In this one-of-a-kind essay collection, Mann explores the fruitful if fraught relationship between love and reality television. Mann is a reality TV junkie, embedded deeply in the fandom of countless franchises ... Though his essays are academic, they are also readable and heartfelt; each one includes commentary written directly to his wife, recounting episodes watched and emotions shared. Mann recounts the ways in which reality television not only reflects the culture of its viewers but also nestles its way into their hearts.
Captive Audience is at once less and more personal than its predecessor. Its first sentence suggests several of the layers on which its title works ... Mann’s structure throughout is deliberate ... The final chapter of Captive Audience was written after the election of Donald Trump, and it ends by posing more questions, both about the dangers of passivity when encountering media and about the ways in which writing about something gradually becomes an all-encompassing task. National politics may have raised the stakes for this particular work: an investigation of the permutations of nonfiction storytelling transformed into an indictment of the state of culture in the early twenty-first century. 'All I really know is how it feels — that’s the truth and that’s also the problem,' Mann writes. It’s a disquieting and contradictory note on which to end this book. But then, given the art form at its center, that seems like the truest choice he could have made.
Fundamentally, he writes, it is the manifestation of desire, especially the desire to be liked or at least watched, that evokes disgust ... No surprise, then, that Mann takes the effort to embarrass himself so much further than Feigel does, offering up his petty ambitions and insecurities in excruciating detail, sparing no undignified angle, letting no vain or histrionic thought go unshared.
No genre endures more disparagement than reality television. Detractors claim it’s empty, stupid, even corrosive to society. This point of view is so pervasive that Lucas Mann begins Captive Audience, his new book about reality television, with a confession: 'The genre means a lot to us, to me. I’ve never expressed that sentiment with even a gesture toward sincerity, because it’s embarrassing. But I think I mean it. Sincerely. At least for now I do' ... Whether you adore or abhor reality television, you’ll come away from Captive Audience with a rich sense of what it is, how it is made and what it means.
Intelligent musings on reality TV and marriage ... Mann has a shrewd eye for exposing the formulaic production values inherent in these programs, and he clearly sees beneath the celebrity ambitions of the reality stars. Yet he remains a devoted fan, understanding and sometimes reveling in who is compulsively watchable ... The author ably identifies the authentic elements in these programs that make them so compelling, and he considers how these heightened dramas and extreme personalities serve as mirrors to our lives—and, more personally, to his relationship with his wife ... An immensely captivating consideration of reality TV and a moving reflection on marriage.