The Bizarre World of Reality Television
by Stuart Lenig
October 2017, 332pp, 7x10
1 volume, Greenwood

Hardcover: 978-1-4408-3854-5
$108, £84, 94€, A148
eBook Available: 978-1-4408-3855-2
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Love it or hate it, reality television is a cultural, social, and political reflection of American life.

How do reality television programs shape our view of the world and what we perceive as real and normal? This book explores the bizarre and highly controversial world of reality television, including its early history, wide variety of subject matter, and social implications.

In recent decades, reality television shows ranging from Keeping up with the Kardashians to Duck Dynasty have become increasingly popular. Why are these “unscripted” programs irresistible to millions of viewers? And what does the nearly universal success of reality shows say about American culture? This book covers more than 100 major and influential reality programs past and present, discussing the origins and past of reality programming, the contemporary social and economic conditions that led to the rise of reality shows, and the ways in which the most successful shows achieve popularity with both male and female demographics or appeal to specific, targeted niche audiences.

The text addresses reality TV within five, easy-to-identify content categories: competition shows, relationship/love-interest shows, real people or alternative lifestyle and culture shows, transformation shows, and international programming. By examining modern reality television, a topic of great interest for a wide variety of readers, this book also discusses cultural and social norms in the United States, including materialism, unrealistic beauty ideals, gender roles and stereotypes in society, dynamics of personal relationships, teenage lifestyles and issues, and the branding of people for financial gain and wider viewership.


  • Explains why reality television plays such a large role in popular culture and why it is so representative of American society in the 21st century
  • Contextualizes reality television as a postmodernist form of new media that has vastly altered the landscape of traditional television programming
  • Examines the phenomenon of reality programming in the context of the history of radio and television broadcasting as it originated in the U.S. market
  • Answers the common question, "Why would anyone want to watch this show?" by describing and analyzing the reason for a specific program's construction—and often, success—within the framework of audience study findings
Stuart Lenig, PhD, is professor of media studies at Columbia State Community College in Columbia, TN. He is the author of Praeger's The Twisted Tale of Glam Rock and Communication Odysseys (coauthored with Lacey Benns and Daniel Johnson).


"This single volume’s global coverage and mix of show specifics with critique make it a useful addition to libraries with a program in media studies."—Booklist Online, November 22, 2017

"Libraries will want to purchase this unique volume to complement standard media reference works."—ARBA, January 24, 2018

"Relatively scholarly yet embraces the 'bizarre' in the title, with significant listings for the Kardashians, Jersey Shore, and The Osbournes. Consider for large public libraries."—Library Journal, February 15, 2018

"Excellent for upper-class and graduate students and the general public. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through faculty."—Choice, March 1, 2018
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