As my “about me” stated long ago, television is a distraction. A good one. Offering entertainment, fun, escapism and is often more enjoyably palatable than reality. Before social media it was the ultimate distraction.
A show that captures this notion is Big Brother, the final topic of this series. Debuting in 2000, Big Brother is a platform where young diverse strangers bond. A very artificial platform with little connection to reality and always under scrutiny and surveillance. It was the first Facebook.
It offered distraction for us and especially them; literally swapping their life for this fantastical fishbowl, they’re twisted away from their original focus of attention (the definition of distraction) and into this diversionary environment where any real-world issues were replaced with concerns regarding who to evict or who to kiss on national Tv. It’s like how our real-life priorities dramatically alter while on Facebook ; where the urgency is the amount of likes we get on photos, comments and whether our crush will poke back. Distraction is a dreamstate where the bigger life issues needn’t apply and the only concerns are the fun, gratifying stuff that hide the scary things but they’re sadly only ever that, distractions; mobile phone games you play during a high school class which are eventually turned off by the teacher that is life.
It was blogged here; http://ma.tt/2012/05/culture-of-distraction/ that we ‘re in a “culture of distraction”. Matt offers the valid sentiment that we can become addicted to distraction and that, like Aldous Huxley theorized in “Brave New World”, any culture overly fixated on self-gratification and trivial distractions will destroy itself. While I don’t necessarily agree with Huxley’s extreme hypothesis, I do agree with the rationality of Matt’s mentioning it. That we must find balance between the real and distraction because reality will always catch up and triumph. That despite more and more of us are constructing time according to our online or “distracted” lives and chipping away at the importance of clock time and real-life contemplation; distraction ends and soon real-life sets in.
This was tragic ally indicated in this year’s Big Brother series; the shock death of a housemate’s brother forced his understandable withdrawal from the show . Any fun, diversion that he found in there vanished in the face of the sad, real event that diversion can’t remove. Reality always wins-out over a distraction and leaves us with the hangover of the distraction; facing up to the ridicule over what you undertook in the Big Brother house that may result in job loss or unwanted infamy and the same extends sadly to social media too. There’re daily headlines of people facing negative consequences in reality for what they did while distracted online and it’s reality which inflicts the worse consequences and clearly it’s reality that you should try to please. Like the Robert Hassan lecture on the 16th of October stated; distraction may be caused by outside stimulus but it is the individual’s problem and the individual “needs to manage it”.
So there you have it; while no-one, not even Big Brother can tell us what to do and how to spend our time, we can only hope that as a collective whole we will allow time for fun and distraction but allow even just a little more effort and time toward are own realities and making the best of our lives we can. Distraction should always have some part in our lives though; whether television or social media or whatever, it’s there to be enjoyed, to offer a variety of means to enjoy ourselves and we should all enjoy it while we can. And thus the Television Code is cracked. 🙂
Can of worms sees an age-old TV practice (sometimes coincidental, sometimes intentional) being undertaken; take the
format of another show, tweak it and market to a different audience. In this case
the show was Q&A, an interactive platform on which guests of
politicians, journalists or other public personalities discuss
important issues, take questions or comments from the audience and
fuel an online conversation between Twitterers and Facebookers. Take
away the politicians, swap “important” for “trivial” and “conversation”
for “frenzy” and you have Can of Worms. It’s a show where every week 3 well-known people are quizzed on an
array of issues and topics where they must take a stand and be
prepared to reveal all; the topics while maybe sometimes important
like cyber bullying and discrimination, mostly pertain to the
hard-hitting subjects like is re-gifting ok, have you ever dated an
older person, do you swear a lot or flash your car-lights when there’s
a speed camera around; the sort of stuff that seems targeted toward
young people or at least the young person in all of us.The show is an extension of the interpersonally interested society we
have no doubt become; we like learning about other people so we engage in
social media and we like learning about our favourite celebrities so
we buy tabloids; Can of worms effectively combines both aspects of
this; we are learning the views and dirty secrets of popular Aussie
celebs while the social media conversation this show triggers sees us
doing likewise with other such people connected on the cyberweb.But all of this harks to a deeper issue; a blogospheric issue too. As
Laurie Johnson, 2012: 62 stated; the identity that we form “must
always be worked out by the individual”. Celebrities would only seek
to bare-all on such a show if they sought to form a relatable persona
that in turn brings people closer to them and more likely to watch
them, listen to them, vote for them or enact whatever gesture of
loyalty towards that celebrity’s professional work. This is especially the case in Australia where we culturally detest pretension and arrogance and hence seeing someone famous humble themselves in a most public, humiliating way would be par for the course in attaining more popularity; don burke probably attracted as much adulation from his Can of Worms swearing streak than in the many years he spent on people’s gardens.Some however just want for the sake of it attention and hence another element of blogging is enacted; we don’t
blog for ourselves we blog for others to read it and guests on the
show share views so that it can cause an online and possibly
news-cycle stir that brings that person into the forefront even if for
the wrong reason.
Yes, shows don’t have to be hits to be interesting or to supply some valuable commentary. This locally conceived and produced talent show was certainly not the former, attracting quite dismal ratings and being cancelled after 2 weeks but in many ways it can be regarded as the latter. Everybody Dance Now exemplifies how “white noise” not only applies to blogs but to television as well especially in terms of local content competing with that of overseas and how television 2.0 is upon us, for better and for worse.
Like the web, television is a level-playing field in which the people choose from a spread of shows (sites) that occupy the same platform and only the best (most-viewed) survive. But TV is very different; for one thing not anyone can do it, it takes a whole series of pitches and interviews and filming and negotiations before anything appears on screen and there is much more involved; while websites can be built with a few pages of code by a few people, television is built on a whole foundation of money, time and effort to get it going and if it falls it falls hard.
Like the web it’s been so heavily digitalized by cable TV, digital channels and web services that there is much, much more to see and heavier competition. With more and more shows being produced there is more white noise; even the icons like The Simpsons and Mad Men are having to fend off competition to be heard above the noise but the most evident victim of this has been Australian content.
Networks have a choice of cheaply importing overseas TV content to air or produce original local content that is expensive and may struggle to compete content-wise and quality-wise with it’s international rivals, Channel 10 show Everybody Dance Now was the result of option B.
While quality is subjective, as far as attracting audience goes the show just didn’t do it; with viewing figures that even “SBS would frown upon” to quote from the Switched On liftout of the August 29 Herald Sun it was revamped after 1 week and cancelled after the next. It’s a cogent symbol of the democracy of TV (the fact that the show was cancelled even though the host is married to the boss of Channel 10) but more clearly the level of competition that truly exists now in the sea of options from the bustling TV 2.0 that threatens to leave a whole nation of programming behind, ours.