With TV in desperate need of a big kick up the bum, it’s not a surprise that video on demand services have started springing up in many countries including this one. There are so many services, despite the product being in its infancy, that the market is almost beginning to feel saturated already. Nonetheless, there’s some good stuff on offer, and when Viaplay offered your’s truly a few months of free service it seemed like a good opportunity to see what’s up on the televisual frontier.
We’ve had reality TV; welcome to manipulation TV. Normally, producers don’t care how you react to their show, so long as you watch it. For example, when you see Simon Cowell on Pop Idol, you might love him, or think he’s a calculating, money-grabbing, cynical git. It’s up to you, and the producers love the fact that there’s a love/hate thing going on. With manipulation TV, in contrast, you are left in no doubt as to how you are supposed to respond – a reaction involving tears and despair, normally. Extreme Makeover (Hurja Remontti), now in its sixth season, is the finest example of this breed of programming. It’s also a fine example of desperation setting in over at Nelonen towers as they show this programme on both 4 and sister channel Liv no less than three times a week.
Gender confused kids. Underage marriage. Love junkies. Teens and sex with the bishop. No, this is not a list of things that keep the Pope awake at night, but Dr. Phil topics from the past few months. Since Dr. Phil launched his eponymous show in 2002 as an offshoot of the Oprah Winfrey Show, he has ‘galvanised’ millions to ‘get real’ about their lives. It’s fair to say it’s transcended TV to become something of a weird cultural phenomenon.
Umberto eco once wrote, not entirely seriously, “Culture frees the body from the enslavement of toil and opens the way to contemplation.” If this were true, then TV Shop would be the pinnacle of culture. The products they sell are specifically designed not to do something that no other product can do but to save you time for philosophical introspection.
So much has been written about Top Gear and so many people have seen it that discussing it here seems slightly pointless, as you’ve probably already made up your mind what you reckon to it. It’s the televisual equivalent of Marmite – you either love it or you hate it. Luckily, pointlessness has never got in the way of this column having a good old rant, so off we go.
Well, the Olympics is finally over, ending in probably the worst concert in the history of humankind and leaving gaping holes all over the TV schedules. The main problem with the Olympics was that I had no interest in it and have spent the last two weeks not watching any telly. Then, when I finally did get round to picking up my remote I saw a great show, but it turned out to be the last in the series, which is just flipping typical.
You’ve probably noticed that the Olympics have started. As a lapsed patriot in self-imposed exile I might not be the best person to comment on the opening ceremony; on the other hand I’m a TV critic, so here goes nothing. By the time you read this, of course, the ceremony may well be a distant memory, as will potentially the first one and a half weeks of the games. But there’s one thing we’re all likely to take away from that magical night, which is that Danny Boyle is completely bonkers.
Summer! Yeah! Gale force winds, thunderstorms, endless rain – it’s just like being in England. Normally I like having a barbecue in the back garden at this time of year, but when I tried it earlier this month the last I saw of my sausages was them being carried away by a flood of biblical proportions, doomed to a watery grave. Instead I sit indoors watching hopelessly optimistic summery cooking shows, and dream.
A few weeks back I experienced a hitherto almost unknown frisson of excitement while watching telly. Since the only feelings I normally get while viewing the box include ennui, disgust and mild-to-severe nausea, that split-second of animation was heartily welcome. The appearance of a new channel on our digiboxes is an unusual and potentially rewarding event, you see, thus accounting for my short-lived enthusiasm. This lasted all of two nanoseconds until I realised the channel in question is Fox TV.
Not that I would ever accuse MTV3 of having no imagination, but I’ve lost count of the franchises they’ve bought and then repeated ad nauseum. Case in point is their recent UK import Undercover Boss, itself a version of the original US show, not at all coincidentally shown on the same channel last year. The idea: take all the envy you’ve acquired over the years towards your undeserving boss or random multi-millionaire CEO hate-figure and allow the job-related humiliation of a similar figure to sooth your troubled proletarian conscience.
It’s June – summer time! Sadly, for a TV reviewer, trying to find something good to watch on telly from now until August is like water-divining in a desert under which is buried millions of tonnes of toxic waste (OK it’s a stretched metaphor – but bear with me). It’s impossible to find anything unless you really start digging, and even if you’re lucky enough to come across some undiscovered well of sustenance, chances are it’s contaminated with green ooze and suitable for consumption only by the inbred mutants who starred in The Hills Have Eyes. Presumably, broadcasters believe that after midsummer everyone will be going on holiday and as such will be abroad or lying in the sun, so there’s no point in showing any good stuff until the autumn, when the dark closes in and the nation sits huddled in front of the box, trying to keep warm.