepinwall, The Sopranos “doesn’t play by the rules of serial narrative; some episodes are about nothing but advancing subplots, while others are nothing but what they’re about” (2002, p.67). Narrative, the way “content is structured and ordered in quite systematic ways” (Casey et al. 2002, p.138), is “so fundamental to television that it is easy to overlook its significance” (Selby and Cowdery 1995, p.5).  The Sopranos narrative follows the “Aristotelian dictum that all narratives have beginnings, middles, and ends” (Newcomb 2004, p.416), but is done so in a hybrid approach achieving a balance between stand-alone and serialized storylines that can be enjoyed by casual or regular viewers: “The Sopranos went from having a strongly defined narrative in the first series to adopting a more self-contained, episodic narrative structure in subsequent series” (Creeber 2004, p.11).  ‘Whoever Did This’ incorporates eight narrative threads, five of which are concluded, with the remaining three being left open-ended to encourage further viewing.   

The main, stand-alone storyline of ‘Whoever did this’ is the demise of Ralph Cifaretto.  While some sympathy can be accorded Ralph in the episode due to his son’s near-fatal accident, transgressions by the character in previous episodes are revived and given closure.  Although Justin is a new addition to the narrative, Pie-Oh-My was introduced earlier in the season (S04E05) with Tony’s relationship to the horse being quickly established.  The horse’s death, occurring in the first half of the programme, is the catalyst for most of what occurs after it.  Ralph has been previously linked with the arson of Artie’s restaurant (S01E01), so Tony is immediately suspicious with the accidental fire that kills the horse.  Tony’s probing leads to the fight that ends Ralph’s life and unites the narratives of Justin and Pie-Oh-My. Ralph’s plea that his son “never did nothing to nobody” is repeated by Tony (“What did she ever do to you?”) as he strangles him. Perhaps the most poignant moment of the episode is when Tony wakes up in the Bada Bing the morning after Ralph’s death, walks over to the mirror, and sees the photo of Tracee.  While Ralph’s death can be understood by a casual viewer, Tony’s reaction to the horse’s death might be perplexing without prior knowledge of Tracee, Ralph’s pregnant, stripper girlfriend (S03E06), whom he beat to death.

The longest running episodic narratives are Corrado’s court case (introduced in S01E08) and Christopher’s heroin addiction (introduced in S01E01). Artie’s suicide attempt (S04E06) and subsequent falling out with Tony, while more recent, is another example of episodic narrative.  All three of these narrative threads remain incomplete at the end of the episode.

The Sopranos is an example of a hybrid both in terms of genre and narrative.  David Chase “knowingly engage[s] in the playful disruption of generic conventions” (Casey et al. 2002, p.110) by combining elements of gangster, family drama and melodrama, showing how “genres evolve, cross-cut and parody themselves” (Casey et al. 2002, p.110).  The Sopranos exhibits what Newcomb believes is one of the most significant facets of narrative, “malleability” (2004, p.419), shown through the alternating between stand-alone and serialized storylines. 


