The twenty first century has witnessed a major increase in the popularity of reality TV shows like it has never been experienced before. Reality TV shows have taken centre stage to take television entertainment and information to another level. There are various features of these shows that make them appealing to the audience and hence contribute to their popularity. This research study will look at some of these aspects of reality TV shows that have seen them take the entertainment sector by storm. This will be done through an analysis of one reality TV show: Masterchef Australia. This research study will further look at how this reality TV show evokes the aspect of reality by depicting real life situations in a live manner. The study will also look at some of the show’s features of style such as documentary realism, simulacrum, simulation, tabloidization and technological reflexivity.
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Overview Of The Reality Show
Masterchef Australia is a reality TV show that best exemplifies the contemporary reality TV shows. The fact that this show has won the Logie Award lends credence to the stance that it is a typical example of today’s reality TV shows. Its popularity and airing on several television stations also shows that the show succeeded as a modern reality TV show. The analysis of this reality TV show can therefore be taken as the comprehensive analysis of the majority of today’s reality TV shows that have the same aspects of style as this one.
The Masterchef Australia reality show can be described as a cooking game or contest that seeks to bring reality and entertainment to the mere practice of food preparation and other related areas. The contest has a series of seasons that follow the same format or change one or two things. The aim of the reality TV show is to present cooking as an enjoyable and challenging experience rather than the conventional boring task that is characterized by female figures. This reality show encompasses a number of interesting activities which are discussed below.
The first challenge of the show take place at night and requires the contestants to make a certain meal using a set of given ingredients. The contestants may also be asked to prepare a meal that suits the definition of certain theme using a core ingredient. Furthermore, the team may have to undertake external challenges such as cooking for a large number of people. The first three winners from this stage are set aside for their participation in the Immunity Challenge.
The second stage of the show seeks to eliminate one of the three contestants from the previous night’s challenge who scored lowest. The three contestants are once again given a recipe for a specific dish which they are then asked to prepare. After the judges have tasted the foods of the three contestants and awarded marks accordingly, the contestant who scores the lowest mark is eliminated as the challenge moves to the next level.
The next level is called the immunity challenge. In this stage, the winner in the first stage competes against a guest who may be a chef or an apprentice. A meal is chosen and the contestant and the guest are told to prepare it using the given ingredients. After preparation, the meals are submitted to the judges for awarding. The meals are not labelled so the judges have no idea which dish belongs to the contestant or the guest chef. This helps to eliminate claims of bias or impartiality on the part of the judges. If the contestant scores the same mark or scores more than the guest, then he or she will be branded as the winner of the challenge. He or she then receives a pin that will save her from being eliminated in one of the subsequent challenges that follows. In season one, the winner of the immunity challenge was accorded a pass to the finale and was even allowed to go home and rest before the finale started.
The team challenge comes just after the immunity challenge. In this team challenge, the contestants are tested on their ability to work as a team and achieve the best results. The challenge may take any of the following forms. First, the team may be required to serve a celebrity guest with a three course meal. Furthermore, the team may be required to run a restaurant for one evening. Lastly, the team may also have to successfully organize an event such as a wedding or birthday party. The success of this challenge is gauged on the basis of the amount of money made from the people served by the teams, the approval of the judges or the number of votes. The winning team receives an award which is mostly in the form of lunch in one of the top restaurants in the country.
The members of the team that lost in the team challenge face a possible elimination. This elimination may take one of the following formats. The bottom two contestants of from the losing team may challenge each other in a head to head contest where the loser will be eliminated. The judges may also opt to ask each member of the losing team to single out an individual who contributed greatly to their failure. The person with the most nominations is automatically removed. In cases where a team challenge was replaced by an individual challenge, the bottom two contestants may engage in a contest of identifying ingredients of certain dish to determine who will be eliminated. The person who is the first to name a wrong ingredient is eliminated.
The final stage of the Masterchef Australia Reality TV show is the Masterclass. This is the final stage that will determine the overall winner of the whole show. In the course of this Masterclass, judges George and Gary may call back to some of the challenges that were experienced in the previous stages. The judges may also show how various dishes that were earlier prepared by some contestant could have been made better. The most significant part is the decisive moment when the judges announce the overall winner based on an analysis of the whole episode of the reality TV show.
The Masterchef Australia Reality TV show will be nothing but a boring cooking show without the deployment of some features. They are these features that make the show both entertaining and informative and keep the audience glued to their screens. These features include realism, simulation, simulacrum, hyperrealism, documentary realism, technological reflexivity and tabloidization. The rest of this paper will discuss each of these features in detail.
The Masterchef Australia reality TV show has aspects of realism in it. This is because the show depicts cooking events and practices in a manner that shows a real connection to the actual world. The events in the show are portrayed in such a manner that they draw their inspiration from the actual happenings in the real world. Realism permeates throughout this reality show as discussed below.
Unlike some other features, realism in a show can’t be singled out and identified. Its presence is felt but its identification as one single entity is not easy. This is the case with the Masterchef Australia reality TV show. Throughout the episodes, the audience can feel the connection to reality as they watch the show. This connection exists because there is little or no difference between the the reality show and the actual world happenings. This lack of a big difference is what brings the aspect of realism from the actual world to the show.
The television format in which the show is aired is largely responsible for the concept or realism (Hill 2005). The ability to the television to transmit pictures of the show in a way that depicts the exact way in which they are done in daily life contributes largely to the aspect of realism. The realism is felt because the audience is in a position to visualize the events in the show as actual happenings in the real world.
