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Monday, July 27, 2009

Voices from the Tube

A blogger I respect and whose blogs i tend to follow closely asked my opinion about a certain show currently showing on Kenyan TV. He happened to watch a bit of the politically satirical show on You Tube but because the show is directed to specificallyKenyan audiences, he failed to appreciate the nuances inherent in the content and thus asked my honest opinion.

While generally posted, this blog speaks to the questions he directed to me. The show is called XYZ show and airs on Citizen TV which is arguably one of Kenya's largest TV stations in terms of reach. The show airs every Sunday at 9.45 pm. I must acknowledge and give credit to the fact that the show is the first of its kind on kenyan TV and respect must be given to this. The show is done on animation and tends to be a socio-political spoof of life and events in Kenya. The technical quality of production in terms of sound and picture quailty is really good which is another positive fact that one should not overlook.

I must confess I happened to watch for the first time last night. This was without prior knowledge that my blog pal had requested my opinion about the show. ( Talk about coincidence).
My first off impression was fascination about the quality of the show in terms of animation which is very new to the local TV production scene in Kenya. Once past the fascination of the animation, I found that the content failed to hold my interest, connect with me or engage me as an audience. As a socio political spoof show , humor ideally should be the hook that captures audience but in this case, humor comes across as mindless, illogical or simply stupid action on the screen. As if in evidence to this fact, at some point my husband in between laughter remarked "This show is really stupid". I would imagine this would be a compliment to the Production becuase it provoked laughter in a viewer. However beyond that moment, it seemed only natural for us to flick over to more substantial entertainment having enjoyed that brief flight of fancy that failed to arouse an appetite for more.

In my thinking, I am not sure who the target audience is nor am I certain that the Producers are sure who their target audience is. The content fails to connect with the audiences as well as give them something to go away with....substance, food for thought...whatever it is you want to call it. That politicians sometimes ( nay most times) behave ridicoulousy is not new or fresh. But the treatment, underlying themes, ideas communicated to audiences should be. Why do I suggest this?
Because political satire by its nature speaks to an audience that is fairly mature, and exposed. To use childish humor that is poorly developed will not hold the audience's attention. Infact at some point the content may become a tad irritating to watch. Political satire needs to be treated with a peppering of fact, wit, fresh perspective or take -out: The achievement of some underlying objective and not just mindless visual gimmicks that lead to the feeling of "stooping to idiocy" by audiences. This seeming insult of intelligence causes us as an audience to switch off.

Does that mean that we as Kenyan audiences are stuck-up and stuffy and fail to appreciate satire as a genre of entertainment? Hardly! think of film documentaries by icons such Michael Moore who manages to treat serious national issues with wit, humor, satire and yet manages to give you something to reflect on. This is an example of a good treatment of socio-political satire. If needs be embellish abit, if you have to, just make sure you are backed by an underlying credible fact and let the audiences appreciate your end objective. They'll love you more ( or at least love your production more for it)

What then for the XYZ show? There is room to grow and conquer the airwaves. The production team have their work cut out for them in pre-production. Its back to the drawing board and ask who is my audience? What appeals to them? How do I connect with them, define an objective for the show and its audiences. Research facts and opinions about national sentiment on issues then develop scripts and sequences becuase from the production last night there is a clear lack of some logical connection or coherence to the sequences. This tends to make audiences frustrated and impatient with your content delivery becuase we have no idea (subconsciously) where you are leading us ultimately.

As a parting shot, me thinks the timing also does not add value to the show. Sunday night at 9.45pm is a poor time to feed audiences with political satire after a whole week being bombarded with politics in different forms and shapes in the media. friday or Saturday night would be more palatable for audiences. To stir a hornet's nest, i dare ask do TV stations have the courage to do away with latin soaps and favor local productions that boast quality content????

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