Unreality T.V.

Following the account of procedures attached to the production of The Big Questions, and exposure of the tactics used to ensure car-crash telly (so as not to bore the audience) here’s another example of the tampering that goes into making a programme aimed, above all else, at ratings.

I know the strictest parents series has an agenda. It’s set up to show that delinquents need boot-camp parenting. This theory has as many holes as a sieve, but that’s not my point. It is that most programmes start with a conclusion, whereupon much film is shot, most of it is discarded, and the rest is edited to fit.

I saw an episode that featured strict black Christian parents unconvincingly performing ‘wonders’ on two rebellious British teenagers. We’ve all seen black Americans going crazy in church before, so this lot didn’t seem particularly surprising, but neither ‘parents’ nor teenagers came out of it too well.

The series in question is shown on BBC3 so I don’t expect many people watch it, but the Orthodox Jewish episode was bound to ruffle a few sensitive feathers as it made the strict parents look as bonkers and unreasonable, if not more so, than the naughty teenagers.

A plague on both their houses, one might conclude. I certainly wouldn’t recommend participating in exploitative rubbish like that. But for another inside story see this JC article and the comment from neighbour Chani.

“Over 100 hours of film was shot that week, including many examples of the neighbors delivering dinner, partying around a lag b’omer bonfire, loaning the teens clothing from the “Clothing Gemach”, strolling with the teens around the neighborhood, and throwing them a good-by party where they showered the teens with personal blessings. None of these clips made it in. What did make it, unfortunately, was a line that Tzippy was “fed” by the director regarding “the community authorities.” Taken out of context, it leaves an incorrect and imbalanced representation of a community that smothers and rejects, but does not embrace and accept”

It’s not this stupid series that worries me. I fear that everything we see on the BBC is, to one degree or another, similarly manipulated. With their access to the media, programme makers and producers are in a uniquely powerful position, and in any other profession exploiting naïve people would be regarded as a form of abuse.