Archive for the ‘TV’ Category

The World’s Richest Teenager and Me

Some people work hard for wealth. Some do not. This programme focuses on the offspring of the former who, themselves, fall into the latter category.

Beginning in Ohio, Mark Dolan (my latest weird documentary presenter crush), travels to Dubai, Russia and finally Thailand to provide an insight into the lives of the über-rich teen. It is in Ohio where he meets the daughter of a man living the American dream. As with all the ‘providers’ of these children, he came from nothing and worked his way up to success. This is admirable. And to be fair, his daughter, Lacey, was a bit grounded. A bit. She had non-rich friends and knew that when she went to college she wouldn’t be taking a personal trainer and chef with her. Do you see what I mean by ‘a bit’?!

Dubai was home to the only boy featured in the documentary. With his father another business tycoon, Eilan enjoyed horse-riding and was promised that he’d be able to enter a riding competition if he did well at school. He did not do well at school, yet his dad still paid for the competition to go ahead. To me this appears to be setting your child up for a fall. When the father was questioned about how much he was worth he played it down hugely suggesting they weren’t much wealthier than the rest of us.

It wasn’t just the Dubai family who refused to disclose figures. In Russia, Kira Plastinina, who created her fashion empire aged fourteen, was not allowed to answer any questions about money. Because her PR people would not allow it. Dolan regularly questioned whether her PR people understood that this documentary was about wealth and stated how it would’ve been like him interviewing the world’s smallest man (something he’s previously documented) and being told that he couldn’t mention the height. It was clear that he was getting rather irritated at the barriers that kept surrounding that ominous ‘M’ word: Money.

It was the richest teenager who came across best. With her family worth about three billion dollars, Pear attended a state school and shopped at Topshop. She lived in a hotel that her family owned, but would never dream of making that known in their fitness centre as she says that the customer must come first, not her. Dolan was clearly impressed saying that he’d be far less modest and would probably by himself a t-shit saying “I own this hotel” were he in the same situation. Pear received £3 a day allowance. If she wants something that she can’t afford, she must wait and save up for it. At the moment she’s got her eye on a sewing machine. This is a girl who could easily be one of the richest teens in the world and yet her attitude to the wealth is truly admirable.

There’s clearly a lot of pressure on her from her father to find her own place within the family business, which Dolan concludes as being a necessary accompaniment to the wealth. With money comes huge responsibility and the programme shows how the different parents project this responsibility onto their children. At 17, I am the same age as most of those featured in the show. I don’t have their money, but then again, I clearly don’t have the same pressure thrown onto me. Sure, I get nagged at to revise in order to get the A Level results to get me into University in the same way that my parents continued to Higher Education. However the pressures that these teens have thrust upon them are far more difficult to cope with.

And this leaves me with a question for you: Would you want to be that rich?

Personally – No. But I wouldn’t turn down a few extra pounds to afford a laptop that didn’t keep freezing as I streamed the documentary!

Watch it.

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Louis Theroux: America’s Medicated Kids

There’s something about Louis Theroux which I can’t help but find endearing. I admire his bluntness and how he says the things that I’m thinking but would never speak. Either he has a wealth of knowledge on the subjects of his documentaries, or he or his research team do their jobs very well.

Having previously been encaptured by Theroux’s documentaries about prisons, America’s most hated family (Oh how I wanted to punch them) and, more recently, gambling, I was interested to see what slant he would take this time. Putting a child on meds is a touchy subject. Different viewers will have a huge breadth of opinions and beliefs on the subject. Unlike the programme on that awful American family, the audience of this show won’t necessarily have a huge majority sharing one belief. This is why Theroux occasionally edged on the side of caution.

Often it seemed that he was trying to suggest that the parents were a part of the problem. And I have to agree that, in one particular example, appeared to be the case. Personal attitudes towards these drugs contributed hugely to seeking out a diagnosis. The youngest child featured was an OCD suffering six year old. SIX. At that age they’ve only just started school. Although, this boy had already started school and been expelled. But that helped Theroux to question the difference between a disruptive child and one with a medical problem. It’s a very blurred line, and putting a child on meds when they’re simply being naughty is not a solution – it’s more like an excuse.