The Masterchef Australia reality TV show is a simulation of the real world of cooking. The show copies exactly what is done in the actual world and presents the same albeit with a few alterations here and there. The aspect of simulation can be appreciated in this show through the manner in which the show takes the form of reality. In fact, there is no significant distinction between what is shown in the show and how the same is done in the real world.
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Simulation in this context has played a big role in merging the real world with what is depicted in the show. This simulation has gone as far as removing any possible indicators of the discrepancy between the two. An audience that is watching the Masterchef Australia reality TV show will at one time be convinced that what they are watching is actually happening and is not planned or tailored in any way. This is an aspect that lacks in other forms of digitized visual presentations. They lack the aspect of reality which in this case has been achieved through simulation.
Simulation of realty in the reality show has been able to achieve what other digitized imageries have not been in a position to achieve. This is because the extensive use of digitized media has eroded the reality that comes with the transmission of real pictures (Baudrillard 1983). The reality show discussed in this context is therefore an attempt to recover the reality that was previously swept away with the advent of digital technology.
The Masterchef Australia reality TV show creates a situation where it is difficult or even impossible to distinguish between the activities shown on the show from their original form. This is because both of them are so identical that one can easily be mistaken to be the other. The sign, which is the show, can easily be confused with the referent, which is the original practice of the activities in the show (Sturken and Lisa 2001). This simulacrum has erased any guidelines that could be used to determine the originality and nature of the sign from the referent.
The events in the show take place in the same manner that they do in the real world. For instance, the part where the team of contestants is required to run a restaurant is no different from a real world setting where a restaurant is being run on an evening like such. The show has depicted the events in a way that it has taken care of each and every detail to ensure that it is identical to actual practice in the real world.
An exaggerated level of simulated realism is prevalent in the reality show. Attempts have been made to accord realism to the show to an extent that the realism has been blown out of proportion. Instead of setting forth the situation as it is in the real world, the reality show has ended up going overboard and coming up with hyperrealism. This is because some of the aspects detailed in the show are too idyllic or utopian to be real.
For instance, it is not real that a person who is able to identify the ingredients included in a certain dish by simply tasting it is a better at cookery skills compared to one who is not able. This is because the ability to produce a delicious dish is not related in any way to the ability to identify the components used in an already prepared meal. As a matter of fact, chefs should know the ingredients they are using before they start preparing a meal as opposed to the connotations in this case that they should still be able to single out the ingredients used after the meal is prepared. Therefore, some of the methods used to arrive at the winner of the reality show are not relevant and real to the world of cookery.
Documentary realism is witnessed in the reality show where the television camera follows the real occurrences and people. This facet contributes greatly to the realism of the show as seen on the television (Corner 2001). The use of this documentary realism enables the audience to feel as if they are part and parcel of the reality TV show. They feel as if they are present at the event in person and taking part actively in the activities going on. The documentary realism manages to do this by capturing their attention and taking them so close to the show that they feel that they are part of it.
The Masterchef Australia reality TV show relies heavily on the camera to achieve technological reflexivity. Indeed, the camera plays a crucial role in capturing the events as they are. Other than the event itself, the camera is the main mainstream to which the audience and the participants in the show are linked together. The manner in which the camera conveys the sound and pictures is therefore a determiner of the reception of the show on the other side.
A camera is able to catch each and every detail that takes place at the event and enable it to be seen by the audience (Collins 1997). The audience therefore solely relies on the camera for the show. The ability of the camera to catch all these details contributes to the aspect of realism. The realism of the show is therefore also dependent on the reflexion of the camera technology.
Therefore, the show itself is without significance if the camera does not come in to make adjustments that will make the show even more appealing to the audience. The most important thing is therefore not the show but the camera which determines how the show will appear to the audience using a variety of technical operations. The Masterchef Australia reality TV show is entirely depended on the camera technology in order to get through to its audience.
Tabloidization is evident in the reality show where it contains content that can be both entertaining and informative. Tabloidization enables the reality show to contain both fictitious as well as bona fide facts (Biressi and Heather 2008). Through the combination of these two facts, the reality show is able to meet various needs of the audience. For instance, it can be entertaining as far as the competitive bit and the various elimination methods used are concerned. On the other hand, it can be informative when it comes to the methods of preparing dishes and other significant information about cookery skills.
In conclusion, it can be inferred from this research study that the Masterchef Australia reality TV show is one that has gained popularity across the earth. It can also be seen that the reality show employs the use of certain features that appeal to the audience and make it enjoyable as well as informative to watch. These features include realism, hyperrealism, simulation, simulacrum, technological reflexivity, tabloidization and documentary realism. From the explanation of each feature above, it can be inferred that the Masterchef Australia reality TV show capitalizes on these features in order to appeal to the audience.
Baudrillard, J 1983, Simulations, Semiotext(e), New York Biressi, A and Heather, N 2008, The Tabloid Culture Reader, Open University Press, Maidenhead.
Collins, J 1997, “Television and postmodernism” in Peter Brooker and Will Brooker, (eds.), Postmodern after-images: A reader in film, television and video, Arnold Publishing, London.
Corner, J 2001, ”Documentary Realism”, in Glen Creeber (ed.), The Television Genre Book, BFI, London.
Hill, A 2005, Reality TV: Audiences and Popular Factual Television, Routledge, London.
Sturken, M and Lisa, C 2001, Practices of looking: An introduction to visual culture, Oxford University Press, Oxford.