Good news comes to television from unexpected source
For decades Americans have belly ached about television and its focus on the negative. It seem that murder, mayhem and pain where the only topics worthy of broadcast. But now a new force is bringing us good news and for unusual reasons.
Negative television has been unfortunate because giant negatives in life are actually rare. The vast majority of people will never suffer a mugging, observe a shooting, witness a natural disaster or even have a bad car crash. All will die of course, and some will suffer needless pain and problems, but far more will live good lives, spend life without debilitating illness and pass away later as the natural end of life.
Television news casters are the common culprits. National news offers big view stories of economy, politics and human nature mostly deal with things humans want to avoid, or to fix. Cable news is omnipresent and requires a constant flow of everything that is wrong. Local television broadcasters devote far too much time to non-stop car wrecks, government squabbles and voter disgust.
Say something positive
Positive events are less dramatic and require patience which the looming newscast deadline can not accommodate. Newscasters find it easier to take the story that is thrust at them and requires little study or analysis. It doesn't take skill or great writing or reporting skill to find bag things.
Drama and even comedy shows find more theatrics in people who argue, fight and display bad behavior. Although the shows change over the years, the JR Ewing's are the villains that keep viewership high and producer profits rolling in.
Hoping to reduce production costs, a new breed of television emerged over a decade ago called "Reality TV." These shows have little to do with realty as contestants are gathered together in unusual locations, given unusual circumstances and promised money and fame or both. Is it any wonder that the worst in people comes out? Subconsciously viewers understand that the manufactured scenes are not-important, no one will die and - in the end - a winner will emerge while the losers will be none the worse for wear.
Then a strange thing happened. Producers figured out that good news can also sell. Recent realty features (sometimes camouflaged as news shows) emerged on the scene.
The unreality show
"What would you do" from ABC news concocts scenarios where people choose to the right thing; to protect the weak, to speak up for the little guy and to step in when doing so is risky. "Shark Tank," ostensibly a show about billionaires out to get even richer, gives entrepreneurs a chance to get capital and into cahoots with smart and powerful people.
"Undercover Boss" shows powerful business owners what they can do to improve the lives of their workers. Views root for the extraordinary workers and also for the bosses themselves. "Undercover Millionaire" takes a similar tract exposing the rich to the poor, and watching as both receive unexpedcted benefits
For every participant who does the right thing without promise of reward, or receives capital funding for the brilliance of their idea, or gets fully appreciated by their boss, or gets helping hand when they need it most there are millions - yes millions - of viewers who are reminded that most of life is pretty good, that helping others is the greatest reward.
After complaining about television for decades, telling stories of good things is good television. Who would have thought the reversal would come about from such an unlikely place - reality shows that aren't real, telling stories about wonderfully real people doing wonderful things. Maybe there is hope.
Published on 05/15/12 by May, William Victor – VRIA Director