31 October 2009

What price honour?

I very rarely watch television these days. Anything I would have watched invariably clashes with The Boy's bedtime or worse, gives him nightmares; no more Doctor Who for you, Mummy. Might as well give up that idea right now. The internet has snuck into its place instead, until I find myself not even thinking of the television as an option. The noise irritates me, and I find myself looking for excuses to switch it off.

Since The Old Git comes home around his bedtime anyway, this has given The Boy that child's holy grail: control of the television remote. Subject to parental approval, of course.

He likes the Challenge channel, which screens wall to wall game shows, so up until now that approval has been pretty much automatic. Indeed, Ninja Warrior, which is the Japanese show Sasuke edited with a new voice-over, has been the subject of more than a few last minute sprints to the school gate. It sucks all three of us in over breakfast. It's hard to look away from with its mixture of cannon-fodder hopefuls and dedicated competitors pushing themselves to the limit on the assault course from hell.

What I love about it is the way they perform astonishing feats of agility and endurance pitting themselves against the course. Not against each other. If an all-star, a serious contender, fails, you see that the other all-stars are gutted for him. It's about making it past the post, not being the first one there or getting one over on the others. And if no-one wins... no-one wins. Train hard ready to try again next time.

I think it would be a wonderful example for British game shows, but somehow we seem to be locked into a cycle of beating the other guy at all costs.

Nowhere was this more apparent than when I saw for the first time another game show on the same channel, Goldenballs. All homegrown this one, and I am ashamed of the fact.

I watched competitors bluff and lie to each other to keep themselves from being voted off by the others and make it to the final, where the last two standing co-operated to maximise their winnings. I didn't like the arguments and the accusations of the earlier rounds, but fair enough, bluff has been the language of card games forever.

But then there was the last part of the game, where the contestants had to each secretly decide to split or steal the money. If they both secretly chose split, they shared the money. If one chose split and one chose steal, the stealer took it all. If they both chose steal, they both went home with nothing.

The sheer treachery of the outcome took my breath away. The successful contestant would promise to share, entreat the other to and then steal it all, to the horror of the other, more trusting, soul.

It celebrated the lowest of human behaviours and I felt soiled at the end. There will always be people who will lie, steal and betray, but I think making it into a prize tarnishes our collective souls.

Compare that to the honest endeavour of the Ninja Warriors. The Boy will not be watching it again.

Ninja Warrior


  1. I'm like you, I've fallen out of love with television. First it was my reading--I find imagining my version of an author's world far more enjoyable than the images and plots TV feeds us. Then my writing world usurped reading. Making my OWN world is the most fun!

    My kids are pretty pollyanna and watch silly shows like Spongebob and the like. But yes, these competitive shows which pit selfish idiot against selfish idiot and reward their greedy behavior disgust me. Shows like Extreme Home Makeover where they try to spin it as if the show itself is doing a wonderful thing for the unfortunate, when mostly they are selling commercial time for Sears and the warm and fuzzy selfless Home Builder annoy the crap out of me.

    Shows where people exploit their children. *cough*John and Kate Plus 8. Ick. And have you ever seen an American show called Toddlers and Tieras? The show itself isn't bad--the parents seem oblivious to the fact that the show is spun to cast the parents in the worst light. But it shows the pagent parents pushing their little girls to compete in beauty pagents at tender ages, training them young that being voted the prettiest, having the most sparkly costume, the best spray tan is THE most importanta thing in life.

    Unfortunately, people keep watching this crap, paying for the shows' advertising so I'm afraid the only way to make it go away is to turn the TV off.

    *Phew* Good topic, Rosa!


  2. I rarely watch anything that TLC generates, especially those featuring ill-behaved spouses and/or children. However, funny you should mention Toddlers and Tiaras.

    This summer, when I was looking for filler to tape to take to the wire-free cottage, I stumbled upon this show. Mindless and pretty, thought I, the perfect thing to watch on a rainy day. I set it to tape weekly. However, part-way through watching the first episode, I was squirming, and trying to analyse the source of my discomfiture.

    Maybe this is a societal thing, as child beauty pageants are not part of my culture. Whatever the reason, all I could think was "This is a pedophile's dream. Completely legal, and can be watched 24/7 in mixed company." That thought completely overrode any other opinions I had of the show, and I couldn't watch anymore. Overreaction to innocent little girls being forced to play adult dress-up? Perhaps. I go with my gut, though, and never watched it again.

    What's also interesting is your introduction of Extreme Makeover into this thread. I had an episode on in the background this summer while I was flitting about the house, and it sucked me into its tear-drenched maw. I couldn't help but wonder how all that "reno" work could be successfully done in that short a time, regardless of the number of hands doing it.

    Concrete has to cure, glue and drywall mud have to harden, paint has to dry etc. etc. and there is no way in H-E-doublehockeysticks those basic processes could occur in a week on top of the million and indignities being done on the jobsite. So that started me googling, of course. Interesting.



    And you can't hold the show responsible for other outcomes, but:


    Go figure.



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