Reference List
  • Casey, B, Casey, N, Calvert, B, French, L, & Lewis, J, 2002, ‘Extracts: Code, Convention, Drama, Genre, Narrative, Reality Television, Representation and Soap Opera’, in B. Casey et al (eds), Television  studies: The key concepts, Routledge, London, pp. 71-76, 108-111, 138-142, 196-198, 222-226.
  • Carter, B, 2001, ‘On Television; Stringing Together Taut Episodes, Not Codas, on ‘The Sopranos’, in The New York Times, 16 July 2001, viewed 24 July 2012, 
  • http://www.nytimes.com/2001/07/16/business/on-television-stringing-together-taut-episodes-not-codas-on-the-sopranos.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm
  • Creeber, G, 2004, Serial Television: Big Drama on the Small Screen, London: BFI, p.11.
  • iMDb, ‘The Sopranos’, viewed 26 July 2012, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0141842/
  • Keeton, P, 2002, ‘The Sopranos and Genre Transformation: Ideological Negotiation in the Gangster Film’, in Atlantic Journal of Communication, 10 (2), pp.131-148.
  • Nelson, R, 2007, “HBO PREMIUM: Channelling distinction through TVIII”, in New Review of Film and Television Studies, Volume 5, Issue 1, April  2007, pp. 25-40.
  • Newcomb, H, 2004, ‘Narrative and genre’ in J Downing, D McQuail, P Schlesinger, and E Wartella (eds), The SAGE Handbook of Media Studies, Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage, pp.414-29.
  • Nochimson, M, 2002, Waddaya Lookin' At?: Re-reading the Gangster Genre Through "The Sopranos", in Film Quarterly, Vol. 56, No. 2 (Winter 2002), pp. 2-13.
  • Shales, T, 2006, ‘Back With a Vengeance’, The Washington Post, 12 March 2006, viewed 24 July 2012, 
  • http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/10/AR2006031000401_pf.html
  • Selby, K and Cowdery, R, 1995, ‘Studying television’, in How to study television, Macmillan, London, pp. 1-19. 
  • Sepinwall, A, 2002, ‘It’s whine season for The Sopranos’, in TheStar-Ledger, 11 October 2002, p.67.
  • Sopranos, The, 2002, television series, HBO, United States, directed by Timothy Van Patten and starring James Gandolfini, Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, Dominic Chianese, Tony Sirico, Steve Van Zandt, Joe Pantoliano,
  • Willis, E, 2002, ‘Our Mobsters, Ourselves’, in D Lavery (ed), This Thing of Ours: Investigating the Sopranos, Wallflower, London and New York, pp.2-9.




Multimedia and Transmedia Storytelling


The Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism define multimedia storytelling as a “combination of text, still photographs, video clips, audio, graphics and interactivity presented on a Web site in a nonlinear format in which the information in each medium is complementary, not redundant” (Stevens 2011, online).  This definition is obviously more apt for multimedia storytelling in the digital age – perhaps a definition more apt for Dr Who in the analogue era, is the telling of a (single) narrative by way of a multitude of media (TV, comics, books and radio) as opposed to transmedia storytelling, which is telling a several stories across multiple platforms. 

According to Henry Jenkins:
“Transmedia needs to be understood as a shift in how culture gets produced and consumed, a different way of organizing the dispersal of media content across media platforms. We might understand this in terms of a distinction I make between multimedia and transmedia. Multimedia refers to the integration of multiple modes of expression within a single application. So, for example, an educational cd-rom a decade or so ago might combine text, photographs, sound files, and video files which are accessed through the same interface. Transmedia refers to the dispersal of those same elements across multiple media platforms. So, for example, the use of the web to extend or annotate television content is transmedia, while the iPad is fostering a return to interest in multimedia.” (2010, online).

As an aside… the term ‘transmedia’ was first coined by Marsha Kinder in her 1991 book, Playing with Power in Movies, Television and Video Games: From Muppet Babies to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turles. 

Perryman cites the “release of a hardback Annual in 1964” (2008, p.22) as the first instance of multimedia storytelling for Dr Who.  The annual included comic strips and prose – these were intended to be enjoyed “in tandem with the televised programme” (2008, p.22).  Books, or novelizations, helped to “flesh out the stories in far greater depth” (2008, p.22) than the televised programmes.  The programme could also be heard on radio and LPs.  So the same stories were being told but by different media formats. 

