Reality TV

Remaking Television Culture

400 pages

December, 2008

ISBN: 9780814757345



Also available in


Cultural Studies


Susan Murray is Associate Professor of Media, Culture and Communication at New York University. She is the author of Hitch Your Antenna to the Stars: Early Television and Broadcast Stardom.

All books by Susan Murray

Laurie Ouellette is Associate Professor at the University of Minnesota, where she teaches media and cultural studies. She writes about television, media culture, social theory, and consumer culture, and is the co-author of Better Living Through Reality TV: Television and Post-Welfare Citizenship and editor of A Companion to Reality Television, among other books.

All books by Laurie Ouellette

The Apprentice. Project Runway. The Bachelor. My Life on the D-list. Extreme Makeover. American Idol. It is virtually impossible to turn on a television without coming across some sort of reality programming. Yet, while this genre has rapidly moved from the fringes of television culture to its lucrative core, critical attention has not kept pace.

Beginning by unearthing its historical roots in early reality shows like Candid Camera and wending its way through An American Family and The Real World to the most recent crop of reality programs, Reality TV, now updated with eight new essays, is one of the first books to address the economic, visual, cultural, audience, and new media dimensions of reality television and has become the standard in the field. The essays provide a complex and comprehensive picture of how and why this genre emerged, what it means, how it differs from earlier television programming, and how it engages societies, industries, and individuals. Topics range from the blending of fact and fiction, to the uses of viewer labor and “interactivity,” to issues of surveillance, gender performativity, hyper-commercialism, and generic parody.

By spanning reality television’s origins in the late 1940s to its current overwhelming popularity, Reality TV demonstrates both the tenacity of the format and its enduring ability to speak to our changing political and social desires and anxieties.


  • "Offers the most insightful and significant scholarly analysis to date of the changes taking place in the economic ‘globalization’ of television production. A delight to read, laced with wit and humor."


  • “Provides both the record of a strange moment in history and a contribution to contemporary cultural politics. This second, revised edition brings the story right up to the present with a compelling blend of the ancient and the modern.”

    —Toby Miller, editor of Television & New Media