By Lloyd Meikle
Ihave been doing something very bad recently and I may just do it again after writing this column, if I get bored. I have been engaging in this activity frequently over the past month or so – in the privacy of my own home of course – but occasionally with a close friend or two by my side. It’s so very bad that I’m embarrassed to even talk about it here, but I may as well come clean. Okay, here we go then. I have been watching a lot of South African television of late. There, I said it. A DSTV subscription is a bit out of my price range at the moment, so what I am stuck with while eating my cornflakes is the dreaded four: SABC 1, 2, 3 and eTV. I am sure many of you have not engaged in the sordid activity of watching these channels for some time, so let me give you a brief progress report. It’s still horrendous. The quality of the “comedies”, news, soaps, talk shows and almost every other piece of programming that we produce within our own borders for terrestrial television is enough to give a relatively grown man, such as myself, fully fledged nightmares – Zuma shower scenes included.
This doesn’t make any sense to me though. I recently went on holiday to England – the weather over there is shockingly bad, the people are rude and the place generally sucks, but they make damn good television. Why can’t we do it? We have a country full of funny, intelligent and talented people (if we briefly discount Julius Malema here). How did we get to the point where Noeleen Maholwana-Sangqu (click included) is the best we’ve got to offer? A woman who sits with her clipboard talking to witch doctors about the merits of cutting your toenails regularly. Splendid. And let it be known that whoever funds a programme called Going Nowhere Slowly should be shot. Watching a group of people of zero importance flying around and eating at the cost of the taxpayer does not make compelling viewing on any conceivable level.
The American programmes we import are something else entirely. How eTV can justify screening America’s Funniest Animals in a prime time slot is beyond comprehension and punishable by death in some countries. I lie awake at night wondering what conceivable justification there can be for airing reruns of Judge Hatchett settling disputes over toothpaste, or getting to the stage that they even become “reruns” in the first place. My digsmate and I watched in horror a few nights ago as SABC 2 screened a new American reality show consisting of a group of ten-year-olds who have been left alone in an isolated town to fend for themselves. I say ‘alone’, if you don’t count the crew of adults filming their every move and interviewing them all day long. But yes, kids left alone to fend for themselves. That’s the concept. Who comes up with this stuff? When I was ten, I wanted to be a Power Ranger or an astronaut, not stuck on a reality show. And why do we buy all this rubbish from the States anyway? I would change the channel, but therein lies the problem.
Maybe Mbeki should start a sitcom. I’d happily watch that over my cornflakes.