References:
·     Jenkins, H. 2010, ‘Transmedia Education: the 7 Principles Revisited’, Confessions of an Aca-Fan: The Official Blog of Henry Jenkins, viewed 2 September, 2012, http://henryjenkins.org/2010/06/transmedia_education_the_7_pri.html.
·     Perryman, N. 2008. ‘Doctor Who and the convergence of media: A case study in transmedia storytelling’, Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, Vol. 14, No. 1, pp. 21-39. http://ezproxy.une.edu.au /login?url=http://dx.doi.org/doi: 10.1177/1354856507084417
·     Stevens, J.  2011, ‘multimedia storytelling’, UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, viewed 2 September, 2012, http://multimedia.journalism.berkeley.edu/tutorials/starttofinish/choose/   



The Trope of the Amateur


By “the trope of amateurism” (p.29), Seale is meaning the concept behind amateurism – what it means to be an amateur.  Of course, the concept of amateurism is not always as simple as it seems.  I’ve known plenty of amateur actors in the theatre who are as good as professionals, and I’ve known a few professional actors whose ability is negligible.  I’ve often thought of the difference between the professional and amateur in the context of theatre as being in terms of payment (i.e. none in contrast to actually receiving some – as meagre as it can be for some jobs!) as opposed to the difference in talent.

According to Rebecca Huntley, “…we watch people cook more than we cook ourselves” (cited in Searl 2012, p.30).  This is certainly true for me.  I was an avid follower of the first season of MasterChef Australia (the second season hasn’t aired yet where I'm living) and would become upset if I missed an episode.  One of the things I particularly like about the MasterChef franchise (I watch the British version too but prefer the Australian one) is precisely that it’s amateurs cooking.  It’s the notion that if they can do it, maybe (if I was at all disposed to) I could do it too.  Amanda Dunn (2010) believes, “the talent quest stream of reality TV plays on the romance of pure potential, the idea that an ‘ordinary person’ (i.e. you there in the lounge room) might have lurking within them a special talent that just needs nurturing under the stern but loving gaze of seasoned professionals” (cited in Seale 2012, p.32).

Seale uses the dichotomy of amateur/professional as the basis of her article.  According to Merriam-Webster, an amateur is “one who engages in a pursuit, study, science, or sport as a pastime rather than as a profession” (online).  A professional on the other hand is defined as “participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavour often engaged in by amateurs”.  The difference between the two seems to be based in money, or rather the payment received for doing the same thing, in this case cooking.  As an aside, amateur and professional shouldn’t be confused with amateurism (“one lacking in experience and competence in an art or science”) and professionalism (“the conduct, aims, or qualities that characterize or mark a profession or a professional person”), which is more to do with experience than monetary gains. 

In MasterChef Australia the amateurs are “constantly situated in relation to the professional” (Searl 2012, p.29) and actually come face-to-face in competition with professionals, and on several occasions have even come out the victor.  Master classes are also conducted where the professionals teach the amateurs – albeit with the amateurs acting as kitchen hands – and impart some of their valuable (valued) knowledge.  However, “The professional makeover in MasterChef fails to convince because it is primarily a tool for portraying the aspirational fantasy that any amateur who can do something proficiently has the potential to commodify their skills and knowledge” (p.32).

Seale states that the amateurism is “instrumental in the show’s success among viewers” (2012, p.28).  The chance to be cooking in a kitchen that’s been “spectacularised as a foodie’s fantasy, well stocked with expensive specialty produce such as truffles and lobster, and equipped with gadgets to aid in every form of food preparation and all kinds of culinary techniques” (p.31), is a dream.  For those of us watching at home, it’s a vague promise of what a kitchen could potentially be like, and that if we have those appliances (or indeed, the fancy ingredients) we could produce similar looking food. 

I thought the final discussion in the article was interesting, and something I hadn’t thought of before.  Capitalism is “an economic system based on a free market, open competition, profit motive and private ownership of the means of production” (Investopedia 2012, online) and as such needs to have a class divide – and this division is an “essential feature of capitalism” (World Socialist Movement 2006, online).  According to Seale, “The show propels the everyday cooks in the studio (and in the home) to mimic the professional, yet they do not actually achieve that level because that would require commensurate financial compensation for their labour and threaten the jobs of their professional counterparts” (p.34).  So although there’s the promise of attaining professional status, it’s one that will not really eventuate for most of the contestants.  Putting it in terms of American Idol… how many of the contestants actually make the big time? While many do end up with professional careers (perhaps not the level of stardom promised), it’s not the majority.  Seale finishes the article by saying, “neo-liberal capitalism provides very few social or economic incentives for the media industries to ‘make over’ amateurs into professionals” (p.34).  But perhaps the chance for 15-minutes of fame is enough for most people.

