Monday, January 31, 2011
The new Carte Blanche spin-off Carte Blanche Extra Mondays at 19:00 on M-Net needs something extra besides Devi Sankaree Govender's peripatetic agitprop.
I've waited for the second episode before venturing an opinion on the latest offshoot of the venerable Sunday night investigative magazine show that got rid of last year's Carte Blanche Medical and Carte Blanche Consumer to attempt a 3rd add-on of the premiere brand.
Presented by Bongani Bingwa Carte Blanche Extra purports to give viewers ''more'' Carte Blanche under the slogan ''it's all about you''. However the new half hour Monday edition comes across as too staged, phoney, hokey, and with a limited functionality for the viewer who's in a Monday start-of-the-week mode and watches television with an attitude of wanting to get things done.
The first problem is the timeslot. Why M-Net would schedule Carte Blanche Extra at 19:00 instead of 19:30 makes no sense for 19:00 is ingrained TV news bulletin time across all channels. Viewers getting home will much rather give time to receiving functional information like news, sport and tomorrow's weather forecast than getting entertainment information which is what Carte Blanche Extra largely is, its value entrenched in a contextual curiosity factor rather than news you can use.
Luckily gone by the second episode and a good change was Derek Watts' snarky voice-over comments that fitted more with that other M-Net TV property Wipeout. Although entertaining, in the first episode it was jarring and did a disservice to Carte Blanche's sense of gravitas. Carte Blanche Extra's ''war room'' scenario where the production team discuss cases, chatter excitedly, and listens intently to victims comes across as fake and staged. Maybe because it completely is.
Trying to impress on the viewer that the cameras are rolling inside the Combined Artists ''war room'' docu-style, this is more clearly more set-up mocu-style. How would viewers spot that? The fake standing around in seemingly random, previously-allocated places. Zombie-like production staff walking methodically in the background as if on the starship Enterprise. Immaculately clean desks on which the camera zooms in for just the computer monitor (journalists desks are never spotless) and random ''I'm-going-to-fetch-a -water-bottle'' traversing across the room in an attempt to add TV dynamism in perfect ''bottle pick-up timing'' to colour discussions and intro links.
If the producers are willing to really be real, leave the pretense and constructed hyper reality and just film the messiness that investigative journalism really is, Carte Blanche Extra has the potential to be a great show.
Carte Blanche Extra has little extra to give viewers. But it can be made better and turned into appointment television. When you tell viewers to check whether a plumber is registered or what kind of lawyer you need when you fall in the gym, flash those consumer oriented names and contact details on the lower 3rd of the screen. That's extra and useful information in keeping with the theme of this show. Viewers don't want to see how the sausage is made but will sit through it if there's a pay-off: Show successfully completed cases. Possibly stick with one journalist and tell a story from that person's perspective, or just have Devi Sankaree Govender narrate a real first-person account of a on location story or incident that was difficult for her. Have executive producer George Mazarakis share production secrets, follow specific production staff and what their role is. Build drama about the narrative about a late story that almost didn't happen but then did. It will all make Carte Blanche Extra a much better Monday show.