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Sabin Muntean

Karlsruhe Institute of Technology

TEDCRED 30+

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What DO we need in today's TV programs?

Dear TEDsters,

I just saw this (http://www.ted.com/conversations/1781/in_today_s_society_you_change.html) newly published conversation explaining what we no longer need on television, namely shows like "The Kardashians" or "Jersey Shore" and we all know that this list could go on and on, probably also indifferent from which country we are talking about.
We are simply surrounded by lots of unnecessary "trash".

So here's my question to all of you:

~~ What DO we need in today's TV programs? ~~

Science shows with Clifford Stoll?
Food shows with Jamie Oliver?
TED talks? What else?

I am looking forward to your answers and to an interesting discussion!

Topics: education society tv
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    Apr 6 2011: I remember a time when A&E stood for Arts and Entertainment and truly showed Arts and Entertainment, not reality shows of today. I remember when Bravo showed concerts with the likes of Mel Torme or ballet competitions from around the world. I miss THAT kind of entertainment on TV. PBS is now the only outlet for some of this, but even they don't run that much any more.

    I also agree with Vasil about comedy shows. I don't want to watch something that makes fun of someone, but want to see something that exposes the fallacy of prejudice or can teach something through comedy.

    TV will not go away completely, but I think it needs to evolve a bit. I've never watched Jersy Shore or Survivor - I see no point. To me, these types of shows are a huge step backward from where we used to be - Ed Sullivan, Carol Burnet, Columbo, even Star Trek. Something with intelligent dialogue and presentation of interesting ideas, different cultures, and some fun.
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    Apr 8 2011: Would it be possible to rid TV of unnecessary trash and just keep the necessary trash?
    Rid the internet of porn?
    Outlaw the insipid, banal and inane in order to allow sapient ideas to flourish?
    All for it!
    How to do it?
    Don't watch trash TV. Do not view internet porn. Think a little more.
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      Apr 8 2011: I don't think it's fair to compare TV consumption with Internet consumption... TV is limited to providers with the right equipment, resources, coverage and (I'm assuming) license. Internet is not limited to anyone. You can have a free sub domain on a free web hosting account having the site created by yourself (therefore free), and then deal with the content as you'd deal with it in any medium.

      Therefore, even if having no one watching Internet porn was a possibility, it still wouldn't cause anyone to reconsider closing down their porn site. At worst/best (depending on one's viewpoint), it will make every provider relocate to a free sub domain on a free host, taking free/unlicensed content.
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        Apr 8 2011: The point E.A. is trying to make is that we shouldn't complain about internet content or TV content, because our watching/surfing behavior is what creates the content in the first place.
        If nobody would watch soap operas on TV, there wouldn't be any soap operas and if nobody would frequent porn sites on the internet, then there wouldn't be any porn sites. Companies(people would shut down their channels/web sites if there is no traffic, because at the end they are there to make business and not for philanthropic reasons (at least in most cases)
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          Apr 9 2011: But what's I'm saying is exactly that this point is not applicable on the Internet.

          I could have my own corner of the Internet, writing stuff only I care about, not caring if others find it as fascinating as I do. If they do, great. If they don't, that doesn't stop me. Same about porn. If I want to make my porn collection public, I can do so even if the rest of the world hated porn.

          And if I could win some money in either scenario... that's welcomed.
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        Apr 10 2011: Hi Vasil, ok, now I got you. Yes, you could do that on the internet, but it would be rather pointless, don't you think. It would be like talking to yourself.
        Usually, people put stuff online for others to see it.
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    Apr 6 2011: Hi Sabin!

    Why bother? People spend ever more time online and less watching TV, TV should disappear (or became far less relevant) with the next generation, also content production is being changed dramatically.
    Even if it were not the case, talking about this is like saying: people should read more, or people should be nicer, or people should not take loans they can’t afford, etc, while all that is correct, no one has the right to decide for others (at least in many countries luckily), you can only choose for yourself/family, I personally have lived without a TV for more than 8 years and I don’t miss it.
    Best TV programming? No TV for me…
    If people want to see reality shows, well, sadly they should get reality shows… all the options people are suggesting in this conversation are currently available for most people via Internet, rentals, cable, etc, people just don’t want to see that. The interesting question for me would be Why?

    Regards!

    JB
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    Apr 6 2011: Remember that nobody in the upper management of the TV industry cares about quality programming. Programs do nothing more than gather a target demographic. They are merely a platform for commercials.

