some TV entertainment formats could only have been born great in the modern, 24-hour, super-interactive media age.
some have achieved greatness, through fusing formats as old as the hills with new forms of interactivity.
other, dormant formats that we remember from our childhoods are surely waiting to have greatness thrust upon them.
in the first category, big brother. a show that simply couldn’t exist without 24 hour live TV coverage, and text voting. a show that turned the device in your hand into an instrument of torture and judgement. a show that thrived on deprivation of information at the very moment that information was ubiquitous and unlimited.
a show that is dying or dead in most countries. for me, there were two great mis-steps. firstly, it was weakened every time it broke its own information deprivation principle – letters from home, last minute re-introductions of housemates – which fractured the spell of the laboratory atmosphere. secondly, it missed the chance to give viewers ever greater control about what happened inside – they could still only vote on one thing, in or out. but still, maybe the first great convergent reality/game show, and still in many ways the daddy of them all.
in the second category, x-factor/pop idol/american idol/australian idol/britain’s got talent etc etc. of course, this show is really Opportunity Knocks. or the Gong Show, or pier-end karaoke. but with text voting (ok, and simon cowell.)
it’s still a show with incredible power and ubiquity. but the signs are that it’s slipping – not so much in the UK where its power over the media remains incredible, and the potential of merchandising grows every year – but in new markets, where new version don’t seem to be going down quite so well (see australia).
so what’s coming next?
well, the first thing is that we are clearly due a new wave of superconvergent game show vehicles. maybe these won’t even need the TV in order to be huge, though i’m not buying angry birds as the replacement. i’m sure it’s coming, whether it is choose-your-own drama, or live action/tv integrated game shows. but the need has hit at the same time as an economic crisis in broadcasting, and at the moment i’m not seeing a great deal of paradigm-breaking format investment from the networks.
so in the meantime, what about the next step along the x-factor/idol path? what about all those great formats we loved in our childhood, or in previous generations, that are just begging to be taken to new platforms, or incorporating mass interactive mechanics? what about all that unused intellectual capital lying around unused, just waiting for a springle of convergent media fairy dust. here are some starters for 10 – though i’m interested in any ideas…
touch-screen, geo-targeted Blockbusters tournaments in which all viewers can take part, but in which the game hub is able to actually disable your toilet until you ask ‘Bob’ for a P
a new live version of Neighbours in which the audience can decide to change the actor playing a major character at any moment, and the rest of the cast have to just get on with it (if they crack up or miss their lines they mysteriously disappear in an off-screen car crash)
Blind Date Redux – in which we get to ask the questions, and choose for ourselves which people to match with who, choose the date, and then get to watch actual live action dates with shoulder mounted cameras rather than those terrible post interviews
what do you think? all ideas for reboots gratefully received…hey, maybe we can make this happen…?