Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Just keep Dexter the bloody friendly robot out of it and I'm happy

As blood to the vampire, as flesh to the werewolf, so are children's game shows to me. They are my morphine, my opaline, my laudanum, my whisky, my nicotine, my crack. I love them. It is for the heady victories, the dazzling falls from grace, the sudden tantrums, the tears, the triumphs that I long. The winner will be heaped in praise! The loser will be cast into the outer darkness!

It is because children treat victory and defeat with the seriousness it deserves: an adult is forced to stand in front of millions of television viewers after the ignominy of losing - losing! - at the Wheel of Fortune or Family Feud, and shrug his or her shoulders. Only a child can truly give vent to their feelings on such an occasion, and allow the full virtues and vices of their natures to come to the fore.

It is perhaps wrong of me to admit this. I’ll get over it.

It all began two years ago with Australia’s Brainiest Kid. The concept was devilishly simple: children from all over the nation cast into the gladiatorial arena in an ultimate blood feud! There could be only one victor! To one would fall worshipful glory; to the other, shame, despite, and ignominy. The victor would feast upon the losers tears and be feted nation-wide; the loser, thrown to the lions!

I was reminded, again, of my addiction two weeks ago when, on The Einstein Factor, children were invited on to talk about their subject areas. Appropriately enough, the subjects chosen ranged from cane toads to children’s literature to Nazi Germany. Tony T caught a bit I didn't:

Bizarre episode of the Einstein Factor last week. In a Smart Kids contest, three youngsters, one boy and two girls, were on deck to strut their stuff. The boy's special subject was Gary Kasparov and he blitzed. Can't remember what the first girl's topic was (TT: Boynton reminds me it was frogs of FNQ, or more accurately after looking it up accurately, Frogs of the Wet Tropics World Heritage Area. What fool said all girls think about is boys? It's not easy being teen. Teen, green: that's a joke, boy. I keep pitchin' 'em, ya keep missin' 'em.), and anyway, she was a strange zombie child. The second girl must have thought she was on Straya's Top Model the way she kept tossing he hair, but interestingly, her special subject was Adolf Hitler. She did fairly well, but at the end Barry Jones asked her "What text would you recommend as a starting point on Hitler?" To which she replied "Mein Kampf. That way you can see where he's coming from." I'm sure she didn't mean it to come out like that, but what if she did? Either way it stunned Barry, the other two panel members and Peter Berner into an embarrassed silence.

But on that night, the boy’s braces gleamed with the light of victory…

My addiction has reached virtually unmanageable levels in the past couple of days with the show Hotspell on SBS. A spelling bee program! I sat, in equal parts horror and elation, watching children stumble over letters, snaring themselves on syllables, clashing with consonants. When asked to spell ‘Inauspicious’, one contestant replied:

“I-N-I-S-P-I-S-I-O-U-S. Unauspicious!”

Another somehow misinterpreted the word ‘vivacious’ thus:


But, horror of horrors! one child was asked to spell ‘Tawny’. He answered:


An acceptable spelling - look it up in the dictionary if you don't believe me. He had no way of knowing as the word was not used in a sentence, and no way of asking as it was in the speed round.

Another child, similarly, got caught on the word ‘Cornice’. The child replied, sensibly:


The presenter was also unable to pronounce himself – ‘Timbre’, properly pronounced ‘taem-be’, was pronounced ‘tim-ber’, causing the child contestant to answer:


Terrible! After all, why should one's enjoyment of bloodsport or shows of public humiliation and embarassment be ruined by poor production values or thoughtless presenters? Exactly.


Mitzy G Burger said...

I am an unashamed addict of the televised bloodsport known as Australian Idol. I watch it from an anthropological perspective - Idol is the death of television, a wobbly mirage hovering over the desert stretching ahead of the great serials of decades past, the ghastly present reality of cheap reality TV and the instantly downloadable stuff of the future.
I must say, though, I used to quite look forward to the appearance of Dexter as the highlight of "Perfect Match" ... he could print readouts out of his robotic tummy!

nailpolishblues said...

Is this something that you missed out on in childhood?

Not that I can talk. I'm much addicted to Air Crash Investigations [it's more exciting if capitalized]. There's one on tomorrow night that I haven't seen before and I can hardly wait. Maybe if I'm really lucky I'll dream of Air Force One [see brackets above] crashing - preferably not over my house though.
Living under the flight path is a bit freaky sometimes.

TimT said...

Idol is pretty good, though I must admit I don't watch it for the public shows of humiliation so much, which pretty much rules out the current Channel 10 version. (With Kyle playing a prominent judging role, humiliation is very much on the cards.)

I can never recall shows like 'Australia's Brainiest Kid' in childhood, though there were plenty of anodyne commercial shows with spurious challenges for kids to overcome.

Nails - can't remember where it is now, but on the corner of Enmore Road somewhere there's a Lebanese pastry warehouse that the planes go *right over*. I used to get a rush just watching them.

Simple things amuse me, it is true.

nailpolishblues said...

I stop dead in the street to watch them - and lean out my kitchen window. They pretty much go right over me.

Love watching the internationals fly low over Marrickville - yet another reason why I won't live there.

Maria said...

I'm waiting for the child jelly-wrestling game show. It's sure to be on soon. Keep me apdated.

As for bloodsport, I watch The Iron Chef.

TimT said...

That's good too, though the competition is totally staged.

freddo said...

I love cartoons myself. In fact if I had my time over again I'd give up on the computer science and focus on animation. I like the more thought provoking cartoons though, like pinky and the brain and spongebob and perhaps ed edd and eddie, rather than the ones that simply seem to flash colours on the screen to hypnotise mindless children, like samurai jack.. never got that one, ever.

for example, the whole american trailer park/trash subculture that is explored in ed edd and eddie is fantastic. The world domination aspect of pinky and the brain is priceless and as for spongebob, well he's just a sponge.. that does stuff.

TimT said...

He's just a sponge... that does stuff.

Zounds! There you have the two vital elements of any drama: character (he's just a sponge) and action (does stuff).

I'm a sucker for Warner Brothers cartoons.

Clearly, I should do post about obscure television programs more often!

Maria said...

I have made a blog about some TV Shows I would like to see. The Iron Chef - well the Chef always wins and I never learn how to make anything. I don't think I will ever make a .... ocean trout creme brulee or whatever they make there.

But I like watching them.

I spent a whole lot of time on the computer recently looking up the history of Sesame Street characters and reminiscing. Is that wrong?

Maria said...

By the way I read in my investigations that Kermit was bought by a German company at one stage so Muppets doesn't own the rights to him any more. I felt a little pang. Can someone cure this pain in my heart?

TimT said...

Kermit is his own frog, surely?

I notice in today's Age that Marieke Hardy has run with this idea and done a review of Hotspell. Presumably for several thousand schmackeroos transferred to her bank account.

Oh well.

But remember folks! Tune into WTFF for your daily dose of bow-ties and literary absurdities!

Maria said...

I'll be back for some bow-tie booty, surely. Til then ...

good morning, good evening, and good night

nailpolishblues said...

How bitter you sound, Timmy.

TimT said...

Envy is a beautiful thing, isn't it?

nailpolishblues said...

It certainly explains the way people treat me...

nailpolishblues said...

Well, that or the fact that I'm an evil bitch. I'm not really sure which.

Email: timhtrain - at -

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