Mapping genres: broadcaster and audience perceptions of makeover television

Dover, C. and Hill, A. (2007) Mapping genres: broadcaster and audience perceptions of makeover television. In: Makeover television: realities remodelled. I.B. Tauris, London, UK, pp. 23-38. ISBN 1845113306

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Like all television genres, “makeover television” is an imprecise category. By examining broadcaster definitions and audience perceptions of this popular programming phenomenon, we will map the genre within the context of recent changes in British factual programming. This will enable us to examine makeover programmes, not simply through their content, but also through their production and reception in order to get a sense of the makeover format as a whole and, ultimately, it’s impact on viewers. Whilst text-based studies are able to explore constructions of class, sexuality, nationality and so forth within specific programmes or series, our focus here is on exploring what producers and viewers see as significant characteristics of the genre. And these characteristics are, to a large extent, determined by comparisons with other types of programming. The way audiences have learned to live with all television genres is as much to do with the broadcasting environment - in particular the commissioning and scheduling of a variety of hybrid formats - as the actual content of the programmes themselves. In our analysis we draw upon surveys of British broadcaster categories within non-factual television, the range of lifestyle and makeover programmes, and quantitative and qualitative research into British audience perceptions of lifestyle. We use a nationally representative sample of all British television viewers and their attitudes towards all types of factual and reality programming. This large sample allows us to map general attitudes to lifestyle, and compare those across significant social groups, and television genres. Our production and reception analysis requires that we select a specific geographical and temporal framework for our study. We will be considering programmes commissioned and broadcast on British television between 2003 and 2006. This time-scale encompasses a period in which both new and traditional types of lifestyle programmes co-existed, in which makeover programmes were prominent in the schedules, and in which the characteristics of the makeover format developed. Whilst such an approach is necessarily context-related, we hope that the broadcaster and viewer perceptions of makeover presented here will offer insight into contemporary and non-British studies of the makeover genre. Many of the series referred to, for example Changing Rooms, are successful within a number of different national contexts and have been imported and exported between countries. Similarly, the changes taking place within factual, or non-fictional programming are culturally specific to Britain, but also represent general trends in the dominance of popular factual television in many countries around the world (Hill forthcoming). Our production and audience analysis suggests that makeover shows take the real life out of lifestyle programming. The popularity of makeover formats has weakened their association with other traditional factual genres and the depiction of “real life”. Contemporary makeover shows now have a greater association with light entertainment genres. This shift has, to some extent, been reflected in the changing commissioning structures of broadcasters and it has certainly been recognised by viewers. Those who enjoy makeover shows do so because of the programmes’ emotional and entertaining content; they do not tend to have high expectations of watching informative or true-to-life content. Our research shows how lifestyle viewers are not isolated viewers of this particular genre, but savvy viewers who are aware of general trends within non-fictional television. Thus, a production and reception analysis is valuable in understanding general trends in television genres, and challenging assumptions of lifestyle viewers based on textual analysis alone.

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Date Deposited: 03 Jul 2006
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2017 14:55

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