Kgomotso Matsunyane

Reality bites

2008-01-10 08:58

Kgomotso Matsunyane

Sadly, the holidays are over. I could have used another month of mind-numbing TV watching and doing pretty much bugger all, having come to the conclusion that work is totally overrated.

The ANC changing of the guard made for the most riveting TV drama I've seen in ages. I was proud of the process, and that as the general public we were able to witness the event from our living rooms, especially in light of the political horrors subsequently taking place in Pakistan and Kenya.

Watching the coverage of Polokwane was like watching the president starring in his own freaky reality TV series, potentially called something like: "How Thabo lost his groove".

The people have spoken, even if I don't like what they have to say. Thabo Mbeki failed our country by not nurturing viable potential presidential options for the people to choose from, so now thanks to democracy, Mr Kangalicious is set to be the next president of the country. God help us all.

But back to the "reality" TV phenomena, which was pioneered by MTV in the early 1990's. There are a staggering number of these shows currently littering our screens. They come with names like Run's House, Living with the Kardashians, Flava of Love, Girls of the Playboy Mansion, and the frankensteinian Dr 90210.

These days, it's apparently kosher to take the cameras into the bedroom, the bathroom, or anywhere else you feel like sharing your most intimate life details and bodily functions with a billion strangers in every corner of the world.

Mind boggling

There's a huge "mara why" factor for me with so many of these shows. It is absolutely mind boggling to see what people will do to appear on TV, and even more astonishing to see how many people will watch them! But perhaps the single most disturbing programme I saw is the MTV programme My Sweet 16. Here, we watch as brats of the rich and famous outdo each other with tacky, over the top parties whose individual cost could easily fund a thousand RDP houses.

But wait, that's not all, the rascals also get the most expensive, pimped out cars even a hard working gal like me cannot afford. As a sign of gratitude, there's usually a grateful pimpled friend-of-the-brat who declares: "This was like, the best day of my life!" Dude, like, does anybody actually give a damn?

Apparently, the advertisers do. That just shows you how little I know, and I'm supposed to be a pro at this TV thing.

Most frightening is the realisation that all this TV watching has turned me into the custodian of the most useless trivia and information about people I don't care about, who have dubious talent at best, and whose claim to fame is being a "reality TV star".

I'm appalled that I know the name of Jessica Simpson's ex-husband, or the name of Paris Hilton's bloody Chihuahua. Hell, I even know the names of the two unfortunate kids who get to call Britney and Kevin mom and dad. The truth is, it's difficult to avoid this trash about famous for being famous type of sculpted people whose core values include being vain, vapid and outrageously wealthy.

But there is one programme based on real lives that just blew my mind with its originality and humanity. Khumbul' Ekhaya reunites broken families. You send a picture of a long lost loved one, it gets flighted, and the programme then brokers and documents the reconciliation, or rejection, as the case may be.

The stories are told organically, skilfully and with such compassion you can't help but come back for more. The dynamic Andile Carelse is brilliant as the presenter (even though her blonde tresses are a bit much for my tastes), and her melodic command of the Zulu language is simply music to the ears.

  • Kgomotso Matsunyane is a partner at T.O.M. Pictures, an award winning TV & Film Company in Jo'burg.

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