a year or two ago i made a flippant remark about television being a 'disappointing medium'. this has become a quote that is repeated often to me, in particular by my old housemate who works in tv.
i was planning a post rescinding this quote after watching paradise or bust, master chef (in which said ex-housemate got her first producer credit) and in particular having seen a case study on Picture This at the 360 entertainment conference, which combined a community and tuition on taking photos with a more traditional television competition (although not in quite as integrated a way as they had hoped).
these programmes seemed to represent a new wave of television which revolve around harnessing people's attributes rather than playing to the lowest common denominator, and which linked back to websites and the real world to make a positive difference to it.
then this weekend i decided to have a lazy day and surfed cable for a couple of hours. the high point was unexpectedly coming across an episode of the old robin of sherwood series from the eighties, which has stood time remarkably well (which the current iteration will almost certainly not).
when this had finished i flicked onto a show on that parasite of glossy american angstcoms and reality television T4, which was proudly showing off its latest experiment in social behaviour Vanity Lair. This surely has to be the nadir. Contestants on the show vote each other on and off (no inclusion of the viewer interestingly - probably following the phone vote debacle from last year) purely on the basis of how attractive they find them. there is some conceit that this is in order to explore the notion of what makes someone attractive, but of course really this is about watching beautiful people be either sycophantic or cruel to each-other. there was a brilliant comment as the first beautiful person left the house from one of the remaining contestants that she had been one of the only 'real' people in the house, and that most were really false. to which you had to ask what exactly they themselves were on the show for.
one of my favourite books - The Glass Bead Game by Herman Hesse - posits a future in which a Platonic society looks back on our present with amazement at how shallow and short-term everything is. i hope and trust that we will end up somewhere similar, that most often change is for the better, and that the positive, creative programmes win out over the LCDs. that the age of social media and tagging will allow people to become known for greatness rather than aesthetics, and that entertainment will become increasingly exciting and engaging as we get to play an increasingly active role within it.