One wonders what the producers of TV shows think when they prepare to pitch for new shows. Is it entirely the prospect of ad revenue that underpins their sales line? Do they consider the post-production revenues from the fame that flows to the participants? Do they lie awake at night wondering whether they will be able to crack that $1 million mark per star a show?
Whatever it is that drives reali-TV, it certainly has nothing to do with reality. In South Africa we have a culture of theatre, television and film that is usually about one or more of five things, being:
- Apartheid, the legacy thereof and the challenges of post-apartheid transformation as applied to the person.
- Physical comedy, the situational contextualisation thereof and the delivery of innuendos, one-liners and puns ad tedium that relate to number 1 above and remind us of our stereotypical eccentricities as the products of ethnic engineering.
- Professional sports and/or big business, the attendant struggle against adversity and triumph over circumstance, common to both.
- The all singing, all dancing, all glamorous, cattle-auction-like talent contests and beauty pageants, award shows, game shows and gratuitous political speeches that remind us we now have the opportunity to sing and dance etc.
- Documentaries that reveal we care more for the big five than we do for the Abahlali baseMjondolo or which bust crooked shylocks in undercover sting-journalism operations — yes in SA even our journos think they’re the FB-Aiiight
Now I may be called callous for suggesting that we as South Africans wear our artistic integrity on our sleeves so that we may adapt such integrity to meet the mandate of the funding requirements, but I think if we look closely enough we will see that the “message” that parades as free thought is no more than the carefully orchestrated programming of the innocent public.
Perhaps I am being too generous in my assertion that the artistes of South Africa have colluded to ensure that we only experience our fictional escapism within the confines of our marketing spiel for the country, that is that, that which makes us famous (like apartheid, Mrs Ball’s, Madiba, Comrades, Kimberley etc) must be the object of the piece of theatre, television or film, so that we can entertain while we inspire direct foreign investment.
Perhaps I should be more willing to engage with the plebeian, low-brow, comedia, dramatica and fantasia that constitutes our creative genius? Perhaps I should try to find The Coconuts funny, rather than stereotypically pathetic?
Perhaps I shouldn’t laugh when people insist on suggesting that I have some interest in finding out which bulimic will be America’s Next Top Model or which cracker will out-cheat, out-doublecross and out-schnie everyone else to be crowned this year’s Survivor. In respect of which, the fact that it would be more dangerous for these folk to attempt to survive in any American Chinatown, as opposed to the real China, has evidently escaped the producers of Survivor.
And while we are making fun of such things, why has the Donald not returned for an Afro-American Apprentice. We could have Trump and Tokyo firing everyone to find the last person standing who would then be named director-general of human settlements?
No? I didn’t think so. Because it is clear. Ballroom dancing and singing talent contests are the winners when it comes to the South African reali-TV stakes. So I propose the following brilliant idea for a new reality TV show, which I’m sure will be successful.
Think Pop Idols meets Strictly Come Dancing meets Survivor meets The Apprentice meets Fear Factor meets Richard Attenborough documentaries meets Miss Indian, African, Coloured, Taiwanese, Mhlungu South Africa meets Baywatch meets SAS: Are You Tough Enough bootcamp meets WWE Raw — but — written by Debora Patta’s 3rd Degree team and presented by Leon Schuster and Mark Lottering.
Imagine for a moment that South Africa was a wild, undiscovered and unchartered mysterious land of adventure and that we teemed in wildlife from the deserts of the Namib, Karoo and Kalahari to the humid bushlands of Pongolo and up into the northern territories. Imagine for a moment that South Africa was a distant and far-off place that many a NYSE investor would rather avoid than explore and imagine for a moment that South Africa was a land of tremendous inequities, with only every second hut having satellite TV.
And thus the people of Mzansi Afrika spake, saying thus, bring us your tried, bring us your thuggery, bring us your cheats and your unwarranted, bring us the audited and the accused, for we shall welcome yea all. Yes, imagine for a moment that the people declared an election.
And so came forth those that would be crowned “Survivor” and thus we would begin to see the competitive streak forming amid the weak. Imagine the excitement, imagine the intrigue, imagine the simmering cleavage shots (because every show needs eye candy), imagine … “WaBenziGubwe — The Search”.
Now it’s very simple, parties that complete the forms correctly, can enter, so anyone who is illiterate or innumerate is out immediately. Parties that have live and living contestants may enter, so anyone who is recycling apartheid-era politicians may be in trouble. The format of the show is mixed and has certain immunity rounds to protect people from the Rival Council (where people get suspended at full pay, investigated by the DPCI, then indicted by the NPA, before being paroled to return to Parliament).
Immunity Challenge 1 (Pop Idols): All contestants, while wearing an AWB T-shirt, must sing the OLD national anthem in public using a loudhailer. Anyone who gets killed doing this is out of the game.
Immunity Challenge 2 (Strictly Come Dancing): All contestants must devise and choreograph their own dance routine to be performed with a professional (dancer), set to the music of Oom Hendrik’s accordion solo. Anyone who fails to dance in a South African fashion will be eliminated from the game.
Immunity Challenge 3 (Survivor): All contestants are required to form tenuous alliances based on quid pro quos. They are expected to siphon as much money from the Tribal Sovereign Fund as is possible with the winner being the one who gets the most but never gets burnt for the graft.
Immunity Challenge 4 (The Apprentice): After the above 3 challenges we are likely to only have the strong contenders left, thus we expect that they will be able to actually do 8 hours of work in a single day that relates to public service delivery. The one who actually does 8 hours is the winner.
Immunity Challenge 5 (Fear Factor): All contestants — who won’t be allowed to take anything into the informal settlement — will be required to build and occupy their own wood and iron shack for 72 hours. The contestants who build the biggest shack and stay in the settlement the longest will win this round.
Immunity Challenge 6 (Attenborough documentaries): All contestants will be required to give evidence under oath and by way of affidavit about the Arms Deal and the government’s knowledge of HIV prior to the formulation of Aids policy. Anyone not charged with perjury hereafter will be able to proceed.
Immunity Challenge 7 (Miss SA): All remaining contestants must divide themselves into their ethnic groups and solicit the sexual attraction of their preferred mate and should they succeed in attracting people from other ethnic groups then they shall proceed to the next round.
Immunity Challenge 8 (Baywatch): Every contestant must don a one piece, bust-cinched swimsuit and pose for 3 hours of pictures on a specially constructed stage at Sandton City. Anyone dishing up camel toe will win this round.
Immunity Challenge 9 (SAS): Whoever remains at this point will proceed to Parliament in Cape Town and will make a full disclosure in the Members Interest Register about which prostitutes give out discounts of more than R50 to MPs. The MP with the most contact numbers for discount services wins.
Immunity Challenge 10 (WWE): Finally all of the contestants who make it through will appear on a special broadcast show live from Soccer City where in the middle of the pitch will be the leaders of the 4 biggest parties (who will conveniently by now be the only contestants left). They will proceed to throw stones at each others glass houses. The contender who gets away with the most hypocrisy will be crowned … the 2009 “WaBenziGubwe of Mzansi Fo Sho”.
As the 3rd Degree writers and the listed comedians are professionals, I will not dictate their scripts to them as I am sure they will rise to the occasion. In the end I think whoever wins this game deserves to be our nation’s president, don’t you?