Yes, I know I have no personal experience of it and so, perhaps, my opinions aren’t valid. Yet I have huge questions over this subject. One boy was given meds that had been proven to work in adults. Working for an adult with a definitive diagnosis is one thing, but on a ten year old who’s yet to hit puberty is another.

There’s not much I can say on this programme without telling you everything that features. I can just suggest that you watch it and see if your opinions/beliefs change. In the classic Theroux style, it’s truly insightful.

Watch it.

Why I don’t want to be famous: Starsuckers

I like to think I am not a victim to the media’s tricks. I’ve grown into someone who spots product placement a mile off – Rufus used Bing search in last week’s Gossip Girl – but Starsuckers told me a lot more about this vicious industry.

“It’s a parent’s best dream isn’t it? Having their kids on TV?” These are the words from a father in a shopping mall where a TV Crew had set up a fake casting call for a company called X-Ploit. (Get it?!) They managed to get parents to sign disclaimers that basically allowed their kids to appear in any form of media advertising any product. Parents and kids alike want the elusive ‘fame’. And it seems that many will do anything for it.

Throughout the documentary, a young American boy is followed, willingly, with cameras documenting his popularity. His parents seemed more grounded than I would have expected so I must give them some credit, however seeing a five year old auditioning day in day out, appearing on ads for just about anything, doesn’t entertain me. It worries me. It sounds clichéd, but society is evolving too quickly. And who knows what the future will bring…

The power of association is also worrying. Simply by changing an infamous villain in history’s birthday made a group of students write about him in a positive light as a misunderstood man. Thinking that you have something in common with someone who’s ‘known’ can lead people to do stupid things.

There’s a Hannah Montana alarm clock in the States that genuinely tells kids to go and buy her products at Wallmart. Ok, not directly, but it might as well do so. I guess you can argue the ‘supply and demand’ thing, but ultimately, I find it hard to see how you can say that this is not wrong. If kids are being forcefed advertising and celebrity, then it can’t come as a suprise that the majority of them will raise their hands when asked “Who wants to be famous?”

As soon as the programme started, in my head all I could think about was one name: Max Clifford. And just after one hour, the infamous personality appeared. He is the PR agent. He did not appear in the film in the form of interviews (he didn’t want to be in the programme), instead, clips from other documentaries were used to give an insight into his delightful profession.

Do you know what I’ve realised from this programme? I don’t want fame. I never have done. I just want to work in the media industry. Because I enjoy it. That’s why I promote this blog, to improve my writing and for the tiny chance that someone might read this who can help me out careerwise. If it ever comes across that I want something more, can I please make it clear that I do not. I, quite simply, want to work in an industry that’s often overshadowed by the traumas of ‘celebrity’.

Watch it here.

Taking the fun out of a childhood.

There’s a documentary on tonight that I’m intrigued by. Starsuckers. It’s on More4 at 10. Although, if like me and you have better things to do with your Tuesday night, I hope it’ll be available on 4OD soon after.

It’s about the media. And if you know me, you’ll know my interest in the media. I’m not celeb obsessed. Nor do I watch all the ‘hottest shows’. And don’t get me started on trashy mags. What I enjoy is seeing the tricks they use and the direction that the media’s heading in.

This documentary is about a variety of issues concerning the media in present times. It appears to be about our celeb obsessed nature. And those who succumb to a life trying to achieve ‘fame’. You know the sort… Parents who wished their lives could have been better and, as such, force their children into the limelight, attempting to get them the attention that they never got.

Talking of parents living their lives through their kids… The other day I 4ODed (Yes, I’ve watched everything good on iPlayer so have converted to the commercial side of life) Too Poor For Posh School? Yet another documentary. This time about a selection of boys applying for a scholarship to Harrow. Whilst I thought that the scholarship scheme was really amazing, offering those with the ability, but not the financial stability, the chance to earn a place at the elite school, I had a particular issue with some of the applicants. Actually, that’s harsh. I hold nothing against the boys – they had put ridiculous hours in to even get to the final eleven. What I disliked were some of the parents.

