Saturday, September 10, 2016

6 Reasons Why Our TV Sucks

Been a long while, hasn't it? And to the two people out there who read this blog, I'm afraid this isn't a comeback or a sign of one. Why? I'm not sure if I've said it before, but prior to my "indefinite hiatus", I've been blogging for about... what, four years? Sometimes there's something new to talk about. But for the most part it's just the same ol' crap, because the industry keeps doing the, well, same ol' crap.

Good news is, in my absence, I've been quite the busy-bee and I've learned a few things along the way. So at least the things I say from now on comes from having been experienced them, rather than observations and "guesstimates".

And so having said all that, what does that mean for the topic at hand? Why do our TV suck?

I'm afraid this time around it doesn't matter which side of the screen you're on: it's exactly what you think. I'll save the saucier stuff for later.

#6 It may be shit, but it's shit that's done

Because if it's entirely up to the people who claim to know better, they'll say that they have great ideas that will change everything, but they're "still in development".

i.e. "I have this idea that will break new grounds, if only [insert reason here]."

In the meantime, TV is a monster that needs feedin' and it will take anything at all. Even crap. And you need to work, because the likes of TNB or the bank won't cut you any slack just because you're working on the next big thing.

So what do creative workers do? Only thing they know. They work. On anything at all that will surely get them paid.

But why does that mean they keep going for these Suamiku titles? Kindly read on.

And oh, please note that I'm not taking shots at either side. What I am saying is, we have two extreme ends of the spectrum: people who rush things (but get paid), and people who really take their time (not always a sure thing). Both have pros and cons, both with their unique challenges.

That topic deserves a blog post of its own. Maybe I'll get to it, maybe I already have, maybe I won't. For now, let's keep focusing on why our TV sucks.

#5 It's cheap (and fast)

Every time somebody bemoan that we don't have anything we could call our very own Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, or [insert great TV show here]; I get a good laugh.

The amount of money that go into these shows are insane. Before you argue that it's not special effects that you're asking for; that you just want a good story; well that's exactly what I'm talking about. Good stories cost a great deal of money for the simplest reason that it takes time and craftsmanship.

Any working class writer, at any given time, may work on up to 10 projects (I draw the line at 6, thank you). And you can bet that most of them are commissioned work; i.e. "Great ideas" from producers that could be the next best thing "if only they have time to write it themselves".

I know, right? Like how I too could be the next badminton great, if only I have the time to train. And I got great ideas too on how to get there.

That's right. I could have been the world no. 1, too. If only I have the time...
Sometimes it's not so bad, because there are some executive/producers who know exactly what they want and what they're doing. But they're few and far in between, and if you wanna keep a roof over your head, they'd better not be your only source of income.

So what's a working class writer to do? Refer to #6. You may write shit, but at least it's a sure thing:

There's a long list of all these bad novels from talentless hacks that you could obtain for a minimal fee; story's already complete, so you save time and money developing it; and if you save a writer's time, they'd be willing to take a significant pay cut.

If you're wondering why are there so many bad novels, well, it's because all the great ones are still being written.

#4 There's a readily-available audience

This should answer why I keep saying that it's a sure thing. Say what you want about these shows, but they have a dedicated following. Some follow in earnest; some claim so they can make fun of it; doesn't matter. More people watching = more ratings.

If the TV execs like the numbers, they'll keep doing it. And many in the TV business are thankful for it. Which leads us to #3:

#3 Production is practically hassle-free

I can't speak for the production as a whole; there are some horror stories about dealing with the work schedule, cast and crew, and whatnot; but what other production doesn't deal with all these?

By hassle-free, I mean whatever goal or milestone they set will be achieved because nobody's gonna suddenly pull the plug due to lack of funding or shortage of creative juice. They know what they're gonna make, and it's definitely ain't The Sopranos.

So is it all about the money? Well, yeah. But not in the way you may think: Nobody, from top to bottom, gets rich from this. It's merely sustainable income. For TV stations, though, it's a different story - and one for a different time.

#2 "Kid gloves" approach to Malaysian audience

In a nutshell, here's what them studio executives-type think of you: That you are a bunch of 7-year-olds with the world-weariness of a 70-year-old who think the world will end tomorrow because of what celebrities do on the silver screen, on TV, or social media.

Unfortunately, they kinda have a point. There are plenty of reactionary fools out there.

Even more unfortunate, these execs lack spine that it only takes a few hundred unfavourable comments on Facebook to alter the course of an entire production.

So what do you do when your audience is already small and the money is shit? You pander. You make something that's meant to please as many people as possible, that you only stand to offend a homeless man in Brickfields who didn't have anything sane to think about since 1995.

That way, you'll create something so insignificant, people will forget about it as soon as it's over. You get to do your job, everybody gets paid, and there will be no "controversies" to distract you from your next gig.

Because in the end, that's all it is: just a job.

#1 Nobody really cares anyway

You would think that people care because of the stuff you see on Facebook. You know the kind: every now and then, an article goes viral about how stupid these shows are. Rather frequently, photos of technical errors (medical equipment used wrongly; yellow helmet on an engineer; etc) also get around.

But what changes after that? Nothing.

Why? Because nobody cares, really. People share those things just so they can feel smug about it; "Ooh, I'm smart enough to know this is wrong," or, "Look how dumb everything is on TV."

So they get a sense of moral or intellectual superiority after a day at work, where the job is dull and the pay isn't enough.

I guess we're all the same in that sense - us production people and you cubicle dwellers. Life is hard enough, and neither could care enough to actually go out there and change things.

But it's not all a bummer. You do have choices, you know. Us too. Books, for instance. I've written one *hint, nudge* and I'm close to finishing another *hint hint, nudge nudge*. I'll keep you posted.

And you know it's gonna be great, because it's still being written. LOL


Anonymous said...

You should try and watch 'HERO' on TV2... It is something different and fresh, not a typical malay drama, you can see some good effort, a good try, in my opinion. Not sure on the audience reception though...

I heard the writers are fan of Vince Gilligan and Robert Kirkman.

Watch it here...

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