    You could have the worst garbage program in the world but if it draws tons of viewers, its golden for the network honchos and their advertisers.

    Most TV commercials are some kind of fantasy trip that would appeal to teen boys. (Try to find a commerical that does not rely on fantasy.) Some kind of magic is happening in every frame. I cannot believe that prime time TV is aiming at the 24 to 54 demographic. To me, all this fantasy is aimed at the 13 to 19 demographic. Every program is dumbed-down to fit a teen. Most of the humor is sophomoric. The dramas are still car-chase, explosions and gun play - all indicative of teen fantasy. There are no sophisticated TV dramas , are there?
    Likewise most of the the comedies appeal to people under 25. Classic comedies like "All In the Family" are no more.

    From time to time, I will get a Nielson rating book. I fill in most of the time slots with "TV stinks".

    Even the vaunted NBC Nightly News has been dumbed-down with more fluff. That should tell you something.
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    Apr 5 2011: Let me ask a counter question.
    Do we need TV at all ? What can TV provide us with that the internet can't ?
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      Apr 6 2011: I agree that TVs are becoming obsolete, Harald! Still watching TV remains a socializing experience, I now basically only watch TV with friends when a good show or football match is on.

      The fact remains that a wide range of today's population is using this medium and that its influence is often very detrimental. So instead of asking how we can get rid of it completely, which I don't see as a realistic possibility, I think we should concentrate on improving it.
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        Apr 8 2011: Hi Sabin,
        1) I think there are better socializing experiences than TV. Even sport events can be watched on the internet and with increasing band width and higher connection speeds watching live streams becomes increasingly easy.
        2) true, a lot of the population uses TV and watches, what some might consider trash. However, we also have to ask, why is this "trash" served to the market ? TV channels look at how many users watch any given programming. They don't put on anything that people don't watch. So instead of asking what is wrong with the programming, we should ask, what is wrong with the audience ?
        If you say "improving the programming", what does that mean ? What is the criteria ? What might look as an improvement for one, might be exactly the opposite for another.
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      Apr 6 2011: Harald Hi.......I think that TV might still be useful if we remove the trashy stuff. Honesty and integrity should reign, not opinions and put downs. I say this because not everyone has internet access.
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        Apr 8 2011: That's difficult.....I have satellite TV and even with the large number of channels there are days when I can't find anything interesting at all.......so, removing the trash, would probably not leave us with a lot.
        Although, I have to admit, that tastes vary. So while I can't find much on TV I know a lot of people who are able to spend the whole day in front of the box.
        In other words, what is trash and what is not, seems to be largely subjective.
      • Apr 8 2011: who are we to say what is and isn't trash. I dont like judge shows, Jersey shore and real housewives etc- i think they are 'crap' but that does not make me right.
        i say keep them all - the good, the bad, the banal, the trashy etc. - best thing on my tv (accessory) is the channel change button on the remote, and i will use it to exercise my watching free will
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          Apr 8 2011: There appears to be a drive here that endorses an increased restriction and regulation human behavior. I don't understand how further regulation of human rights and responsibilities is better.
    • Apr 9 2011: People will always watch tv, it will just be fed from different source's one's of your choosing,
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    Apr 5 2011: One of the most vital components of any television programming should be fair and wide ranging representation of different groups. As people get to see others like themselves and people who are very different from themselves we begin to really get that people are people. The communications specialist on Star trek- (Uhura?) inspired many black Americans, The Huxtables helped North Americans to see how similar families really are. Times have changed and there is more inspirational work to be done with different groups of people.
    • Apr 9 2011: maybe how similar tv families are, which bear no resemblance to real families the power of tv
  • Apr 9 2011: Tv is NOT a valuable commodity, It is not a NEED,
  • Apr 9 2011: The majority of people who watch television want to watch that garbage that's why it gets the big ratings and to tv executive's ratings mean money so until the majorities taste's change this is what you will be subjected to if you watch a lot of television ,thank goodness a lot of other choice's are now available.
  • Apr 8 2011: First, last night I was channel surfing and came across TED Talks on some specialty HD channel. My wife had never seen or heard of TED before (so much for all that time on-line!). She was blown away. TV needs more of that.

    Second, TV needs more Glee. Extreme for sure, but there isn't another show on TV (ok, maybe Two and a Half Men?) with so little fear of tackling ANYTHING. Religion, sexual orientation, disabilities, race, death...apparently their boundaries are endless. TV needs more of less fear.
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    Apr 7 2011: Television plays a role beyond entertainment. On a de facto basis it shapes our social interactions and moral values. News programming often goes beyond journalism to actively influences public opinion.

