Thursday, November 22, 2012

REVIEW. The Link on SABC1 with Lerato Kganyago on Thursdays at 18:30 is sparkling pink, frothy filler - and surprisingly filling.

The biggest surprise, and may one add a pleasant one at that, is that The Link on SABC1 which started on Thursday at 18:30 with presenter Lerato Kganyago is of such (surprising) quality that the frothy pink entertainment magazine show would actually fit well and belong seamlessly on more upmarket channels such as SABC3 or even M-Net.

Kudos therefore to SABC1 for bringing to air a brand-new show with not just an actual modicum of quality in terms of production values, but a show that will help to lift the channel's early primetime line-up to more respectability within South Africa's TV industry.

The Link produced by BonNgoe Productions is above average well (already a huge plus in the constant and large cestpool of "failure television" on South African TV) in terms of watchability, and Lerato Kganyago, formerly from SowetoTV, comes across as remarkably natural, grounded and really interested in her guests.

Lerato Kganyago is too obviously reading her script from the teleprompter (look more generally up, girl) if you closely follow her eyes, although in time and with experience she'll hopefully improve with this aspect.

Otherwise she's definitely on the right track - calm, friendly (without being overly emotive) and not (and this is a huge positive) sassy. Too many presenters overact and try to be fake-friendly. Lerato Kganyago gets it right because she's just herself.

There is a little bit too much talking with the hands (Nonhle Thema was never a role model to be emulated people), but hopefully some floor manager can eventually help Lerato Kganyago to tone this down a little. Otherwise, she's marvelous, making only small technical mistakes, and feels genuine.

The Link as a pink magazine show, bubbling like a pleasant glass of rose champagne, is filled with froth but doesn't come across as overly carbonated - and even to get that half-right is a difficult thing to achieve.

 The Link shows what SABC3's dismally plastic Flash! could and should have been and that it is indeed possible to make entertainment magazine shows which don't overhype and underdeliver. The Link's DNA is Flash! done right.

The Link feels like a video version of the female-skewed magazine Cleo and now Grazia - light and fluffy, yet topical pop culture packets neatly stacked in easily digestible video snippets. You won't remember them tomorrow, but you're not supposed to.

From micro studio interviews, to event vox pops, local and international gossip with snide commentary, glam event coverage and an obligatory "hunk of the week" insert blatantly pandering to a female viewership by having a man strip to show some muscle for perving female eyes, The Link is a sweet television treat - filler that's filling.

When a show loses its creative force, planned presenter or showrunner - The Link was Bonang Matheba's baby - it often goes pear shaped. Quickly.

Yet despite frantically looking for a replacement presenter as late as last week, The Link is actually interesting and above average television. Now we'll never know: Would The Link have been even better with Bonang Matheba, or is the show actually luckily that she's gone clashing with choirs and is actually good because she's not the presenter?

The Link's biggest drawback is the histrionic Sinazo Yolwa doing the gossip titbits and who appeared in a what resembled a white tennis bra and halfcut black leather bodice. When the lecturer talked about not wailing and flailing with your hands and arms in the middle third of what is a TV screen because sudden quick and constant movements distract the viewer and your presentation, Sinazo Yolwa was asleep or skipped class.

The erratic head turns to non-verbally emphasise what is being said is too distractingly much; the shiny patches on the neck, cheekbones and face because of too much make-up and too little powder under the lights are too distractingly little.

The Link is clearly geared to a young hip female audience, yet Sinazo Yolwa seems to think she'a kindergarten teacher talking down to toddlers who needs to be overly-animatic, instructed to go make a poopey.

Otherwise The Link is sparkling, clean, clear (although there's a bit of a video compression problem but not so technically distracting that ordinary viewers will notice) and fun to watch. It's not the best champagne out there but when you just want a party and a bit of fun, the bubbly doesn't need to be. The Link on SABC1 neatly manages to do the trick.