Monday, April 23, 2007

Awful TV

We didn't watch the 'Wifeswap' episode featuring an HE family - but I've seen lots of discussion about it on blogs and lists. I should really watch it before launching into this tirade but I'm not sure if I can bear to. Nothing on earth would make me take part in such a programme - they are just trashy rubbish. The whole premise of the show is to set up conflict and film it - and to show people at their worst for the entertainment of the viewers. I hope that this show serves as a warning to other HE families who are approached by the tv companies.

Back when P and L were little there was a lot of interest in gay people becoming parents. We were the contacts for the gay parents' group in this town and so we fielded many calls from tv companies looking for people to participate in programmes. We never agreed to take part in anything for TV. Our kids were too young to give their consent and we were very aware that the final product, whatever it might be, would be 'out there', beyond our control and able to be repeated at any time in the future.

We were somewhat torn, as we both believed that only by seeing that gay parents were just people, who loved and cared for their children in much the same way as other parents, would those who 'disapproved' be convinced. The same is true of home ed - it is only through increased awareness that people's fears and suspicions can be allayed. But the thing to remember is that as a participant in a TV programme it is not your intentions, or your agenda, that count. The programme will be what the makers want it to be. In the case of something as trashy as 'Wifeswap' this will be a conflict fest, that panders to stereotypes.

Just recently I have been feeling that it is time for a backlash against 'reality TV'. I am starting to feel vaguely sickened by it. I've never been a huge fan - never watched 'Big Brother' or 'The Apprentice' - but I have seen some other 'reality ' shows. But recently I've started to feel that this kind of TV just appeals to the least sophisticated part of our appetites for entertainment - like porn or sweets appeal to different appetites. And the price of this 'entertainment' is damage to the lives of the participants. Also, the sheer volume of this kind of TV must mean that we are being deprived of the work of good drama or comedy writers - and deprived of decent documentaries. Who knows what might be shown if it wasn't 'Celebrity dog diet up a mountain challenge.'

We've been watching some of the recent programmes about the Edwardians, on BBC Four. When I got home one evening last week I found D and the kids engrossed in a programme where extremely old people shared their memories of experiences they had as children in the Edwardian era. It was wonderful TV. It was also very moving, watching people of over 100 years old well up with tears at their memories of the harsh treatment that children endured in those days. I was particularly gripped by the experiences of two sisters, twins, who had been placed in an orphanage by their widowed mother. My grandmother was placed in a Doctor Barnardo's home by her father, when her mother died, in the Edwardian era. Tales of her childhood were part of mine - via my mum. She could remember queueing on a staircase to be issued with her weekly pair of clean drawers, being fostered by a woman who spent all the money on drink so she had to raid local allotments for food, being put 'into service' as a teenager to 'knock her corner's off'. The programme was not easy viewing but it felt like it was worth our time and attention - unlike so much of the dross that is aired these days.

I'm not a puritan when it comes to entertainment - I've been known to watch some total crap, read rubbish and listen to highly questionable music (think Lionel Ritchie...) - but I think it would be no bad thing if I never saw another 'reality' tv programme. Off-hand I can't think of anything I've ever learned from one - except not to trust 'reality' tv makers.


Merry said...

I totally agree with you on the wifeswap type tv thing, but we did take part in a programme that centred on K & B when i'd just had Josie. I thought it over carefully and then agreed to be the family they were taken to to see how HE works, for a day. For us (and i believe K and B felt the same about the whole thing) it was a fun and positive experience and we had no backlash at all.

It can be great to do such things, but care is certainly needed.

Gill said...

I totally agree. I wouldn't trust the makers of such programmes at all. They seem to be only interested in viewing figures, beating the competition and making loads of money.

Anonymous said...

totally agree with you about reality tv. however I will be watching the repeat of wifeswap to see what everyones been talking about!