Shooting People : Adventures in Reality TV, Hardback Book
4 out of 5 (1 rating)


In the late 1990s, the global television industry struck gold.

The reality game shows Big Brother and Survivor became TV events that whipped up storms of controversy and changed the face of prime-time schedules.

Subjecting their contestants to protracted seclusion from the outside world, the shows offered up a novel combination of the mundane and the extreme, inspiring countless imitations and almost as many law suits.

Shooting People examines the emergence of the form, its relation to documentary and its place within a globalised TV industry.

Sam Breton and Rueben Cohen draw parallels between methods employed to control contestants and techniques of interrogation honed by military intelligence.

Exposing the dubious involvement of psychologists and psychotherapists in the reality TV business.

This 'ultimate form of light entertainment' is also shown to be the perfect medium for an apolitical time that has displaced grand narratives with an obsessive focus on personality and trivia. It has been some forty years since television first decided a presidential election, in the legendary Nixon-Kennedy debates; if, in 2004, we should see the Republican and Democratic nominees debating alongside a third-party candidate given to the world by Messrs Murdoch and Cutler, elevating the game show to the level of a decisive electoral institution, the term 'reality TV', always dubious before, will have simply made itself redundant, 'reality' and 'television' turned interchangeable in an ultimate parody of democracy's aspirations to liberate humankind.


  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Media studies
  • ISBN: 9781859845400



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Sharply critical of reality TV, the authors poke holes in the idea of a participant's informed consent, challenge the efficacy of the psychotherapists involved in these "spectacles of extremity and cruelty," and take a fascinating look at the psychological parallels between reality TV game shows and tactics used during the Stanford Country Prison Experiment and even during war time for interrogation and torture. What's "real" is exactly what becomes confused as the microcosm of the contestant's isolated, fabricated world develops into a disturbing form of reality. This is a highly readable, energetic examination of a prime-time phenomenon.