Crap TV: Breeding ignorance and feeding my frustration
Tonight is Australian TV’s night of nights – the red carpet love-fest that is the Logies. But really, is there anything worth celebrating about Aussie television?
Yes we’ve got more choice than ever before, with the four major channels boosted by an increasing array of digital and Foxtel offerings.
But choice can be deceptive – and if I had a dollar for every time I clicked the remote these days, I could well have outbid Seven and Foxtel for the rights to AFL. Put simply: there’s nothing worth watching.
Remember the Sunday movie blockbuster? You looked forward to it all weekend and talked about it all day Monday. Not anymore. Now it’s Bones, CSI: Somewhere or NCIS: Someplace Else.
Crime. Increasingly gruesome, gratuitous crime has spread like a virus across the viewing week. And if you don’t like crime, you’re force-fed a diet of reality TV that either celebrates culinary creativeness or champions calorie curtailment.
Not just one, watchable cooking or calorie show a week, mind you, but one tedious milk-this-baby-for-all-it’s-worth offering almost every night. With a mind-numbing bombardment of cross-branded commercials to match.
Of course there are exceptions. Australia still produces some excellent news and current affairs shows, particularly ABC and SBS (and my fave locally is Channel 7 news).
Paper Giants, the story of Cleo magazine, was a ripper (and not surprising given the programming vacuum, proved a ratings winner for ABC 1). The Underbelly franchises have unearthed a wealth of Australian talent, Richard Roxburgh’s Rake proved scriptwriting is not dead and the Masterchef finals week is always worth a watch.
But mostly, choosing the night’s viewing is about picking the best of a bad bunch. The much anticipated Offspring was just one more series about an insecure woman needing a man to complete her, while the lame Winners and Losers is currently going three better with four dithering chicks (and in true-to-form Australian stereotyping, the fattest girl is the most insecure of them all). Even Packed to the Rafters needed a death to resurrect increasingly lame storylines.
So the surfing begins, and on to the digital channels we flick. Ancient movies and decades-old US TV series rendered virtually unwatchable by the sheer magnitude of highly targeted ads (bogan blokes on Mate, perky babes on Gem).
Foxtel once lived at our house, but it just got too expensive. By the time we’d selected all the packages needed for access to a handful of our favourite lifestyle, children’s and movie channels, the bill was pushing $1000 a year.
That’s a lot of coin for a non-essential item. Instead of a massive selection of compulsory programs I’ll never watch, how about a modest fee for the few channels I actually like – or is that a choice too far?
Not yet confident to download movies from the internet or into the habit of ordering flicks by post, I remain in the small screen wilderness: spoilt for rotten choice; channel surfing like Kelly Slater; and more often than not switched off by primetime.
Seems I’m part of a nationwide exodus.
Former TV producer Helen Parker revealed on The Punch that a good TV show in the 1980s attracted about five million viewers, or more than a third of Australia’s population of 14 million. Today’s population is 20 million, but shows that pull just 1.2 million viewers are deemed as ratings gold.
Last week the AFL signed a $1.253 billion, five-year television rights deal with Channel 7, Foxtel and Telstra, making it the biggest deal in Australian sporting history.
Oh, for a record-breaking investment in the production of true ‘quality Australian drama’.
Instead, we wait for months for a decent local show (bring on Chris Lilley’s Angry Boys) while imported programs are repeated or dragged way past their use-by date. Remember Seven’s marketing campaign during of the Australian Open tennis this year? The biggest fanfare was saved for Desperate Housewives and Grey’s Anatomy moving to the same night.
So when Logies host Shane Bourne cracks his first gag at Melbourne’s Crown this evening, will I be glued to the box? I’d rather clean the oven.
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