References:
·     Investopedia, 2012, Capitalism, viewed 8 August 2012, http://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/capitalism.asp#axzz22xp6pXnH
·     Merriam-Webster, 2012, viewed 8 August 2012, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/trope
·     Seale, K. 2012. ‘MasterChef’s amateur makeovers’, Media International Australia, No. 143, pp. 28-35.
http://ezproxy.une.edu.au/login?url=http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA294194527&v=2.1&u=dixson& it=r&p=GPS&sw=w
·     World Socialist Movement, 2006, ‘What is Capitalism’, viewed 8 August 2012, http://www.worldsocialism.org/articles/what_is_capitalism.php


RTV


I found this reading (‘Reality TV and Social Perversion’) quite difficult to grasp, but here’s what I think it’s about…

The arrival of RTV as a television genre in it’s own right, albeit a hybrid of “tradition documentary film, network newscasting, and ethnographic film” (p.394), is a type of perversion of those base genres: “Reality TV is to the documentary tradition as sexual ‘perversion’ was to ‘normal’ sexuality for Freud” (p.393).  So it’s related but is a distortion or ‘twisting’ of the original.  However, without the original, normal, genres, we wouldn’t have the perversion, which is RTV. 

Nichols claims that RTV has contributed into turning the news into “dramatic spectacle” (p.394) breaking it down into “palatable confections that do not represent an absent referent so much as cannibalize it and assimilate it into a different type of substance” (p.394).  Or in other words, it’s broken down the reality into agreeable pieces that don’t represent (or pretend to represent) the absolute truth, but integrates it into something new.

As viewers we’re used to being stimulated by televised events, and RTV produces feelings similar to those produced by “an exceptional acrobatic feat, superb magic tricks, or the sudden appearance of a full-scale helicopter thirty feet above the stage in Miss Saigon” (p.394).  And due to the participatory aspect of RTV, “we enter the twilight border zone of virtual reality” (p.396).   RTV provides the stimulation we need (and indeed require from TV) and ensures we tune in each week.

References:
·     Nichols, B. 2000. ‘Reality TV and social perversion’, in P. Marris & S. Thornham (eds), Media studies: A reader, New York University Press, New York, pp. 393-403. On eReserve: http://www.une.edu.au/ereserve/?biblioID=R46834


 

How far is too far?


Can reality TV go too far? Absolutely.  Especially programmes such as Temptation Island, Are You Hot? The Search for America's Sexiest People, The Swan, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and Joe Millionaire.  Messages pertaining to a person’s value being tied to their physical appearance are overt and potentially dangerous to the impressionable members of the viewing audience: “Critics and academics have lambasted reality shows on a multitude of fronts, from elevating money, fame and beauty above all other human qualities to promoting meanness, casual sex, alcohol abuse, and bad language” (Christenson et al. 2006, p.4).  These shows contribute “to the growing problems in our society by celebrating human weakness rather than human excellence” (Geela 2004, para. 2). 

According to Mark Andrejevic, associate professor of Communication Studies at the University of Iowa, “The bread and butter of reality television is to get people into a state where they are tired, stressed and emotionally vulnerable” (cited in Wyatt 2009, para. 16).  TV critic, Richard Levak believes, “Most reality shows would not be allowed to take place as psychology experiments by the powerful Human Subjects Committees that guard volunteers’ rights in psychological experiments” (2003, p.11). Although contestants have to sign nondisclosure agreements that include penalties for divulging what happened on set, New York Times reporter, Edward Wyatt conducted interviews with ex-contestants (“most of whose agreements expired after three years”) who revealed RTV programmes “routinely use isolation, sleeplessness and alcohol to encourage wild behaviour” (Wyatt 2009, para. 6):

