Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Prime Time (rant alert)

I’m fairly relaxed about programme and film content on T.V. but there are limits. On Saturday night those limits were tested during the prime time family viewing slot on ITV 1 and to a lesser extent earlier on BBC 1.

strictlyFirst up Strictly Come Dancing: BBC1 6.30pm. Over recent years we’ve enjoyed watching Strictly as a family, confident in some genuine light entertainment as well as some heavy stomping entertainment. True, one has to cope with Bruce Forsyth’s decline and the producers keep messing about with the format. However, it’s great fun watching the likes of Anne Widdecombe and John Sargeant staggering round the stage, desperately pursued by professional partners trying to discover some semblance of rhythm or poise. Then there’s the pleasure in seeing someone emerge who discloses genuine hidden talent. This year has been no exception and we are looking forward to the final with, as Dr. Frank-N-Furter would say, anticipation.

Yet, I’m becoming uneasy with certain aspects of Strictly and I don’t just mean the sexism and ageism that led to the dumping of Arlene Phillips as a judge. There is a slight desperation about the way some of the male celebrities are encouraged to reveal their muscular spray tanned torsos before you can say the word Fleckerl. Certain female professional dancers appear to be in a competition to see who can wear the least without suffering a ‘wardrobe malfunction’. Then there are the dance moves that go beyond the subtly suggestive to the down and dirty. That’s fine in a film like Dirty Dancing (I think it was shown later in the evening) where it does what it says on the tin, but I’m not so keen on watching Matt Baker making sexual grinding motions towards his dance partner as she lies splayed on the dance floor at 7pm. Interestingly, the judges criticised Matt and Aliona for this particular contribution to their choreography, suggesting it was rather gratuitous.

xfactorThen it was over the channel for The X Factor: ITV1 7.30pm. This show is hard to watch and even harder to listen to at the best of times. It’s made more bearable by following the Twitter stream and full marks to a certain bishop from Liverpool who left the Twitterati in no doubt about his views on the qualities of the finalists. The kids enjoy X Factor and I’d rather watch it with them and discuss the merits of the latest victims of Simon Cowell’s bid for pop world domination, than abandon them to his machinations. What I hadn’t anticipated was just how far Cowell and chums were prepared to push the boundaries when it came to the performances of the guest singers.

Take That were O.K., though I nearly had a coronary when my wife declared that she wished she had tickets for their latest tour. Rumour has it Cowell stopped them singing a number called Kidz accompanied by dancers dressed as riot police. A spokesman for the band is quoted as saying: ‘It was decided after (the) afternoon's rehearsals that the timing and content of the performance was not appropriate so soon after the violence that erupted at protests in London’. Probably a wise move.

Rihanna and Christina Aguilera were a different story. I really don’t understand how anyone can say that this was suitable prime time viewing for the family. I can do without my young son being exposed to the joys of lap dancing clubs and burlesque shows at 8.30pm on a Saturday evening. I can do without my young daughter being encouraged to think that the only way for a female singer to get on in the music industry is to take off her clothes and bump and grind her way across the stage pressed between the bodies of other scantily clad women. And don’t give me the argument that Ms Aguilera was promoting a film; if she’d provided the soundtrack for the Exorcist I wouldn’t expect to see her covered in sores, strapped to a bed, head spinning and spewing all over the stage. All that was missing were the interminable adverts promoting Babestation and dodgy phone chat lines.

If broadcasters are going to schedule and promote these shows as prime time family viewing then they need to exercise some judgement and restraint when it comes to content. Both these shows were heavily trailed in the preceding days, attracted massive publicity and were likely to draw huge audiences given that one was a semi-final and the other the final. I don’t care if this is how these artists perform on tour, or if this is a taste of what their videos are like, I don’t expect it to be shoved in my children’s faces on early Saturday evening television.

Saturday evening was a good reminder that as a parent I shouldn’t delegate responsibility for my children’s television viewing and I can’t trust programme producers to observe mainstream broadcasting standards. It’s no surprise that the X Factor has attracted over 5000 complaints making it the most complained about show in ITV history.

I left blogging about this for a couple of days in order to avoid a rant. Sorry, I failed.

1 comment:

Revsimmy said...

Haven't watched the X Factor, so can't comment on that. But I agree about Strictly. It is some time since it began to fail our own inter-generational viewing test - i.e. would we watch it with our parents? Some of the conversation in the It Takes Two companion programme on BBC2 also seems to have become inappropriate for pre-watershed viewing too. It does make you wonder what is going on in some people's heads.