    I'd like to see a stronger feedback mechanism between viewers and producers, not mediated by advertising. Or perhaps we can provide incentives for advertisers to support less-profitable but more valuable programming. (It's difficult, of course, to decide what set of values should apply; but that's a topic for another conversation, perhaps.)

    And I'd love to see Clifford Stoll host a science program, or a late-night talk show, or anything else for that matter.
  • Apr 7 2011: Shows that will empower us to be better individuals. While entertainment is great, we have pushed the envelope too much. Our shows have gone from substance to shallow. We need an intervention in Media.
  • Apr 7 2011: I agree with the positive comments about shows like Colombo.

    One recent British show that I had never heard of is Foyle's War. On impulse, I bought the set of DVDs at Costco that cover the entire series from start to finish. Absolutely addictive! Beautiful casting, realistic characters, good dialog, very authentic looking settings. If we had more like that, I might watch a whole lot more TV.
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    Apr 6 2011: For 18-24 I think they should have young people debating over relevant issues in a fun way. There's nothing more inspiring than seeing energy and intelligence combine. I have no idea how they would make it appealing, but I would seriously like to tune in and see an 18 year old on one of those touch-screen walls making a good point on religion or empathy or physics. It'd have to be in-your-face, only 30 mins to 1 hr and use a ton of technology and basically just have innovation and creativity as far as displaying information. I'm a 20 yr old prop trader and have seen what cnbc has done to engage younger audiences (they have top trades from viewers, use ridiculous technology to show stuff and have noted speakers).
    If you want kids to stop being lazy and play video games, show them a 14 yr old business owner (they're out there). Show them a 17 year old millionaire. Show us some opportunity!!!
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    Apr 6 2011: Debates. Not like the political debates . . . . I don't know how they are allowed to call them so! Real debates with rules that are followed and facts so that at the end of the show, the audience better understands the topic and from that can make informed decisions.

    In a nutshell, debates that foster ongoing societal education.

    I wonder if 'debate clubs' are still in existence?
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    Apr 6 2011: We need a 2 hour long show that ask questions, give pauses for thought, and give opinion-based answers to the questions.

    Highly boring to what MOST would enjoy, but would benefit significantly.

    Say more?
  • Apr 6 2011: How real are these reality shows I wonder? The first time I caught a glimpse of Jersey Shore I was embarrassed for the American culture. However, there are programs on that are still educational if you can find them. What happened to the Naked Chef anyway? I can not find his program anymore...here in US. Television plays a huge part of molding our society and like our streets when we step outside, is surrounded with unnecessary trash. I guess we keep cleaning it up as much as we can. With the acculturation of America in South Korea since the war, for instance, American media has actually brought women there more feminism. But at the same time the Korean culture and music has made a dramatic change, not neccesarily for the worse but more... American. A lot of the culture is being changed left with the older generation, and they aren't too happy about that..Of course along with TV we have to also consider the mere presence of the military there too.
    We need more Science programs scattered throughout instead of an individual channel that kids can just pass by here in the US, we are so far behind. We need laws here that do not allow toddlers to sit in front of a television all day long. How about more shows with Alton Brown? Food+ Science together ;)
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      Apr 7 2011: Gina - Jamie Oliver is on the Cooking Channel now, with some really interesting shows on food from different countries, etc. And I agree with you about Alton Brown. My niece is getting her PharmD - our phone calls are about Good Eats (and what Alton says and how he demonstrates the principals of food science). It's a show that can be used to show that science CAN be fun.
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    Apr 6 2011: With the enormous growth of mobile phone , land lines yet to be discarded (though use is declined and will be declining). Despite the continuous advancement of video industry , theratres still existing. So guess TV will be there for sometime more may be as means of socilaizing though its market will be niched to a great extent.

    Just imagine how much the TV programs have eveolved so far to survive ? TV is now more focusing on "Reality Shows"

    The other point for TV is still popular to kids for their cartoon movies :)
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    Apr 5 2011: The thing that comes to mind first is "comedy"... in all flavors. Thankfully, most countries' TV programs already have that, but of course the genre "comedy" itself is somewhat loose, and some kinds of comedy are less regarded than others. I'm talking about the kind of comedy that can expose hypocrisy, that can make a satire out of silly claims and ideas, that lets us transcend beyond our ordinary views into perceiving other views. Few comedy programs go that far. A country will typically have 2 or 3 of those in total, out of more than 10 comedy programs.