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.