Saturday, January 24, 2015

Craving For Ridicule and Perversion on Reality TV

Television has evolved with producers and concept managers thinking up new shows by the minute that, by the time you finish reading this column, producers in TV land would have come up with 50 or more ideas for new shows.

In the Amin era and through to the Okello reign, we had no TV. Tell a lie, we did, one station – UTV who only aired freebie documentaries that President Kim Jong-un’s father and grandfather sent them from North Korea. If not, we got to see Cultural Revolution documentaries from China or Stalinist propaganda films from Russia. With one TV station, there was no need for the remote control – not that televisions sold in Uganda then, came with remote controls.

Today, we need the remote control because we have choice. There are multitudes of television stations that competition for viewership and advertising is stiff. We need the remote so we can flick from channel to channel at our whim and watch something else when adverts are being broadcast.

Currently the fad on television is for reality shows, if not, chat and competition shows. But it’s the reality shows where TV Producer is pushing the envelope to the limit and I’m not talking about shows we have seen in Uganda like Big Brother, Tusker Project Fame or American Idol.

In England, Channel 4 Television has a reality show about people who are bigger than me. No, that’s not quite right. It’s about overweight people. No wait a minute, it’s about fat people. Hmm, that too is not accurate. It’s about people who are beyond obese, so obese that they can’t get out of their beds and so obese they can’t even bend down and see their toes. Yikes!

But if I was as obese as 32-year-old David who has not left his bed in six years, why would I want to be on reality TV? If anything, the show was not entertaining especially when they showed him rolling up layers of fatty flesh on his belly to pick at maggots that were eating into him. But that is what is expected of reality TV.

There is also a show about couples who are unhappy with their sex lives. Aired after midnight, it shows Couple having sex while Sex Therapist watches the performance. Once the sex is done, Sex Therapist (one male, one female) evaluate them on their performance as well as giving them advice on where their grunts, groans, style and technique went wrong. But why agree to be filmed having sex on television? Err, because the reality television audience demands it so.

Another show aptly titled: Size Does Matter is a classic and there is no need to guess what it’s all about – or is there? There are men out there – who were all white I might add, and who are not happy with their size ‘down there’ and feel the need to appear on reality television to tell the world about it as well as allowing the cameras to film them as doctors perform penis enlargement surgery. We see Tom, a banker, lying on the operating table while doctors slice his penis open and insert something almost similar to silicone breast implants. Hmm! 

For the time being, here in Uganda, reality television is limited to music – TPF, Coke Reality and Big Brother. However, with the pressures of an ever increasing demanding audience of the likes of Doc, Nodin, Kayos, Willo Paulo and me that is baying for more cut throat reality television, producers at Urban, Bukedde and other television stations will no doubt come up with Ugandan versions of the shows I have talked about to satisfy our lust, maintain audience figures and bring in advertising revenue.

When television stations start showing us Virgin Bride of Mamba clan from the depths of Matugga having sex on her wedding night while Senga makes notes and talks us though her performance - telling us where she’s going wrong or what she should be doing, and what she is not pulling, don’t say I didn’t warn you because that’s what reality television is going to give you – just like it did when it made us rush home to see if Gaetano and the other housemates would show us everything in Big Brother’s shower hour and once it was over, we hit the remote looking for something more lurid to watch and satisfy our perverted craving.