“They locked me in a hotel room for three or four days” before production started, said Jen Yemola, a Pennsylvania pastry chef who was on the 2007 season of “Hell’s Kitchen,” a cooking competition. They took all my books, my CDs, my phone, any newspapers. I was allowed to leave the room only with an escort. It was like I was in prison.” (Wyatt 2009, para, 2)

According to Brenton & Cohen, “The combination of sleep deprivation/interruption with compulsory and routine tasks that served no purpose was a potent means of unsettling [contestants]” (p.123).  They refer to the CIA’s manual of interrogation techniques as a source of many of the techniques RTV uses to disarm contestants: “man’s sense of identity depends upon a continuity in his surroundings, habits, appearance, actions, relations with others etc” (p.86). If there’s one thing that RTV does, it’s disrupting the continuity of contestant’s lives.  The Kubark manual states: “The principal coercive techniques are arrest, detention, the deprivation of sensory stimuli, threats and fear, debility, pain, heightened suggestibility and hypnosis, and drugs” (p.103).  The only techniques listed that I can’t recall being used in a RTV series are arrest and hypnosis, and while drugs aren’t used per se, alcohol is used (as mentioned above) in certain programmes to enhance inhibition.   

RTV involves taking contestants out of their comfort zones, doing what ever it takes: “Contestants may mistakenly believe they are in a spacecraft, or that they are talking in confidence when other contestants can hear every word” (Sokol & Wilson 2007, para. 8).  Communication blackouts are a usual part of RTV, as are the very long workdays.  And while these may not equate to going too far, “keeping a contestant in the dark when her father died” (ibid. para. 2) definitely is.

RTV is accused of promoting “anti-social behavior, excessive self-indulgence, self-entitlement, greed, compromised integrity, obsession with winning at all costs, and erosion in morality” (Geela 2004, para. 3).  I recall being very disappointed watching the final of Survivor: Redemption Island when Boston Rob won the viewer-voted Player of the Season over Matt Elrod.  I was disappointed because Matt played the game with honesty and integrity (being sent to redemption island on two separate occasions for trusting ‘so-called’ friends) as opposed to Boston Rob who was his devious self.   I remember thinking how sad it was that people would reward unprincipled behaviour over decency.        

References:
·     Brenton, S. & and Cohen, R. 2003. 'Frames of Mind', in Shooting people: Adventures in reality TV. London; New York: Verso, 2003. Chapter 6, pp. 108-144. On eReserve: http://www.une.edu.au/ereserve/?biblioID=R21940
·     CIA, 1963, Kubark Counterintelligence Interrogation
·     Christenson, P, College L, College C, & Ivancin M, 2006, The “Reality” of Health: Reality Television and the Public Health”, viewed on 8 August 2012, www.kff.org/entmedia/upload/7567.pdf
·     Kirchheimer, S, 2003, ‘Reality TV Trigger Health Issues?’, in WebMD, viewed on 8 August 2012, http://www.webmd.com/balance/news/20030228/reality-tv-trigger-health-issues
·     Geela, 2004, ‘Another Reality Tv Show Or A Reality Check?’, viewed on 8 August 2012, http://www.peopleoffaith.com/reality-tv-essay.htm
·     Levak R, 2003, “The Dangerous Reality of Reality Television,” in Television Week, 22 (38), p.11.
·     Sokol, D, and Wilson J,  2007, ‘Ethics of reality TV’, in BBC News, viewed on 8 August 2012,  http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/6702315.stm
·     Wyatt, E, 2009, ‘TV Contestants: Tired, Tipsy and Pushed to Brink’, in The New York Times, viewed on 8 August 2012, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/02/business/media/02reality.html?pagewanted=all



Reality TV… an oxymoron


Reality TV is an oxymoron – it’s anything but real.   The old news adage, ‘if it bleeds it leads’, is one that can easily be applied to reality TV and it’s this attitude that encourages the watercooler effect. The programmes are cast with drama/entertainment in mind.  The cameras are on for many hours with the ensuing footage edited down to an hour.   Of course each programme is mediated – we’d be naïve to think otherwise.