I felt as though Harrow was their dream. Not their boy’s dream. In fact, in one interview with a child, he responded to the question “Why do you want to come to Harrow?” with an answer not dissimilar to “because my mum wants me to”.  

Parents shouldn’t live their lives through their kids. Too much pressure isn’t good. If you didn’t get what you want out of your childhood, then I’m sorry, but forcing your kids’ into singing lessons and A Level maths classes aged two is not the solution. Because, ultimately, a childhood should be about having fun. And I honestly doubt that certain boys featured in the programme can say that their life was full of fun.

Maybe I’m wrong. But if I’m right? Then it’s a sorry state of affairs.

True Stories: Starsuckers is on More4 tonight at 10pm.

Too Poor For Posh School is available on 4OD.

My Daughter Grew Another Head and Other True Life Stories

Initially, this Channel 4 documentary is harder hitting than the Beeb’s offering as it has different shots of ‘real life people’ telling their life story in one sentence. These tend to involve health defects, sex or general impalement from a broomstick. Y’know, your run of the mill stories that can easily be found by listening in to your neighbours conversations. Oh wait, that’s a lie. The journalists have to do quite a bit of research to track down these interesting individuals who will eventually end up as laughing stock two page features in a magazine. To show the kind of reactions people have to these stories the documentary makers opted to film a few, how do I word this, ‘members of the target audience’ of these magazines as they read through the stories in utter disbelief and despair. For me, it was all a bit to hyperbolic and I was unsure of how ‘real life’ these shots were.

As opposed to being filmed at one magazine as Secrets For Sale was, this programme focuses more on the middle men. A company called Famous Features  will help you find the best sum for your gem of a story. Of course, this comes at a price as they’ll then take a large percentage of the sum as their agent fees. For example, a story that was sold around the magazines for £2500 only resulted in the guy involved in the story (a man whose claim to fame is that he was the first Brit to have a bum transplant – yes, ANYTHING is now newsworthy if it’s the ‘first’ or has any superlative before it) only got £1000. That’s a tidy amount being kept by the middle man. In fact, it’s almost sounding appealing to me. Almost. And considering this Essex lad spent £7000 on the implants in the first place, I’m not hugely concerned about the amount that he gets compensated for looking like a bit of an idiot.

Once again, I’m left questioning the morals of some of the journos. The ‘Secret Sex Change’ story left a transgender person in tears once they read their own article. At Real People they read the stories back to the contributors before submitting them, with only the overly-exaggerated titles left to the editor’s discretion. Yet here the contributor genuinely didn’t seem to know how their story was going to be portrayed. This is not journalism to me. This is manipulation of a story to sell copies. This is deceit.

Yes, there are some awful people in it solely for the money. But others genuinely want their story to be told, not sold. I know they must practically sign away their lives to the magazines to do what they want with them, but surely the contributors should get the final say on what can be said in a “true” life article? Apparently not.

“It sounds horrible to say, but those are the best sort of stories”. These are the words spoken about a couple whose two children were killed in a car crash by a footballer a few years ago. How on earth a journo can use a positive superlative in that context worries me. Surely there must be a point when your conscience kicks in and the profits overlooked?

At the end of the programme the class issue is brought up. One of the writers talks of how it’s not really a middle class thing to do. I’m glad I’m not the only one to have formed a heavily generalised and non-PC view of the target audience.

If I can just compare this programme with Secrets For Sale, I’d like to point out that the BBC put more effort into providing detail about the stories. For me, this Cutting Edge programme came across as trying to put across too much without providing the necessary information. Which I suppose could be deemed fitting for an industry which revolves around omitting the boring information in place of creatively constructed content.

As for the programme’s title? Well there certainly was not a second head on the girl. She’d had an implant in her head to help skin grow over to stop baldness. Another exaggerated title which is quite apt for the exaggerated world of ‘True Life’ magazines.

