*This is a rant about my feelings being a TV writer in SA*
I’m just going to come out and say it: being a TV writer is damn hard in South Africa.
I watch a lot of TV, not for my enjoyment, but mainly to keep abreast of what is happening in TV, locally and internationally. However when it comes to South African TV, I’ve stopped watching.
Not all the TV shows are bad. There are some really good productions, like Isibaya, Highrollers, Scandal and even Skeem Sam.
Isibaya has impressed me a lot and just goes to show that we DO have excellent writers, directors producers and actors in this country. To produce a show that good is a triumph for local TV and I’m really happy for The Bomb Shelter for the success of the show. Also the talent on the
But dammit man, that’s all there is. No other local show is doing great. I never want to be negative in my writing as that never helps anyone and that’s the reason why I stepped away from news reporting. However, I don’t ever want to write fluff pieces. I’m not saying I’m a perfect writer, God knows I’m far from where I want to be and should be, but I try. I try my best. But I’ve asked myself whether it’s time I started calling out some people for the ridiculous shows they commission on my column, The TV Snitch, published every Sunday on the Sunday Tribune.
I always ask myself after speaking to a certain actor and they give me crap answers, whether it’s my questions or he just wasn’t interested in the interview. Either you get vague answers, or they say they are the best thing that’s ever happened to the production. They may be, in their mind, but
it doesn’t translate well on screen but you don’t see that on screen. I’ve had people come with their ego and act all high and mighty and then when the interview starts, I realise they don’t even know a thing about their character.
I read industry publications like THR, Variety, Collider, NYTImes, Vulture etc and I always make sure that my method of questioning is never the same. I study works by Tim Goodman and the THR team, Maureen Ryan and the HuffPost TV staff and even Dalton Ross of EW. I always want to make sure that I don’t cheat my interviewee or the readers. Yes, sometimes I have crap, generic questions, which happens to the best of us and I’m not defending myself, but I’m being honest here. Sometimes I don’t even bother asking THOSE questions because judging from the actors’ previous interviews, they’ve been nonsense.
Sometimes I ask myself why I should bother thinking my questions through when I know I will get crap answers that bore me to death. Worse is when you push the actor to say what he really wants to say, he backs off. And then one is left with a damned puff piece which tells you nothing about the characters and nothing about the actors’ opinion about the character. I can’t with that. It helps on one. No one benefits. By doing it, I feel like I’m aiding in this mediocrity.
I’m very critical of our local industry because I believe that we have so many talented people. Yet we keep seeing the same faces all the time. And it’s not because they are so good, no. It’s more a case if they are pretty or handsome and look great on TV, but when it comes to talent I’m left wanting. Which is why I’ve stopped watching. Which is bad. I dedicate one day a week for local shows, and sometimes I don’t even finish the episode.
I’m not saying that international TV is amazing. There are some really great shows with a great premise and cast, but the writing staff fails them. Or the acting. I was so disappointed with the second seasons of Homeland and Revenge. Don’t get me started on anything that’s on The CW.
There are some great UK shows like Broadchurch, that I loved watching and I was invested in the story line. May Day was also great, but the ending sucked and there were so many things I could have done differently. I’m currently loving The Killing on AMC. So much character development, it’s impressive.
These past few weeks I’ve been trying to get an interview with a rising star (not because she’s so talented, but more because she’s hot) and it’s been so difficult. It’s taken me three weeks to try and speak with her, while it took ONE weekend for Mayim Bialik, who plays Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory, to reply to my email.
It’s damned tough being a TV writer in SA and I really wish that it was easier. I wish our local stars weren’t so touchy about critique. I wish when one asks intelligent questions, we get intelligent answers. Is it because they are scared of speaking the truth and maybe upsetting the producer? I don’t know. But oh do I wish I could do something about it.
PS: Shout out to Thinus Ferreira for trying to uphold the standards in TV reporting in South Africa. It’s appreciated. Keep at it man.