This article examines the “turn to lifestyle” in the longstanding genres of how-to and domestic advice programming, which began in 1994 with the launch of Home & Garden Television (HGTV) and the Food Network. It frames lifestyle's spread across the growing cable television system in the late 1990s and 2000s as the result of industrial conditions that favored the growth and consolidation of cable networks, as well as growing cultural interest in “lifestyle” as a consumerist form of identity. In this context, a turn to lifestyle in programming offered the new networks HGTV and Food Network a way to broaden the appeal of their programs in an increasingly competitive niche cable environment, as well as to secure upscale audiences for advertisers. The article examines a range of HGTV and Food Network programs that utilized lifestyle's logic, including Emeril Live!, Paula's Home Cooking, Barefoot Contessa, Divine Design with Candice Olson, Design on a Dime, and Small Space, Big Style. In such programs, lifestyle became codified in a set of televisual logics that departed from those found on how-to programs: they articulated middle-class fantasies of ordinariness, had an attenuated focus on instruction in favor of the more diffuse and aspirational concept of “inspiration,” and posited small-scale domestic gatherings as the ideal mode of social engagement in a period of diminishing wealth and income security.
Logics of Lifestyle and the Rise of Scripps Networks, 1994–2010
Maureen Ryan received her PhD from Northwestern University's Screen Cultures program in 2014 and is an instructor in Media and Cinema Studies at DePaul University in Chicago. Her work examines the history and cultural politics of lifestyle, in particular on television and in new media. Her work has been published in Television and New Media and the Journal of Communication Inquiry.
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Maureen Ryan; Logics of Lifestyle and the Rise of Scripps Networks, 1994–2010. Feminist Media Histories 1 April 2015; 1 (2): 37–63. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2015.1.2.037
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