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Saturday, 24 December 2011

A Christmas Wish List/New Year Resolutions for TV


TV commissioners and programmers take note!


At this time of year we reflect on times past and events that have shaken the world. But I’ve got my eyes on something more important: what’s been on the tellybox and what I’d change for 2012.


And so, as a Christmas gift to you, I present my wish list/ TV New Year Resolutions, depending on when you come across the article.


1) More, not less, reality TV


Bear with me: to many, the reality show represents all that is wrong with the Idiot Box. It’s cheap, it’s unoriginal and it’s rarely good for the soul, but I want to present my case.


I’m not a fan of TOWIE, Desperate Scousewives or Made in Chelsea. I’d like to argue for the unstructured reality show, showing real life from the viewpoint of the don’t-wannabes: more of shows like Channel 4’s Educating Essex and 24 hours in A & E. These show us the lives of the real heroes; people who are bringing up our children and patching up the unfortunates who are stricken by accidents and brought down by illness. I’d like to see a reality show covering Firefighters and perhaps a look inside the world of a vicar. 


2) More awareness of how programming affects minorities


I’ve written before about my love of Channel 4’s programming and this year saw the introduction of slightly more niche shows in Seven Dwarves and My Transsexual Summer (MTS). Whilst I know both communities had issues with the shows, with Seven Dwarves erring on making comedy from their protagonists’ short stature and MTS being attacked for use of unthoughtful terms like ‘the T word’, I feel that bringing these communities into the limelight was a step forward. 


Compare Seven Dwarves with Life’s Too Short: a series which was variously criticised for over-reliance on Warwick Davis’ size for comedy and for making-over Davis as simply a smaller version of Gervais and you’ve got a more human portrayal, rather than one-sided characters who happen to be short.


I’m also troubled by the portrayal of Eastender’s Jean Slater, a character with bipolar. When Jean is well she’s a great, well-rounded, comic character. When she’s unwell her illness becomes her character and she’s an opportunity to laugh at the mentally ill. Whilst I’m heartened by the other characters’ approach to her (not wanting to hide her away in an institution or bully her for her illness), I feel that this representation of bipolar disorder is characteristically sensational and lacking nuance.


3) Shorter Soap Storylines


Some storylines, like pregnancies, (Katy Armstrong of Corrie seems to have been pregnant forever!) need a set time to develop.Others, like the Tommy/Kat/Alfie/Michael/Ronnie/Jack baby-snatching/death story are far too drawn out & viewers get bored. How long will Peter Barlow lie to his long-suffering wife Leanne for? I’m willing to bet that it’ll last at least until Valentine’s Day. 


An end to storyline typecasting for Billy Mitchell & Heather Trott would also be nice: some love, laughter and good fortune wouldn’t go amiss.


4) Fewer 'voting off' shows


Why does an audience have to decide the fate of a contestant? Why do we need a conclusion that ends with someone winning by popularity rather than merit? We've proven we're not worthy of the honour of control by voting off the X Factor’s Misha B and even Cameron won't give us a vote on Europe because we're probably too dense. Just look what happened when we voted on voting. Some people voted 1 for yes and 2 for no. Apparently.


5) Fewer ‘countdown’ shows


What’s our obsession with ranking things in order to give a programme some kind of climactic end? Number One in my Hall of Shame is Stephen Fry’s 100 Greatest Gadgets let down whose zenith was the lighter. Talking of Stephen Fry, 6): can we have less Fry, please? QI: Planet Word: Direct Line Adverts: Ocean Giants: aforementioned gadgets;  I love The Wonderful Stephen Fry™ but too much of a good thing leads to over saturation.


7) Something long overdue: a proper replacement for Morecambe & Wise


I’m fed up with the repeats.


8) Fewer returns (remakes?) of old shows


There's a reason Fawlty Towers was brilliant: it stuck to just 12 episodes and retained its legendary status as an almost timeless comedy classic. Absolutely Fabulous is coming back for a Christmas special this year. We are yet to see what that will bring but Saunders & Lumley are almost guaranteed to not be as funny as we think it was. Just like The Fast Show, which I used to roll on the floor laughing at. Youtube now holds a plethora of clips of it that now barely raise a titter. 


9) Less nostalgia: more Sci-Fi


I don’t like history much. I’m not a war series or period drama lover so I'm not looking forward to two whole hours of Downton Abbey. I like to look firmly at the future. It’s more exciting - there’s no way of checking what happens at the end on Wikipedia during the adverts. 
If you’re not a fan of Doctor Who but like Sci-Fi, there’s not a lot on the terrestrial channels to be getting on with. Charlie Brooker strayed into the territory in his last two episodes of the mini-series Black Mirror and I loved his ideas if not always their execution. Isaac Asimov and Phillip K Dick have tons of stories just itching to be reworked, remade and told to a new audience. And before you say anything, I, Robot and Minority Report are, I know, not the shining testaments to their genius they should, and could, have been.


10) Stop recapping what’s happened just two minutes beforehand and switching stories midway through shows to keep my interest


Some shows suffer terribly from this affliction. It’s generally shows like Police, Camera, Action or their ilk that show us half of what happens to a hero or villain before informing us, just before a break, “we’ll find out what happens to this miscreant a bit later”.
And if a viewer’s only just switched on half way through a programme then tough shit. Get on the +1 or just work it out from context, like we used to!


What's on your wish list?


Posted by Tannice for The Custard Tv. Follow Tannice on Twitter.

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