Sunday, March 10, 2019

TV REVIEW. MultiChoice's Trippin' with Skumba on Showmax is a cheap shot embarrassing production, reeks of inexperience and is an insult to viewers who have to pay to see a st(r)eaming mess.

It's really a problem for South Africa's TV industry that MultiChoice, Showmax and Skhumba Hlophe would put out low-class, badly-produced, cheap rubbish like Trippin' with Skhumba and think that this rough - looking like it was filmed with a smartphone camera - content is fine to be placed on a service asking viewers and subscribers to pay to see it.

It's insulting.

Why was Trippin' with Skumba as a so-called "travel-comedy" commissioned? Who exactly at MultiChoice and at Showmax saw this, okayed the end-result, and signed off on this TV-trash as being content that fits a presumably premium brand like Showmax, and the brand values and perceptions attached to a video-on-demand streaming service?

Trippin' with Skhumba as a "Showmax Original" that is a rip-off from Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee looks like something that SowetoTV as a community TV channel or SABC1 would have done, made as a roughly cobbled together collection of video clips someone's cousin recorded over Christmas on his Samsung phone and who knows how to hold a phone up and press "record" and "stop".

It defies understanding and belief how Yolisa Phahle, MultiChoice CEO for general entertainment, as well as both Niclas Ekdahl, CEO of MultiChoice's Connected Video unit and Candice Fangueiro, head of content for MultiChoice Connected Video division, could honestly put a TV show like this out to market.

Niclas Ekdahl and Candice Fangueiro both placed their names as executive producers on Trippin' with Skhumba, so surely both are aware of it, how bad it is, and the damage that trash television like this does to something like Showmax that they presumably are trying to establish and grow instead of deliberately damage.

Is Trippin' with Skhumba on brand? It's off-the-road st(r)eaming trash.

"Racism" might be a word too far, but why does watching Trippin' with Skhumba as Showmax's first "vernacular original series", clearly targeting a black audience, leave you thinking that somehow MultiChoice and Showmax thought it's "okay" to produce low-class content because it is in vernacular language involving a comedian going to back-valley places?

Showmax is tripping if it think this is fine because this is not okay.

I feel really bad for Skhumba Hlophe. Why was his show not given enough money and proper resources, with sufficient and experienced production know-how, to create a show with adequate production values that fits his brand and that fits with what Showmax markets itself as being?

Something can be done cheaply on a shoe-string budget, something can be done small, something can be done quickly and it can still be good. Why is Trippin' with Shumba vlog-like trash?

M-Net (DStv 101) would never broadcast or put something on like this, and it recently did a local travel show, Wingin' It. So why is Showmax?

Is this Showmax's version of something half-baked if it catered to a Mzansi Wethu (DStv 163) audience? Very bad.

The basics - irrespective of whether something has a big or small production budget - should be done right. In a stage performance, the curtains should open and close. Actors should know their lines whether the script is good or bad irrespective of whether the community theatre or Broadway play is great or terrible.

Trippin' with Skumba is an awkward mess except for the establishing drone shots (the quality of which is so much better, which in itself doesn't fit with the rest, creating another problem. But let's leave that there.)

It's insulting and condescending to the audience to imagine that this is what potential viewers of this show should expect and be satisfied with. The show makes it clear that Showmax doesn't think that the target audience knows better or that they apparently deserve better.

Skhumba Hlophe is a bad interviewer/TV presenter and struggles with proper eye contact with people he's talking to.

To add to this problem it doesn't seem as if a producer beforehand went over a list of open-ended questions with him that he should or could try and ask of guests.

Too much in terms of pre-production was seemingly just left to "let's get in and go". Besides going to a physical place in each episode, where do episodes go? What is the point? What does an episode leave the viewers with to proverbially "take home" in return for their time and for paying to watch it?

Hanging out with local comedians where they grew up, should visually and metaphorically open up and expand on them and the area - not keep viewers guessing, and keeping them guessing with erratic and cropped shots.

Instead, everything and everyone in Trippin' with Skhumba remains firmly boxed in with director Vincent Moloi.

Why the shaky camerawork? Why the boom in frames? Why is almost everything filmed as close-ups? Why does music just start and suddenly stop and then new music start again?

Trippin' with Shumba feels like a film school's first take handed in for a second term assignment. The desire to do video content is there but not the experience or skill. Nobody on-camera or behind the camera seems to have enough experience making TV. Yet this pointless travelogue mess is dished up for viewers on a pay-service, where subscribers are asked to pay for substandard content.

Tripping' with Skumba fails to leave the viewer - who, again has to pay to watch this - not enriched as to the actual places and people visited and spoken with. Why make the effort for superficial chit-chat?

It's not even a travel show, but just compare how magician Drummond Money-Coutts talks and interacts with small-town South Africans in the dusty streets of a backwater town in the South African filmed episode of Death by Magic and how residents are portrayed and brought to life in that episode, in contrast with how the residents are filmed in the dusty streets  in small-town Trippin' with Skhumba.

Trippin' with Skhumba isn't and shouldn't be Top Billing, but what that show masters in terms of production basics with inserts, is to showcase a place and people being interviewed properly.

Those basic tenets of profile-piece television can be properly accomplished in a high-end show, or even a low-budget show like Khumbul'ekhaya, which means Trippin' with Skumba doesn't know or doesn't care to know how to get the basics right.

Showmax shouldn't do "local content" if the output is of this standard. It drags itself and the reputation of South African television production down.