Opinion pieces on television are strong in today’s Fairfax newspapers.
Two pieces by two writers take pretty strong aim, one at TEN for dumbing down TV, and the other at our Drama producers for dumbing down Drama.
I haven’t seen Puberty Blues yet, but I suspect one show may satisfy both concerns (and didn’t Offspring anyway? Even David Gygnell praised it yesterday at Nine’s Drama launch).
Nevertheless, Sydney Morning Herald columnist Paul Sheehan gets stuck into TEN over The Shire, Being Lara Bingle and Masterchef. While it’s pretty obvious there are criticisms to be levelled at the first two, he says of the latter it has too much advertising, cross-promotion, product placement and self-aggrandisement.
“In fact, there is so much product placement and so many plugs that MasterChef, in its entirety, could be classified as advertorial. This, plus the antics of the co-host George Calombaris and the bullying of the contestants, who are forced to work under absurd deadlines in order to satiate the producers’ need for drama and manic energy and avoid the trap-door of public elimination,” he writes.
He also takes aim at management for poor programming, reflected in a low share price.
“The person technically responsible for what is evolving at TEN Network is the managing director, James Warburton, but he joined the company only in January (from Seven) when all the current trends were already in place or in the pipeline,” he writes.
“So the primary responsibility would flow to TEN’s chief programming officer, David Mott, who has been in charge of the network’s programming for 15 years.
“If the regulator were interested, I think TEN has a case to answer.”
I’m not as convinced one person is responsible when 12 months ago the network was gutted by the Board. TEN and Nine have both recently had to steer through economic change. Right now TEN has a case to answer to its shareholders and audience before the media regulator.
Meanwhile writer Sam de Brito laments that Australian drama is too obsessed with ‘crime porn’ and we should get back to making dramas like Phoenix, East West 101 and Blue Murder.
“From my perspective, this seems to be the message of so much Australian crime drama at the moment – and by extension the culture from which it springs, and which consumes it,” he writes in the Sydney Morning Herald.
“I deal drugs, I kill people, but I look good with my shirt off, I’m a lad, I’ve got heaps of cash, chicks dig me – so it is what it is – accept it man, move on, get your own life, cos I’m living mine like a f—ing criminal rock star, and if you got something to say about, I’ll hurt you bad.
“As Kuo and Wu write in their essay: ‘Because we have nowhere else to place our collective faith, only the anti-hero can contest or uproot the imperfect structures of the universe.’
“So we’re left to worship shitheads.
“I’m not suggesting the sky is falling because of Underbelly or its silly red-haired cousin, Bikie Wars, just that, as an avid consumer of television drama, I’d give my left nut to see our networks take some risks with a crime show, rinse the soap out of them and give us something to think about.”