Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Predictable Programming

I got an email today from a London based production company who've been commissioned by Channel 4 to produce a programme which will form part of their 'faith' output. In and of itself this isn't a particularly unusual thing, I run some fairly well known youth projects so I get TV companies knocking on the door about once a month. The tedious thing is that their pitches are so predictable, and this one was no different. The idea was yet another reworking of the the number one concept I get approached with (which they all seem to think is soooo original) namely, to create a show in which young Christians talk about why they choose a lifestyle of sexual abstinence. It's as if sexual abstinence the defining feature of the lives of young Christians.

So as you may have already guessed I'll be getting back to them to say I won't be able to offer them any inroads to connecting with young Christians for this programme. However, what I do intend to do while I'm at it is to suggest that they wake up to the kind of things young Christians are doing that most other young adults up and down the country are still virgo intacta about; stuff like: getting involved in relieving urban street crime, campaigning for an end to human trafficking and saving their pocket money to sponsor children in the third world.

Stereotyping sucks but it's never going to change until some enlightened soul in a production company somewhere dares to break away from this predictable programming to create something truly insightful.

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5 comments:

spurious said...

I understand what you're saying, but television can be at its most interesting when its giving us a unique perspective. There are lots of people who contribute towards relieving street crime or sponsor children in the developing world, and most of them aren't christian, so what's the angle going to be there? Abstinence is far more appealing as a television concept because it's so far from the beaten track that most of the sheep in our country tread.

If you want to get a platform to talk about the kind of things you want talked about, you need to start from a place of interest to the wider community. If it's not sexual abstinence, it can only really be an exploration of more fundamental elements within Christendom which can very easily lead to a more dubious and sinister subtext.

Matt Wilson said...

Spurious, I don't think you do understand me at all. It seems like you've missed my point entirely. Let me try again: I've seen lots of TV programmes about young Christians choosing to abstain from sex - it is a concept which has been done to death. I've never seen a TV programme about young Christians involved in any of the various things I mentioned - so a programme on that sort of theme would be unique.

Also, I don't see how you can jump from 'if its not sexual abstinence, it can only be an exploration of more fundamental elements...' There are a thousand curious and interesting things young Christians choose to do or not do every day because of their faith. My point is that a creative film-maker could create something genuinely fresh if they would bother to scratch beneath the surface.

spurious said...

I did actually understand the original point you were making, and my response to it is that there are far more programmes about people doing the things you've said you'd like to see christians doing on television, then programmes about christians saying no to sexual activity before marriage. That's not to say the latter hasn't been done to death, but it's rarer then programmes about somebody helping to tackle street crime etc., and I don't think 'doing it because they're christian' makes for a particularly interesting premise. I mean, people do that kind of thing for various reasons - who cares?

Your final point is a fair one, but my point remains: television has to appeal to viewers, and I'm afraid I can't think of many things young (or old) christians uniquely do or don't do because of their faith that I think would make an interesting or original television show. I think most people generally understand that there are some christians, like there are lots of groups out there, who indulge in sacrificial work for the benefit of others. I can't see what commissioning another programme, with the twist that it's a bunch of christian people doing it this time, will achieve or what you want it to achieve.

I hope that makes sense and I'm not trying to be provocative, but the 'genuinely fresh' ideas you've suggested aren't unique to young christians and we've actually seen them all before.

Matt Wilson said...

Touché - covering something just because those involved are Christian isn't compelling. Maybe I just need to watch more TV? I did enjoy watching 'The Secret Millionaire' - that really resonanted with me as great TV showing the best of the human spirit.

JMW said...

I think you automatically answered a whole documentaries-worth in your reaction: Why do they not have sex? Partly because God says so, but mainly because their lives have so much in them that it can be happily left till the future! Either these people are trying to break down the stereotype of the "Austere Christian" (In which case it still has to get through editing) or they are trying to find a root to link the believers here into the smoggy mess that american believers find themselves in.
Either way, they are missing the point; a program can be fascinating not because it has a good 30sec hook that can be repeated before every advert break, but because it shows a nuianced insight into the lives of someone different to you. I saw a program a year ago in which two people "swapped lives" for the duration of filming, and even though it was a worn concept, the complexity that these people were allowed to display had me thinking about it for weeks. Real life is amazing, and so I'd really rather watch things that enritch my life or nothing at all!