The Politics of Third Way TV: Supernanny and the Commercialization of Public Service TV
Vered, Karen Orr
McConchie, John Peter
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Inspired by a review of the political theories of Anthony Giddens, particularly his question of whether or not there can be a Third Way politics of family, this essay examines the TV show Supernanny as an example of what we call “Third Way TV.” Tracing the program’s roots to a collection of British programs offering advice to parents in the late 1990s and early 2000s, as well as to the longer-standing British tradition of public service broadcasting that sought to “better its audience,” we argue that the program departs from that legacy in its commercialization. Supernanny is a hybrid form of pedagogical television: Third Way TV—a commercialization of the public service model. In a time when public subsidies and the delivery of services like child care have all but disappeared, the institution of commercial television easily fills the gap. Supernanny readily demonstrates how reality TV contributes to social governance through disciplinary discourse. Although it achieved international success as a global franchise and treated a supposedly universal subject matter, childrearing, it is at first surprising that the program was not localized for the Australian market when the US and UK versions did well in Australia. Analyzing the US and UK shows, we consider how discourses of nation, class, and empire coalesce in Supernanny to make localization irrelevant for the Australian market and audience.