Secrets For Sale

After my high praise of The Virtual Revolution, I was a little less enthused by the Beeb’s latest documentary offering. ‘Secrets For Sale’ took you on a journey through the production of the markets second best real life magazine: Real People. Why they made the point that it was the second best real life magazine, I’m not sure. Part of me thinks that tonight’s Channel 4 docu “My Daughter Grew Another Head and Other True Life Stories” could have gained access to the main competition Take A Break and therefore the Beeb could only produce this second best documentary.

The reasons people will sell their stories to these magazines differ greatly. Whilst there are obviously the moneygrabbers, there are also those who really aren’t in it for the money. There are people who just want to tell their story, not sell it. It’s these people who I feel for. In the programme there was a humanist woman who wanted to tell the story of her husband’s treatment from bowel cancer. The story was read back to her before being sent to press and she approved it, only for the cover headline to be “I’m Daddy’s gift from heaven”. As a humanist she didn’t believe in heaven. This had been made a point of when they talked of her humanist wedding. But it’s all done to shift more copies. If a few people are offended along the way, who is going to care? Well, I do.

At this stage I feel I should point out that this was not a BBC Three documentary. Whilst that may not surprise those of you who didn’t watch it, I found it a bit strange as this programme appears to fit in more with their target audience. It does feel as though it could easily be scheduled alongside ‘Hotter Than My Daughter’ and nobody would blink a false eyelash.

I’m not against real life magazines. I’ll admit that I’ve bought a couple in my lifetime to pass time on train journeys when I couldn’t justify spending more on higher quality publications. They are entertaining. When I interned at NatMags, I read several issues of Real People and spent a bit of time filling in spreadsheets about them and their competitors. These mags must bring in money as they are still being produced and bought by thousands of women weekly. I remember being a bit of a snob when I was asked to write up my views on Reveal (the NatMags celebrity weekly) and I described the audience as “probably not upper class”. I also criticised a story about Prince William using a portaloo as not being content at all. I’m sorry, but I like actual content in my magazines. Not drivel. One of the highlights of my week in Marketing at NatMags was getting to have a meeting with the Cookery Editor of Good Housekeeping. That’s a proper publication in my mind. And that’s probably about the time when the guys at NatMags realised that I was basically a middle aged woman trapped in a teenager’s body. Hey, that sounds like a headline from the programme actually – something about teenager lovers in OAP bodies. Maybe I should try selling my story?!

One story that I did like in the programme was the story of a young boy who’d spent his life in and out of hospital. His parents were doing the story to raise awareness; they were donating all the money to the British Heart Foundation. The magazine knew of this and decided to pay for their wedding, calling upon favours from contacts they had. You see, there can be heartwarming results from these magazines. And seeing the editor and writer all dressed up with headpieces in amongst the couple’s actual friends did make me chuckle.

As a documentary, the programme did it’s job. To be honest, I’m not sure whether my qualm lies with the Beeb at all. I guess it’s the magazines that I find absurd. Puns like ‘Trouble Brewing’ attached to the story of a husband poisoning his wife’s tea with mercury make me want to gag. I know this industry only exists because the market is there, but I’d be much happier to stretch my funds a bit more and get some actual content in Grazia or Look (which I believe to be one up from the real life weeklies).

I’ll be 4OD-ing ‘My Daughter Grew Another Head…” tomorrow as I’m a sucker for a weird documentary. Let’s just see if it convert me to a real life magazine addict. For some reason, I’m doubting that it will.

My hommage to Neighbours

I wrote this in English last year. It was meant to be a speech about something we were passionate about. Typically, I failed to think of anything that I was overwhelmed with passion for. My friend jokingly suggested I wrote it about my love of Neighbours. Alas, this is what I produced…

Have you ever wanted to live in a street where beautiful people live alongside one another smiling in the sunlight? For many citizens this is purely an idyllic fantasy but for the fortunate residents of Ramsay Street this is everyday life.

It is at this point that I should point out that this is not real – it is a soap opera. It is a television programme where marriages, deaths and natural disasters can be crammed in to twenty three minutes of viewing pleasure. However, aside from the fiction of it all, Neighbours does have many realistic storylines that allow us to escape the struggles of everyday life and get caught up in the adventures in Erinsborough.

