Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Reality My Arse

What is with this reality TV lark? There’s nothing real about it at all. Let’s pick half a dozen extroverted loudmouths, stick them on a settee and let then prattle about their worldly experience (average age 22) and let some other idiots sit on their settees and watch it. We’ll make it our major theme for the whole channel and then to show how cutting edge we are, we’ll come up with the same idea next year. Cheap mindless TV? You betcha arse.
Of course you can’t have reality TV unless it is controversial, hence late night versions of the aforementioned prats wandering about topless or waving their willies in the air. Does sex sell? Of course it does but is watching some spotty oik with spiky hair and a nose ring flaunt a two-inch willy sexy, make your own mind up.

So no matter what else goes on, the announcer must be able to use the word controversial in every promo for the programme. In our house we had a game for a little while trying to guess how far into the promo the announcer would declare that next week’s Australian Idol was the most controversial yet. He never failed us once. What a sad indictment on our viewing world that the TV companies think we have to have guaranteed angst to watch their programmes. Whatever happened to saying we’ve got some really good acts for you next week?
I know "reality" TV is great for the companies profit books, cheap to make and popular with the viewers but I often wonder if its popularity is more down to a lack of choice than a desperate need. Anyway, it totally pisses me off.

All of the above is only for ground-based channels, when it comes to pay TV we are even bigger suckers. Many years ago in the UK cable TV was a wonderful thing, two competing companies, 43 channels to choose from, everything ran at exactly the time it said it would and NO ADVERTS. Made sense really, you’re paying a premium to buy these extra programmes so why would there be a need for ads? Well, corporate greed of course. The minute Sky bought BSB nothing started when it was supposed to and ads appeared in the middle of everything but movies. In Australia it got even worse.
My favourite channel was always Discovery and Mr. Murdoch ruined it. First they started running ads about how this researcher or that researcher couldn’t do their job without a Toyota Landcruiser (most researchers I know are lucky to have a clapped out old Landrover) and then they changed those to ads about any old tosh. Not only that, they actually advertise their own programmes even more often. I’ve even seen ads for the programme I’m currently watching! Did I need to be told there’s a good programme on now? I don’t think so.
Some of the filler programmes they put on are even worse. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen the pilgrims crawl up the ninety-nine steps of the church in Lake Bled. Their knees must be killing them by now.
Then there was an episode of Mythbusters about Alcatraz I watched that lasted two hours on Discovery. The following week the same episode was shown on a ground-based station and lasted one and a half hours including ads. And we pay extra for this!
I had a call one day to ask if I was happy with my package. Personally I am, but as for cable I said the ads are killing it and I was told Australia allows 30% of airtime to be ads. This mustn’t include self-promos though and the chances of turning on Discovery and seeing a programme are about 1 in 3. I started buying Discovery DVDs so I can actually watch an entire documentary without getting bored or missing the end because I wandered off during a break and came back when the next one had started.

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