Sunday 22 April 2018

The Weekly Read: Give me an old-fashioned detective show over reality TV any day

In the latest of our entries in an Irish Independent student journalist competition, in association with, Orla Ryan says give her a good old fashioned TV murder over a soppy reality show any day.

Orla Ryan

“I think people should vote for me because my mother’s friend’s uncle’s pet budgie was recently crushed by a ukulele, and if I could perform in front of the overpaid, over exposed, beautiful people that would help dull the pain,” said the girl.

“Oh God, that’s just so clichéd. Haven’t you any novel sob stories we could attempt to market you with? I mean, give us something to work with,” replied the producer.


“I was raised by puppies . . . amputee puppies . . . that were abandoned . . . abandoned by orphans . . . orphans with diseases,” she cried.


“That whole puppy/orphan thing has been so overdone. We need a fresh angle. Think harder!” “I once scaled Machu Picchu – backwards, in the lotus position, using only my hands, to raise funds to buy iPads for Bill Gates’ kids.”


“Who hasn’t? What else?” “I’m from a distinctly average background, work hard and am genuinely talented.”


“Hmmm, that’s new. I don’t like it, no one would relate to it. Tell me the thing about the budgie again – small birds rate highly among the 16-25 age demographic.”


It’s a tried and tested formula: a ‘talent’ show contestant shares their tale of misery and woe to the backdrop of a Snow Patrol song. The audience promptly becomes a group of blubbering, emotional messes – I believe the collective noun is ‘gullibi’. As of yet, studies have failed to discern whether those affected are more upset by the content of the story or its musical accompaniment. One thing is certain, however – the only known cure for such an infliction: call a premium rate number to ensure Simon Cowell doesn’t have to downsize one of his yachts. Lather up the emotional blackmail, rinse it all over the viewers and repeat ad nauseam.


The majority of those who win these types of TV competitions often end up being exploited to within an inch of their life (and sanity). They are chewed up and spat out before they’ve had time to utter the phrase “Don’t you know who I am? No? Not even a vague idea? Right so, I’ll get my coat.” The tough-skinned contestants fare better than the rest. Viewing figures are the be all and end all of these vehicles, but at what cost? A psychological evaluation is now part of the behind-the-scenes action of many such shows, but does this really make a difference? Often times, vulnerable people are placed on a pedestal for the single purpose of bullies getting a kick out of knocking them right off it.


Making fun of sub-par contestants on talent shows is like shooting fish in a barrel. In this instance, however, the fish swam intentionally up to the hook and jumped on it. It then proceeded to get bloody darn excited at all the attention it attracted when thrashing from one side of the bucket to the other. “Like me! Accept me! Validate me! And when you cook and eat me, serve me with a drizzle of lemon,” thought the fish – before its imminent gutting.


Traditional television watching habits may be dwindling somewhat due to increased online broadcasts, but it all amounts to the same result. The TV we consume can itself consume us. Don’t get me wrong, television is a wonderful tool when used to educate and entertain in a positive fashion. Its power is equal parts colossal and subtle. Our minds are sponges and it’s a power hose.


Many people fare better in their daily lives when background noise is provided by a TV – it’s comforting and familiar. It’s a huge part of our culture and society.


To this day, who here among us can hear the ‘Glenroe’ theme tune without temporarily becoming a scared ten year old hasn’t opened their schoolbag all weekend? Luckily, such stress no longer applies to us. Nowadays ‘Love/Hate’ gifts us with the opportunity of spending our Sunday nights watching drug dealers have sex and kill people. All I’m saying is; Nidge wouldn’t stand a chance against Blackie Connors.


If I’m honest, I’d much prefer to watch someone murder a fictional character rather than a real song. You can’t beat a good old-fashioned crime show – and I’m not talking about any of that CSI: CGI rubbish, either. The only thing CSI: Miami has thought the world is that white trouser suits and stilettos are the only appropriate attire to wear when investigating a murder scene. I yearn for the golden days of television – when crimes were solved based largely on the hunches of old people, rather than these new-fangled concepts of "DNA" and "evidence". Yes, I’m looking at you Jessica Fletcher and Mark Sloan. Major props if you get the references. If not, search those names right now. You’re welcome.


Orla Ryan is completing her Masters in Journalism at NUI Galway.

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