What’s With All the Yelling?

While some may argue that destiny plays an important role in life, I find it comforting to think that free will along our journeys puts our future in our own hands… to a certain extent. One realm where I fervently believe our future is indeed in our own hands rather than fate or destiny is the TV remote control.

When I was a little kid growing up, I don’t think I could have envisioned the world of possibilities at our fingertips. The potential of going from channels 2 to 13 to a universe of hundreds of channels was pure science fiction. When the concept was first discussed as a possibility within this lifetime, I have to admit that the closet-TV-addict in me got very excited, wondering how I would ever be able to hold down a steady job when I grow up with that many options.

As our TV watching universe started expanding, the initial excitement was obvious as I needed more than one VCR to

capture everything… and a lot of free time to catch up on the shows I taped, thus explaining the mountain of tapes I accumulated over the years (the same mountain I am desperately trying to get rid of now). However as the years went on and new channels were added while others folded, my excitement seemed to lessen as the occasional sleepless night would have me channel surfing through multiple channels showing the same “No-No hair removal system” infomercial. Despite short attention span issues in my childhood, I don’t recall “heavy rotations of hair removal system commercials” as being an integral part of descriptions of the multi channel universe of the future.

However, more channel surfing yielded another observation: an awful lot of yelling. It wasn’t joyful, game-show style excited yelling, or energetic groaning-style yelling as athletes might do. It wasn’t even yelling as you’d find in a horror movie, yells of cheerful encouragement, or even passionate yelling as you’d hear between two consenting adults. Just a never-ending swirl of negative energy exchanging between participants in self-created drama.

Let me start by admitting openly that the reality genre did not bypass me completely. I am a loyal fan of “Big Brother”, “Amazing Race” and “Project Runway” (including the Canadian versions of all three) as well as certain celebrity shows like “Gene Simmons’ Family Jewels” and “Shannon and Sophie”. With these programs, there is a central competition or activity that naturally generates the drama in which the participants find themselves. Of course there are personalities that clash, but those are secondary to the competition itself, so we are not subjected to scene after scene of melodrama.

It is those other shows, where tortured relationships turn into catfights at the drop of a hat…they just don’t work for me. Maybe it’s because my dad often yelled at the curious me “mind your own business” in my formative years that it left me lacking interest in other people’s dirty laundry. Maybe it’s because of my strong aversion to confrontation (which, even if I have to and it’s justified, will lead to a Catholic guilt trip lasting weeks). Either way, those other shows where people yell bleeped words at each other just don’t do it for me, I’m sorry. However, if you like them… good stuff!… enjoy them!

But that’s the point I am making, with so many channels in our universe, is the balance a little off right now? If I could have a gentle word with network executives and producers, I would say this:

With so many channels, there should be choices for everyone, yet even with a couple of hundred channels, there are times when there is nothing on TV to watch (…and I am not hard to please, believe me!). I know that with the multi-channel universe, production budgets might be slivers of what they used to be, but isn’t that why you surround yourself with creative writers, directors, technical crews and performers to come up with the best production value on a disciplined budget. Then do your best work and give it a chance to find its audience. (For a viewer, there is nothing worse than an unannounced schedule change (or frequent schedule changes) that you lose what little fan base you have accumulated.)

When those first announcements of a multi-channel universe were made, I naively envisioned a library of programming consisting of new shows and classic shows of all genres, comedy, dramas, variety, game shows, sports, movies, theatrical productions, music. I envisioned shows that could entertain, that could teach, that could inspire, that could resonate and that could help people. It is clear that we have some high quality programming out there that does some or all of that. I just challenge the executives and producers to keep up the good work on that front and surround themselves with the creative people to keep it coming!

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