In this chapter and in Chapter 4, I focus on the relationships between Reality TV and other forms and genres of television which may seem either close to it or distant from it. This is part of a larger concern to contribute to debates about ‘televisuality’, and the understanding of the distinctiveness of television. Television works through reality, processing it and worrying over it in order to define, explain, narrate, render intelligible, marginalize or speculate about reality (Ellis 1999b). This occurs across all of its genres, not only in news and current affairs, but also in chat shows, soap operas, documentary and drama, so that realism becomes a particularly ambiguous term in the analysis of television. One meaning focuses on the referent of what is represented: that actual scenes, places and people are represented rather than imagined or fictional ones. A second meaning refers to television’s representation of recognizable and often contemporary experience such as in the representation of characters the audience can believe in or apparently likely chains of events. This meaning of realism relies on the familiarity of the codes which represent a reality.
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