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Unformatted text preview: 2010 World Policy Institute 47 Keeping it Real Watching the World Watch TV Eric Hoyt Ewa Mularczyk remembers the electrify- ing first season of Big Brotherthe show that entombs ten strangers for three months in a house wired with hidden cam- eras and microphonesin Poland. When a housemate on Polish Big Brother was broadcast bathing nude, the nation reacted with horror and fascination. It was the first time we ever saw anything on TV like that, Mularczyk says. At that moment she became, like millions of other viewers watching their own countrys versions of the show across the world, a Big Brother addict. When it first premiered in the Netherlands, in 1999, the show gener- ated many viewers and much controversy. Within three years its production com- pany, Endemol, had licensed or produced the format in 42 countries. But Mularczyk went further than most Big Brother fans. She became a reality television producer, moving from Poland to Los Angeles in 2001. To date, she has worked on Hells Kitchen, Dr. 90210 and I Survived a Japanese Game Show. Cultural critics and highbrow couch surfers routinely deride reality (or unscript- ed) television. Reality TV is, the argument goes, shallow trasha guilty pleasure at best. While shows like Mad Men or The Wire are lauded for their depth, they reinforce the notion that reality TV should be viewed shallowly, or not at all. When it comes to the club of artistic, canonical works, reality television doesnt make it past the erudite bouncers at the door. But recall an older definition of the canon, be- fore it was a collection of essential works. A canon was a set of ecclesiastical laws, or a secular set of codes and rules. Appropri- ately, the most important document that is exchanged between a reality TV-shows creator and its adapter is frequently re- ferred to as the Format Bible. The Bible Eric Hoyt is a Ph.D. candidate in the Critical Studies Division of the University of Southern Californias School of Cinematic Arts. THE GL BAL CAN N WORLD POLICY JOURNAL FALL 2010 48 lays out the programs structure, essential elements and production timeline. The Bibles writers try to anticipate and answer every question that a producer adapting a format could imagine. Think of a format, then, as an emerging Global Canon, one in which the meaning is generated through multiple levels of exchange and adaptation. It is unfair and shortsighted to write off reality television as a vast cultural wasteland, particularly when taking this canonical view. What if we went further, and explored reality shows not simply in terms of what we saw on our own TV set, but compared that to what viewers in other countries saw on their screens, and examined what moves them? And what if we looked past the screen itself, into the business and production models behind these shows? What we find is a window into the complexities and contradictions...
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This note was uploaded on 02/01/2012 for the course POLS 494 taught by Professor Garymoncrief during the Fall '11 term at Boise State.
- Fall '11
- The Bible