I would like you to now take a moment to stop and think about your neighbours. How many of you can say that you have had a reality TV star, glamour model and former Miss Australia living in your cul-de-sac? I’d make the assumption that none of us can say we do and so it is this unbelievable nature of the residents that we, as a nation, have grown to love. Our own lives just don’t provide us with the singing sensations, bikini-clad bodies or beauty queens that can be found in those five households.

Neighbours does not only provide viewers with attractive people; the attractive weather is another major factor in the show’s success. It never rains in Ramsay Street. No matter how torrential the British weather may be, you can always find half an hour of sunshine on the show. The cast will be there, rain or shine, in the midst of winter wearing bikinis so long as the camera can capture a glimpse of sunlight.

Speaking from my own personal viewing, I know that my life was missing something before Harold, Lou and The Kennedys came along. No one can deny that these carefully crafted characters provide us with the perfect blend of drama, romance and comedy. As such it is clear that Neighbours injects the programme with not only clever characters, but also with talented cast…

Neighbours gave us Kylie and Jason, Natalie Imbruglia and Delta Goodrem. These few names are just a part of the long list of gifted cast members. Talent like theirs is hard to find and yet Neighbours always manages to maintain a constant flow of it.

Over the years the storylining department have worked hard to create storylines that are hard-hitting, relevant and accurate. Examples of modern plots include the recent excellent portrayal of incest, mental illness and Multiple Sclerosis. Each of these storylines must first be researched prior to script writing to ensure that an accurate representation of the issues in hand is given.

Neighbours has been a successful show for the past twenty five years. Without it thousands of university students would have had nothing to watch whilst studying; housewives with nothing to inspire them whilst ironing; families deprived of the sunshine as they eat their dinner.

So where would you be without Neighbours? Ultimately, in a much darker place. After all, EVERYBODY needs good neighbours…

The Virtual Revolution

The BBC’s latest technology documentary was most probably not aimed at teenage girls. Yet I have really enjoyed The Virtual Revolution.

A series made up of four hour long programmes each focussing on different areas of progress/concern within this new fangled invention that we like to call the Internet.  Presented by Dr Aleks Krotoski, the sheer amount of knowledge that it makes accessible to a wider audience is really impressive. And as for those who comment on the issues in between the shots of Aleks in the same blue dress in nearly every technologically advanced city throughout the world? Why, the Beeb must have some good connections/persuading skills money to entice the creator of the Internet itself, Tim Berners-Lee, alongside Bill Gates (Microsoft) and Steve Wozniak (Apple) to suggest their own opinions on the dominance of the internet. Oh, and quite simply for the fact that the programme comes with it’s very own hash tag (#bbcrevolution), how on earth could I not become immersed in it?

Episode One looked at how anyone can leave their footprint permanently on the web, with sites such as Wikipedia and YouTube allowing anyone to upload freely whatever content they wish (until it is removed for huge inaccuracies in the case of the former, or for copyright issues or generally breaking the law in the case of the latter). Additionally, the programme looks at the rise of blogs and how they give a voice to anyone who wants one – something that we must thank the internet for providing an outlet for people to communicate in ways which would otherwise be impossible. Take the example of the Iranian conflict. Twitter became a great way of sharing the real stories behind the news reports with hash tags and twibbons being used to show support.

Politics are paid particular attention to in the second episode, whilst ‘The Cost of Free’ tells the truth about how easily accessible everything we post on the internet is and how it can be used against us. Search Engines like the formidable Google can track all our searches and form targeted ads specifically for us. This doesn’t worry me massively, but the fact that they can work out who you are and the intimacies of your life by tracking all the searches from you IP address proves to be a little more worrying.

