Friday, August 3, 2018

TV CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK. Why I like the Presenter Search On 3 on SABC3 and what it actually reveals about the SABC that viewers don't realise they're seeing.

With the 4th season of Presenter Search on 3 that concluded on Thursday night with 6 new additions to South Africa's TV screens on SABC3 in the form of new on-air talent (including, of course, the "fastest man on sand"), I thought I'd share why specifically I love this particular TV show that comes around every 3 years or so.

It's because it shows something on South African television that you rarely see: An SABC that works.

It's something that viewers and listeners who have to pay an annual SABC TV licence fee don't see often enough.

This modern-day TV Cinderella-story is well-produced, uses a reality show format to mine for new talent in the true form of the often-hashtagged #OpenUpTheIndustry, and shows an almost idealised version of the real power, scope, reach, inner workings and networking and synergy that the SABC is, and is capable of.

Beyond the surface-level entertainment aspect of the Presenter Search on 3 (it's a TV show after all and has to do a show-and-tell rah-rah for ratings), viewers don't realise how the show, produced by Cardova Productions, reveals many deeper things that casual viewers watch but maybe don't really reflect upon and truly see.

As contestants jump in varied challenges from one show to the next and viewers get a peek behind-the-scenes of various other SABC programmes, it actually gives an unguarded glimpse of how different SABC productions look and are made, but more importantly how different smaller and competing cogs in the bigger SABC machine can work, and are working, together to create the bigger whole.

It shows how programmes work - how the TV sausage is made, how the polished on-screen product comes with often-unexpected production challenges, and the untold hours, energy and effort producers, directors, assistants, cameramen and crew put to create quickly consumed television magic.

I'm very sure that somewhere, watching Presenter Search On 3, some young person sees this extremely stressful, demanding, crazy, insane, draining, grating, tedious, beautiful world and think: This inspires me; this is what I'd like to do and work in.

Presenter Search on 3 is more about a search for presenters - it showcases not just the SABC but South Africa's TV industry at work.

For all of the many problems and issues that beset the South African Broadcasting Corporation, the Presenter Search On 3 shows how it's working, how great it is, how great it should and can be, its huge synergy across its shows, TV and radio, talent pool and production resources, and how the SABC in its primary function of being informative, can also do programming that's entertaining and aspirational. The SABC can (still) make people dream.

Many other great South African values are implicitly confirmed, although they're understated and not mentioned in words and viewers absorb these through a TV reality show that is about television, without even realising it.

Although you just see the presenter on your screen, making TV is a group effort and team work. So is life.

Looking beautiful externally will get you far in life and through some doors, but to really get somewhere you need to do the hard work and work on yourself to back up what you're able to bring to the world.

When you go into the world, it's always better to travel together. When you ask someone a question, don't phrase it as something a person can give a "yes/no" answer to. 

Doing television, just like life, is dealing with people, difficult situations and unexpected challenges - mistakes are fine as long as you keep going, push through and refuse to give up.

The truth is that it's not always hunky-dory behind-the-scenes - not even the best TV show, and not at any broadcaster. 

MultiChoice,, M-Net, your local community TV channel, your favourite TV programme - they all have issues, people who don't always get along, challenges, production problems and daily stressors. 

What the Presenter Search On 3 reveals is how dedicated, extremely hard-working people with a passion for the medium of television, work together to overcome it all, to create something together - making television they believe in, for people to enjoy.

The Presenter Search On 3 shows how the SABC, after 40 years, still offers opportunities for people to work in television - not as stepping stones to something bigger but as the bigger thing; how sprawling it is, how encompassing it is, and how inclusive it is as a public broadcaster in terms of the people it employs in front of and behind the camera.

When the next Presenter Search On 3 rolls along in 2021 or abouts there, watch it, but not just to see how wannabe presenters deal with having to do links to television with animals that don't want to play along, or having to travel despite unexpected passport issues.

Watch it and marvel at what it shows and says about South African television, practising TV journalism, public broadcasting, the SABC, working in the real local TV industry and what an ever-evolving and fascinating world it is.