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D(r)eadlines

I thought it was a Candid Camera skit, recalling the one where actors had been asked to call at a house somewhere in Fgura, and then accused by pseudo-policemen of having been involved in a hit-and-run accident.

Yet, after a couple of minutes I realised it was yet another modelling contest with yet another wince-inducing title: Malta’s Top Model.

Let us, for the moment, recall that Carol Thatcher was sacked from the BBC for calling the French tennis player Jo-Wilfried Tsonga a “golliwog”. Earlier this week, the BBC was accused of inconsistency, when, during Strictly Come Dancing, it failed to discipline Anton Du Beke who told Laila Rouass she looked “like a Paki” (her mother is Indian, her father is Moroccan, and she had just had a spray tan), when previously he had jokingly asked her whether she was a terrorist.

Just for the record, there was also a slew of complaints that the contestants of Strictly Come Dancing were wearing clothes that were too revealing, and that over a quarter of the contestants to reach the finals of the X Factor have appeared in previous television talent contests – and some of them had sung in public too.

Locally, however, indecency and deception are par for the course. Literally, ‘anything goes’ when producers fall between the populist and popular stools, and budgets are low... and production companies purchase air-time.

It so happens that one of the contestants of Malta’s Top Model is black. One of the judges, bending over backwards to be politically correct, did a Berlusconi and referred to her “tan”. Overall, however, the pathetic interviews consisted of verbally going over each of the girls’ written application form, in an all but bare room.

This was not the only thing that set my teeth on edge, by half. The mistress of ceremonies obviously relished her role, the way she lorded it over the poor girls, consistently taunting them. Perhaps, having listed their pastimes variously as shopping, modelling and clubbing, one could almost say they asked for it – but that would not be cricket.

I was under the impression that some authority or other had issued a prohibitory injunction against close-ups, especially if these were going to be of people in vulnerable positions. A girl who has just been superciliously told she does not have what it takes to qualify for the next round of a competition is just that.

So, for that matter, are the contestants of ID – and to make matters worse, these have to bite their lips and talk to the MC. ‘Informed consent’ has many levels of meaning, especially when it is adulterated by the promise of things to come.

I cannot for the life of me understand how, and why, this show came to be aired on Favourite Television – when the ethos of the company running it is supposed to preclude such ignominies.

• A letter in the sister paper to this – or rather one of the comments attached to it, viz. “If only PBS follow suite (sic) and transfer on digital the treasures it has at its archives!” caught my eye this week (www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20091002/local/doi-to-screen-rare-footage-for-notte-bianca?).

This person, and probably all those who commented and did not mention it, appears never to have watched Mill-Arkivji, the sensational programme that is now being repeated on TVM.

This series has evidently been painstakingly pieced together from sundry footage, backed with intensive research and interviews, and has obviously served as a springboard for the several copycat string of ‘culture’, ‘heritage’ and ‘folklore’ programmes spawned on several stations.

I am under the impression that this was done under the aegis of the ‘Lifelong Learning’ initiative, through a production house that was independent of both E22 and TVM, but which is now defunct, for reasons unknown.

This programme had gone on air after the infamous restricting exercise, so I would have thought that PBS would commission a new series, since to my knowledge the archives are still being seen to and therefore, the sources are practically inexhaustible (unless they are pilfered); one could work on them as one goes along.

• When I had suggested that the signature tune for One Television News bore more than a passing resemblance to the theme from Fame, I had mixed feedback. So I wonder what will be the reaction if I suggest that the latest one reminds me of Sky News.

Speaking of news – Radju Malta has adroitly and logically managed to avoid cutting the early morning BBC News in mid-sentence – by beginning the Breakfast Show earlier. The number of news breaks during the day appears to have diminished overall.

Most television stations appear to be following trends set by Favourite Channel in their news bulletin. Over the past few weeks we have seen the introduction of cloned promos, a guest, the crawl with the e-mail address, a telephone number, and a call for citizen journalists, and a nod to heritage awareness.

This, however, is definitely not something that Radju Malta is emulating. Wirtna, which used to be broadcast on Thursdays at 8.05 p.m. and lasted a scarce hour, has now been truncated to a mere 30 minutes, and is being broadcast at 8.30 p.m. instead.

• The way the studio is set up, Manwel Micallef often ends up showing his back to three of the guests in X-Press (Favourite Channel). Surely the seating can be rearranged to avoid this?

television@timesofmalta.com

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