Having enjoyed the first three episodes, the most interesting and relevant episode for me would have to be the final show. ‘Homo Interneticus?’ poses the question that a new generation of web savvy youngsters have been born who spend up to 18 (yes, EIGHTEEN) hours a day in front of a screen. Yes, I always joke about being addicted to twitter and checking my emails, but even I find it absurd that a young person can waste so many hours of a day being so inactive. The rise of social networking is a topic that’s regularly been covered in the media to much rolling of eyes from the teenagers themselves. However, this programme does show the issue in a less biased way with Stephen Fry proclaiming that adults should not moan at the youths for using these services as, had they been around in his childhood, he believes that they’d have been just as popular. It’s just a new media that scares the older generations because we, the supposed yobs of society, know how to use the internet better than our parents.

Ultimately, this is a great series. I’m not saying that other teens will enjoy it (I don’t think everyone is quite as obsessive with the web as me) but I reckon it’d be of interest to a lot of people. So thank you #bbcrevolution for providing me with four hours of knowledge and insightful information. I might not have been your target audience, yet your programme managed to really influence me.

Nicola Roberts: The Truth About Tanning

Wow. This isn’t your average BBC3 documentary.

I was doing my normal ‘I probably should be doing something productive so why don’t I see what’s on iPlayer’ browse today and came across this programme. I’m not a huge Girls Aloud fan, nor am I a lover of fake tan, which is why it’s taken me until today to decide to watch this. But I’m glad I did. Nicola Roberts is my new favourite member of Girls Aloud. I say “new”. I’ve never had a favourite member of Girls Aloud. Therefore she is the only one I’ve ever liked. We even have something in common. And no, before you ask, it’s not our shared outstanding vocal talents. We are both pale. Very pale.

Back when the band first took off after all that reality TV malarkey, Nicola came under pressure to tan. And tan. And tan some more. Being thrown into the limelight at such a young age was always going to come with it’s negatives and for Nicola this was clearly something that she was greatly influenced by. Whilst she says in the programme that her main weakness was products from a bottle, the documentary sees how far things have developed in the short period of time since Nicola gave up the tanning.

No longer do people pop down to Superdrug for the latest fake tan in a bottle. Nowadays the most common choice is to use a tanning machine. With harmful UV rays being shot onto your skin it amazes me that people love these machines. Nicola looks at salons across the country and uncovers the complete lack of regulations regarding their usage. Sure, there are ‘guidelines’. But no laws. And without laws, there’s no guaranteeing that a 8 year old couldn’t walk in and become a victim of skin cancer.

Skin cancer is the main worry highlighter by Nicola. Altering the pigments in your skin can result in irregularities in the amount of melanoma in your skin, which can be fatal. Following Nicola as she supports a campaign to promote the issue, you see girls of all ages with irregular moles that often need further medical attention.

As well as looking at the problem on a nationwide scale, individual cases are looked at on a personal level. Tom, a young welsh guy declares that at the age of 18 he “came out of the closet and straight onto a sunbed”. Now in his mid-twenties, the damage he’s done to his skin could be irreversible. And he hasn’t stopped at sunbeds. He also has started using a new injection that’s illegal to buy in the country and has yet to been proven to be safe. This worries Nicola and, as such, he agrees to go clean of all forms of tanning for one month.

Megan, a 20 year old dancer from Liverpool, has used sunbeds regularly since the age of 16. Nicola takes her to visit a woman who was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma in the hope she’ll see why it’s so damaging. Later she visits a dermatologist who takes photos of her skin showing her the real damage the UV is doing beyond what is visible to the human eye.

After a month of being ‘clean’ from tanning, both Tom and Megan are treated to a makeover and photoshoot in the hope that they’ll see their true natural beauty. Whilst Megan seems to genuinely be converted to a life less orange, Tom seems less convinced.

Other individual cases prove to be even more traumatic. Nicola goes to see a woman in hospital as she has cancerous cells removed and a visit to a mother whose daughter died from skin cancer proves to be extremely sad. It’s not just the individual whose life can be affected. The desire to look ‘cool’ can lead to a family struggling to cope with the heartbreak of losing a loved one.

Having seen the devastation and destruction that tanning can do, I can be certain that I’ll never go on a tanning bed, or try out a ghastly tanning injection. I’d rather my skin be ghostly over ghastly anyday.

Watch it.