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Friday, September 07, 2007

Turn off the waterworks, they don't move me no more

Long ago a senior broadcasting exec told me that TV was all about "moments of disclosure". This means it's at its best when closing in on a human face as it reacts to new information. You can see it in just about every form of modern TV: Pop Idol, Changing Rooms, Big Brother and, well, just watch and make a note.
It's the money shot and you can set your watch on its happening two-thirds of the way through the show. Because all media inclines towards formula the event that at one time arose naturally quickly has to be turned into the cornerstone of the enterprise.
Last night saw the launch of the fourth series of BBC's "Who Do You Think You Are?" and featured Natasha Kaplinsky tracing the fate of some of her ancestors in Eastern Europe. As soon as this path was marked out you knew that the director was waiting for one thing and one thing alone - the shot where the star weeps. And understandably she did. But then again so did Jeremy Paxman and Jeremy Clarkson in earlier series – and their great-grandparents weren't victims of Nazi death squads. You know that if the camera hadn't been rolling when she wept they would have got her to do it again.
TV doesn't believe anything it can't see happening and because it's essentially a machine for making people more stupid it assumes that by now we feel the same.