As we’ve already established, South Africa’s broadcasting environment is almost totally devoid of balls. The SABC is a cowering, quivering mass of sycophancy. Mnet’s rule of thumb is to produce only shows with a voting line (the excellent Masterchef SA notwithstanding). And eTV is focussed on low-budget soapies.
What this dearth of testicles means is that there is little room for anyone to speak their mind. The occasional hard news show or investigative slot are all well and good, but what about the other genres of television? Our glossy magazine shows, for example, are slick and smooth and featureless – much like Barbie’s crotch.
By contrast, the BBC’s Top Gear boasts three mouthy presenters who are never shy to call things like they see ’em. OK, sometimes Clarkson goes too far, but this capacity for critical thought is what gives the show credibility. As a result of this bolshy enthusiasm (and top-flight production values) Top Gear is a worldwide hit and one of the BBC’s biggest money earners.
Sadly, our motoring and magazine shows have not learnt this valuable lesson. Instead, they are so beholden to their sponsors that the buffed and polished presenters daren’t whisper a negative thought, lest they offend someone with a cheque book. The result is tedious and bland; the televisual equivalent of a timeshare presentation. And our obsequious talk show hosts are even worse…
That’s why it was such a breath of fresh air to see this clip from American TV. Behold Anderson Cooper – the twinkly-eyed pixie from CNN. He was talking to some horrible plastic surgery addict who had decided to give her pre-teen daughter botox. Then, mid-interview, Cooper just decided to cut the crap and tell the truth about what he was thinking. No pandering, no feigned interest, no bullshit. He just dropped the pretence, called her a ‘dreadful person’, and kicked her off his show.
The interesting thing is that the studio audience didn’t condemn Anderson’s rudeness – they responded with wild approbation; proof that the thing modern viewers appreciate above all else is honesty. So, here’s hoping that South Africa’s broadcasters can get over their obsession with Barbie’s crotch and start growing a pair. IMHO.