Why “The Muppets” Should Go On A Raping Spree

16 Apr

I have worked, on and off, in children’s television for ten years. I qualify that with “on and off” in order to keep the shred of dignity I need to wake up in the morning. South African Kids TV is used, by some, as an entry into the broadcasting world and most manage to leave it behind within their first two years in the industry. Some, however, remain stuck in this swamp of mediocrity, populated by misanthropes, fuck-ups, amateur politicians and teenage presenters who one wishes would be targeted by vicious molesters or Am-Way salespeople. There are a few dedicated producers, directors and writers who struggle everyday to lift the genre into the realm of non-offensive, harmless entertainment, but they are thwarted by the broadcasters who sit in their offices over-looking the Johannesburg sky-line, masturbating furiously as they listen, obey and service sexually the unions and government lackeys ruling the industry.

Children’s TV is budgeted as low as educational TV (both are budgeted as if they actually were in the educational department), but is policed more heavily than any other department in the broadcaster’s line-up. “We’re doing it for the kids,” they say, “We need to protect them.” Protecting the kids apparently means giving them sub-standard programming about inane subjects while educating them to be exactly what the higher-ups think they should be. A bit like Outcome Based Edutainment brought to your child by commissioning editors who are equally afraid of progress as they are of their bosses, channel heads who preach government sanctioned propaganda and production companies looking to make a quick buck. Atop all of this sits the mighty broadcaster: a large, drooling, malfunctioning monster sucking up cash and thinking of new ways to convince the South African viewer that they are as stupid as they’re being treated.

The primary culprit in this pig-fuck of a situation is, of course, the SABC; that most disastrous of public broadcasters that has, since its inception, been a slave to whatever power hungry mongrel calls itself the master. This dysfunctional organization loses money every year due to corruption, incompetency, bad management, loss of advertisers and a line-up that consists of soap-operas (no argument from me if you like them, they are there to be liked) and a menagerie-like mix of slanted news and harmful “entertainment.” The middle management of the SABC is made up of television-illiterate scaredy cats and chicken shits that are placed there to halt any progressive idea to come from an individual or company with the willingness to make good television. This attitude filters down to the lowly worker bees that walk around with permanent scowls that can only be achieved by the knowledge that one has made a life-numbing mistake. This affects the work, as one can see when viewing any three of the SABC channels at any given time. But it’s especially true for Kids TV.

A few years ago I attended a Children’s Television Content Hub Conference (ooh!) which contained two telling moments that should sum up the approach the SABC takes when deciding on programming and the people who sit behind the approach. We (all downtrodden producers and directors with born-to-lose tattooed on our foreheads) sat in a cavernous auditorium and were shown an immensely depressing documentary about two orphans taking care of each other in a Chinese metropolis. The youngest orphan was three and his older sister was nine and the documentary followed these kids through one day of getting ready for school, preparing food and survival against all odds. As we sat there, teary eyed and depressed, we were then lectured to make South African Kids TV more like this slice of fuck-me-why-life. The higher-ups missed the point of the documentary and thought of it as an uplifting, communist wet dream of self-sufficiency, instead of a heartbreaking expose of children being left behind in a crumbling society. I looked around the room to see if anyone else was pissing their pants out of frustration like I was, but I was surprised to see people nodding in agreement and taking notes as if someone just pitched “The Sopranos” to HBO. I don’t know, maybe I’m just a moron who thinks that kids TV should be a happy, safe place to lose one’s self in.

The second moment occurred when we were taking a drinks break. While we were shoving Tennis biscuits down our throats and swallowing it with lukewarm Oros, I overheard a colleague of mine talking to one of the heads of the Content Hub. This “decked out with Truworths Man gear” little political animal was talking about taking the SABC into the future. When my colleague asked this gargoyle about his favorite TV show, the man said, “I don’t watch television. I don’t allow televisions in my house.”

This man, this officious little prick, is one of the people who decide what gets shown on South African television. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why you should get DSTV so that your kids can watch Looney Tunes.

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