I do enjoy some of these shows but not all. And not always. I like our talent shows - dancing, singing competitions. "Kaun Banega Crorepati" is an all time favourite - both the English and Indian versions. A caring nanny teaching kids in a positive way to behave better is another favourite as are some cooking and home improvement shows. But people bickering or "firing" others in public to gain an advantage or show they can are the pits.
What's frightening is that it can easily influence our young. It can change a culture. So many begin to believe that clawing your way to the top or to fame or fortune is acceptable. Put downs become the norm with a total lack of empathy or respect for other people's feelings. Values we used to prize are given disparaging names like "old fashioned" or "outdated" or "weak and ineffectual". Well, to me, such values are very much part of being human. I doubt if they will ever be upstaged just because someone makes them sound derogatory. Yes, we don't wear them on our sleeves and we don't expect applause everytime we espouse those values. They simply make us happy. I believe there is nothing wrong with, for example, being warm or polite or kind and everything wrong with someone who thinks it is smart to be the opposite. Nothing will convince me the latter can ever be winners in the long run. Others will simply try and get away from them instead of supporting or standing by such people.
Yesterday I had the misfortune to watch one of the many bad reality TV shows that have taken over a lot of what comes off our screens. The formula stipulates they have to have an "emotional" angle so the audience is moved to react. And I fell into the trap. My reaction was to watch this young couple, horrified, hoping they wouldn't break up because of this show. The presenter did everything to put them on the spot, one partner pitted against the other, by showing up the disparity in what they liked. They were encouraged to blurt out things they realised the other partner liked that they disliked. A frown, a sudden burst of temper, unkind words spoken in haste which they regretted later. It was just so disheartening to watch.
Most successful couples know how to arrive at a compromise; to be tactful as they try to work towards things they both enjoy. NO two people like exactly the same things. This poor couple didn't stand a chance. They were given a fat allowance each; they were encouraged to indulge their own pet likes; they were constantly reminded this was a once in a lifetime opportunity to show who should count more - themselves or their partners. What a deliberate and needless pitting against each other. Not one of them had the guts to declare themselves a team - that they would like to discuss things with each other before arriving at a decision - for fear of appearing weak to the presenter or perhaps, of losing their bounty.
What attracts people to do these shows? As I said earlier, it might be the temptation of earning some money or the hope (just like any normal human being) that they will be plucked from anonimity into stardom. Even the presenter is in the same boat and knows if he or she won't, someone else will do the show.
I hope the audience is more discerning. They don't earn money to watch a show. They pay. They are the only ones who will force quality into our programmes. How? Simply by changing channels if they come across something that literally preys on people's emotions and vulnerabilities. The ever important ratings are the only driving force to make producers realise what the audience wants. Wish I'd remembered all this yesterday and turned the ruddy TV off. The entire time I kept watching to see signs of a break up between that couple. I mentally kept rejecting the petty ploys of the presenter, hoping the young couple would see through this person's intent and that they wouldn't lose each other. In the end, in spite of the best efforts of the anchor, it didn't happen. Ha! Or who knows? Perhaps it didn't happen on TV :-(
Next time, however fascinated I am (for all the wrong reasons), if exploiting someone's human vulnerabilities is the intent of a TV show, I must force myself to change channels.
Here's another interesting article I discovered about how some of our presenters have learnt to stress on the inane, ignoring important issues and how politicians shout each other down and don't contribute anything worthwhile to our knowledge of said issues. His exact words, "screeching on television" The detail and examples that this blogger has given are amusing, vexing and frustrating. Guess what my solution is to such shows? Yes, you guessed it - let your fingers on your remote do the talking. The producers are sure to sit up and listen.