In an interview with Jason DeRusha, Real Housewives of Orange County cast member, Gretchen Rossi, reports, “It is about a 5-month stint of daily filming. Then you do what’s called pickups, you fill in the blanks of areas they need”. DeRusha claims, “The producers create situations, the editors craft story-lines, but the people and the feelings are real”.

According to James Poniewozik, while viewers may realise how fake reality TV is, they are not aware of the extent of the manipulation: “Quotes are manufactured, crushes and feuds constructed out of whole cloth, episodes planned in multiact "storyboards" before taping, scenes stitched together out of footage shot days apart” (2006, online). 

TVNZ’s factual entertainment commissioner, Tony Manson, contends, "All of us live reality, moment to moment.  But unedited, real life would mostly make for dull viewing. The question to ask is how accurate is the reality portrayed? (cited in Knowsley 2012, online).  Julie Christie, chief executive of Eyeworks, argues that the main function of reality TV is to entertain: "You put framework into it, you make people compete, or you put something in there to disrupt their lives and see how human nature behaves” (cited in Knowsley 2012, online). 

Jeremy Orlebar maintains that reality TV “is like drama in the way it is edited for interpersonal drama based on detailed exploration of character. The ‘live’ element of the show gives it unpredictability, but usually makes less interesting viewing than the edited highlights” (2010, online).  He expands upon this to describe how the audience are manipulated into thinking what they are seeing is real:
·     The set is a real location, or a “fully functional three dimensional” purpose built set
·     The timeframe seems real – cast members are going about daily stuff in whatever situation they find themselves in (except of course in the edited ‘best-of’ type programmes)
·     The cast members (whether they are contestants, guests, or housemates) wear their own clothes and use their real names
·     Consequences seem to be orchestrated by the cast members or the audience – not the producers
·     “Psychological realism” is achieved through confessionals, and “putting people in difficult but real situations”

He finishes with a discussion on the ethical issues: “Participants on Reality shows can be humiliated in order to provide conflict or drama on the show. Audiences generally find this an acceptable and often enjoyable aspect of the show” (2010, online).

This again shows how engineered the programmes are… when I think of my own life, there’s only so much conflict and drama, and it certainly doesn’t occur on a daily basis.  As Tony Manson said, unedited footage would be boring – there needs to be some manipulation in order for it to be entertaining.  Remember, “television is a business” (Magder 2004, p.138), and therefore needs to attract an audience – this is only going to happen if the programme is entertaining. 

Magder discusses the three strategies incorporated by reality TV: product placement (product integration) and direct sponsorship; merchandise tie-ins; and multiplatform content.   While merchandise tie-ins and multiplatform content are part and parcel of the branding involved in most media endeavours these days, the addition of product placement is particularly contrived, calling into question the reality of reality TV. 

 References:
·     DeRusha, J, 2011, ‘Good Question: How Real is Reality TV?’, in CBS Minnesota viewed on 7 August, 2012 http://minnesota.cbslocal.com/2011/11/16/good-question-how-real-is-reality-tv/
·     Knowsley, J, 2012, ‘Surf wars – how real is reality TV?’, in NZ Herald, viewed on 7 August, 2012
·     Magder. T, 2004, 'The End of TV 101: Reality programs, formats, and the new business of television', in S. Murray and L. Ouellette (eds), Reality TV: Remaking television culture. New York: New York University Press. Chapter 7, pp. 137-156.
·     Orlebar, T. 2010, ‘Understanding Reality TV’, in MediaEdu, viewed on 7 August 2012, http://media.edusites.co.uk/article/understanding-reality-tv/
·     Poniewozik, J, 2006, ‘How Reality TV Fakes It’, in Time Magazine Online, viewed on 7 August 2012, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1154194,00.html