Thursday, May 11, 2023

TV REVIEW. 2023's returned 17th Metro FM Music Awards was shockingly bad. The bigger question is why - again?

by Thinus Ferreira

After an absence of five years, the Metro FM Music Awards returned on Saturday night to SABC1 - bloated, bad, looking cheap, disorganised, badly attended, and marred by video and sound problems and category hosts and winners who didn't know what to do on stage and how to behave within what's supposed to be a meticulously planned out production process of a live awards show. 

The bigger question is why? And why again?

The televised monstrosity of the 17th Metro FM Music Awards was just as bad as the multiple previous MMAs in previous years I've sat through and watched until the last one in 2017 in Durban.

That was the last Metro FM Music Awards before allegations over corruption, payola, the buying of awards and mismanagement took it away. Then followed Covid. 

Now, back after half a decade, and as if nobody has learnt anything or bothered to go back to the tapes to rewatch and improve, South African viewers were made to suffer through yet another disastrous - or hilariously bad - MMAs.

Already this year in late March South Africa was subjected to the absolutely horrifically done 16th South Africa Sport Awards (SASA) organised and done by the department of sport, arts and culture which took place at the Sun City Superbowl in the North West province. 

Now we had the 17th Metro FM Music Awards from the Mbombela stadium in Mpumalanga which, sad to say, looked amateurish and really awful.

This will soon be followed by MultiChoice Africa's 9th Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCAs) done live from Lagos, Nigeria in just over a week's time - another perennial live awards TV show mess. Then comes the DStv Mzansi Viewers Choice Awards likely again done from Tshwane. 

Later this year the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF) is getting their turn with the South African Film and Television Awards (SAFTAs) in Johannesburg, which just asked for production companies to tender to produce the televised awards. A poisoned TV chalice if ever there were one! 

All of them, every single time, are filled with jaw-dropping on-air mistakes and all vary between bad to absolutely terrible in terms of on-air quality. America's Oscars and the Emmys these ... spectacles ... are not.

Mishaps which viewers see include a general lack of creativity, the running over time and not finishing when they are supposed to, autocue mistakes, errors with everything from sound to audio and wrong envelopes, playing wrong pre-taped inserts, mixing up winners, mixing up winner announcements, terrible presenters making bloopers from names to struggling to read, and overall low production values.

Last week I spoke to a music star in her late twenties for an interview and one of the questions I asked her was what she would tell her younger self and young people today. She said: "Just know it will get better".

Watching Saturday night's mangled black carpet arrivals special - held in what literally looked like some side back-ally of the Mbombela stadium with just a sliver of a black carpet thrown over very visible grey interlocking pavers and harsh and unflattering lights - the music star's words, ironically, kept milling in my head.

Sadly, the production and airing of South Africa and Africa's live award ceremonies simply don't get better.  But why?

The terrible black carpet was followed by a Metro FM Music Awards live awards show which was supposed to end at 22:00 but overshot by more than an hour just to hand out 18 awards, with SABC1 forced to run an on-air crawl to say that Bundesliga coverage would start at 23:00 (it only really ended at 23:15).

Is the problem with constantly bad live awards shows in South Africa that new, hubris-filled producers and production companies come in every year with no recollection and no history of what's on tape from the past and what went wrong? Do those getting the tender not watch previous broadcasts or talk to those production companies about what failed - and why - instead of trying to reinvent the wheel and to try and prevent a repeat of mistakes?

Is it the organisers and the custodians, from MultiChoice and M-Net to the SABC, who either have no remedial meetings or remedial plans to look at what mistakes occurred and strategies to put in steps to prevent the errors from reoccurring? 

Or are there remedial meetings and actions? But if so, why are these steps to improve not working?

Bad live televised awards shows from South Africa and anywhere in Africa make the industries they are supposedly honouring, and the countries and provinces and places they're done from, look bad and unprofessional. 

It sends a twofold message: This is the best quality we're capable of when it comes to doing a live show, the best we're capable of when doing a live show from here, and this is how much (actually how little!) we really think of these people and the biz we're celebrating with such a bad show.

If you're not able to land the TV plane of a live awards show production in time, if you're unable to make it look smart and professional and "desirable" to be there, if the camerawork is erratic and bad, if there are audio and video and pre-taped playout problems, if the presenters on stage are bad and nervous and not properly prepped, Don't Do It As A Live Broadcast!

The problems and mistakes with the co-produced 17th Metro FM Music Awards done by Bonngoe TV and Dzinge Productions with Pepsi Pokane and Shandukani Nsengani as co-executive producers, started right off the bat.

Why did the did black carpet presenters keep asking guests who they're rooting for? Had they no other questions? 

Get someone to ask your parents at a family gathering who's their favourite child and see what happens. People can't say who their favourite is because they work with, or might work with everyone and don't want to damage current of future relationships. Are unprepped presenters so obtuse? 

What else is in the kitty for carpet arrival banter besides the lame and Americanised "Who you wearing?" Do some research and find interesting and better questions to make small talk.

During the live broadcast, SABC1 viewers at home saw block upon block of empty seats right in front of and to the side of the main stage as cameras panned.

Multiple rows of empty seats were scattered right where the VIPs are presumably supposed to sit. Is the Metro FM Music Awards producers too cheap or unknowledgeable about the practice of seat-fillers?

The message it sends to the person at home is: The so-called "important" people - the industry movers and shakers aren't interested to be there - I'm not missing out and this isn't a must-see event. You can "safely" rather watch something else.

Guests supposed to be sitting and watching attentively were literally on their phones, standing around and talking during the awards show. The unintended message: What's happening on stage must not be interesting. 

Multiple winners and presenters on stage turned their backs to the front of the stage (and by implication to the camera and on viewers). The overall result was that the 17th Metro FM Music Awards was not enjoyable to watch - lacking flow, tempo, prestige and quality.

Potential winners have clearly not been prepped to get to the stage as fast as possible and to immediately start talking and to keep acceptance speeches short. There were long silences between segments and category wins with no sound or background music. 

The lighting was bad on stage and inside the stadium. 

Sound errors were numerous when on-stage presenters spoke but couldn't be heard since their mic channels on the sound desk were either on mute or the slider too low and equalised too late. Final output errors like a random "30" appearing as overlay over presenters' faces were laughably bad. Performers, category presenters and winners screamed into mics, causing sound distortion. 

The list of mistakes goes on and on.

It's superfluous to repeat the age-old adage of those who refuse to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. 

Just back after a five year break, the Metro FM Music Awards is yet another very visible and telltale sign that South Africa's live awards ceremony show-and-tell way of doing things is and remains broken. 

Somehow, we refuse to learn from the mistakes from the past, refuse to improve and refuse to try and do better when it comes to live awards shows. And why it won't be getting better.