SOUTH AFRICA, OCT. 25 – TV guru Thinus Ferreira is South Africa’s most devoted TV fan.
A-ha was right when they sang that the sun always shines on TV.
Often dismissed as frivolous, TV has always been totally fascinating to me. It makes me happy. It moves me. The stories it tells resonate with me, sometimes they even change me.
Here are some of the things about TV I’ve learnt:
Don’t Get Stuck On One Thing
I never watch repeats. There are just too many new shows on the box. Repeats make me anxious and I feel as if I’m back at school with stacks of homework and not enough time. When I watch shows I’ve seen before, it’s to relive it. I watch The Gummi Bears, The Wonder Years or Ugly Betty in the same way I would reread beloved books. Don’t see your travels with television as a destination. Watch television as an unfolding and ever-changing landscape, a journey that will surprise you when you find new things you never thought you’d like. Otherwise, you will end up with three shows and your favourite soap and complain that there’s never anything on.
Oprah should come back
Probably no TV show has ever influenced me more than The Oprah Winfrey Show. When the SABC added it 24 years ago, Oprah changed my life. Now I see and sit through so much ugly stuff – harsh news, programming that showcases the nasty side of humanity; and that bully Donald Trump. In her visits to South Africa over the years I’ve had the chance to meet Oprah and interview her. Although many people you see on TV are often not the same off air as they are on air, Oprah Winfrey is exactly the same. I know she does some programming on her OWN channel, some of which is aired on Discovery’s TLC, but I’d like a new version of her talk show, to uplift and inspire an international audience again.
Our TV is better than the world average
I’ve watched television from Malaysia to Uganda and New Zealand, from the US to Panama, Hong Kong, Nigeria and Mozambique. Here’s a secret: although South Africans complain about repeats and bad television, the totality and quality of our TV offering is better than the world average. Other countries have more horrendous content, many more commercials, less variety and worse channels. For all the complaining about DStv and the SABC, StarSat and e.tv, South Africans are overall getting a better deal than viewers in the US.
It’s okay to love TV
I’ve come to realise there’s still a stigma attached to saying your hobby is watching or enjoying TV. It is changing though and, a month back, walking around at the first Comic Con Africa, I got the sense that more South Africans are realising that it’s okay to obsess openly about Marvel heroes or zombie TV shows. When I was news editor at TVPlus magazine for five years, we would have conversations, such as, “You won’t believe, but Taylor is back with Ridge”, and “Sami just got pregnant with Austin’s child and Marlena doesn’t know anything”. If you think about it, we spend way more time watching TV than with some family members. Why shouldn’t the people we watch, count as the friends we know well?
There’s a growing content discovery problem
It’s not just you who feels lost. I often do, too. Since there’s constantly more TV – on top of an old library content becoming available – it’s difficult to find out what’s on. The TV people call it “content discovery” and it’s something becoming more problematic. A lot of newspapers, magazines and TV people want to do away with printing TV listings, synopses and programme highlights – yet it’s more important than ever. South African TV has become a Wild West of sorts as more people enter the local scene. We see a lot of shows being made with very little communication about it. PR agencies often don’t have a clue about what PR in television entails. If you wonder why there are more stories of NCIS or other US or UK shows in publications, it’s because that information and their images are actually available. Local ones – and not for a lack of trying – are not.
Spend some time to improve your telly
I am amazed at people plopping down on the couch and complaining that “there’s nothing to watch”. Tip: You’re doing it wrong. If you invest just a little bit of time every week, you can increase your TV viewing pleasure. Sunday is the best to read through an upcoming week’s TV guide. Highlight the shows you want to watch. Set a recording if you have a PVR. Choose one show you don’t know and make time to check it out. See what repeats at the weekend or in the mornings then record the repeat to leave space to record other things at prime time when there are multiple things you might want to watch but which clash in the same time slots.
You can’t win reality TV
With every new reality competition, it’s the one thing I’m asked most by friends and the public: Should I enter? My truest advice: It’s like gambling and, in the end, the house always wins. Whatever the reality show – it’s 99% certain that you’ll lose more in the process – your privacy, your dignity, some self-worth – than what you might possibly gain. As a contestant you’re just one element of a bigger puzzle – a machine geared towards making good television. And that’s not being cynical, that’s reality. – NDN Staffer