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CBS's hit television show "Survivor" has a winning formula. It mixes elements of a game show with a more recent genre of television--so-called reality-based programming--that places "ordinary" non-actors in extraordinary situations that are rich with the potential for drama. One can imagine what the pitch might have been to CBS's president: "Survivor" is one part "Gilligan's Island," one part Lord of the Flies, and one part "Who Wants to be a Millionaire?" The show's premise is that two teams (tribes) must inhabit an island away from civilization, with each member competing for the top spot of sole survivor, ensuring both competition and camaraderie among the faux tribespeople. In this article, I begin to chart a history of this newer genre of programming and attempt to arrive at some of the meanings of "Survivor" in relation to another hit show intended for an entirely different demographic--the English series shown on PBS, "1900 House." This show places a contemporary family in a house restored to a century ago, a domicile with no electricity (save video cameras with batteries for power, of course), an outhouse, and an antique cooker--with each member dressed in cumbersome, if attractive, victorian garb. This show could be described as one part "Masterpiece Theatre," one part "You Are There," and one part "This Old House." In our high-tech world, getting away from beepers, mobile phones, and email is clearly a fantasy--yet one that is meant to appear as if it has its own risks. It seems, for those who complain of the lack of imagination in television programming, that when networks come up with something new, this newness is just a mixture of older genres, matched with an appropriate marketing plan aimed at a specific age bracket, gender, or race. In the 21st century, innovation appears to be but a clever recycling of themes and structures. Television, even when it may appear salacious or violent or utilizing new filming or editing techniques, remains all too predictable, with each new show echoing older series. Television and Innovation Writing in 1975, cultural theorist Raymond Williams argued in "Television: Technology and Cultural Form that the medium brought innovation not only in the shaping of shows, but also in the subject matter covered. He wrote: "[I]t is clearly not only a question of combination and development. The adaptation of received forms to the new technology has led in a number of cases to significant changes and to some real qualitative differences." Television genres such as the sitcom are both particular to the medium and combinations of earlier forms of entertainment. The ancestry of the sitcom can be traced to such disparate sources as vaudeville, stand-up comedy, commedia del l'arte, and French farce. The generics of the sitcom (the aspects that place a program within the genre) are clear and evident to most viewers. In fact, they are expert in discerning it, able to tell within seconds whether the show is a sitcom, game show, daytime soap opera, drama, TV movie, and so forth...
Source Citation (MLA 8 th Edition)
Miller, Edward D. "Fantasies of Reality: Surviving Reality-Based Programming." Social Policy, vol. 31, no. 1, 2000, p. 6. Academic OneFile, Accessed 19 Nov. 2017.
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