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Poor imitation of a Talkshow

April 13, 2010

I haven’t caught local TV for awhile. The boyfriend and I decided to give it a chance on Sunday night, as it looked from the trailers that there are some new and interesting programmes coming round the block, but the standard is absolutely appalling! I was so irked at wasting half an hour of my life that I had the impetus to write in to MediaCorp (well, they asked for feedback):

I watched the premier telecast of ‘Singapore Talking’ on Sunday.

While the topic was promising (and being in the same boat as the concerned individuals who are currently priced out of the property market, very close to my heart), it was an extremely poorly executed imitation of a talk show.

From the programme’s start, the host Ashraf Safdar looked like he was in a rush to be somewhere else. He was constantly interrupting the guests speakers just as they started making some headway into the discussion. There were many instances where he posed a question to either one of the speakers and they are barely a few words into the sentence when he has anticipated (or assumes he has anticipated) what they are going to say and cuts them off.

He obviously had certain discussion points to put across, ensure he incorporates pseudo-interactive elements like call ins and e-mails and keep to the timing for commercial breaks, which resulted in abrupt changes to the topic or suddenly entertaining (literally in mid-sentence) calls and e-mails that touched on completely separate tangents.

Watch the recording again, and it will be glaringly clear that Ashraf’s head was hardly even in the discussion; he was probably more concerned about what point he is going to cover next.

Perhaps giving pointers to the presenter are a necessity in case the discussion tapers off, but the producers need to realize that in such talk shows, the insights oftentimes come from the participants themselves. The host merely plays a role of facilitating the interaction, probing and incisive questioning for greater depth.

Unfortunately, in this case, the host was obstructing the discussion rather than facilitating. I feel sorry for the guests (two “industry experts” and a “man on the street”); they may have had some interesting perspectives, but were hardly ever allowed to speak.

Maybe, in a typically Singaporean manner, the producers were much too afraid (read : kiasi) to allow interaction and debate to flow naturally, an essential pre-requisite for such a format. Otherwise, why bother having studio guests come in in the first place? If one wanted full control, you might just as well have featured the host in a 20-minute soliloquy on the topic.

The show promised interesting debate and provoke thought, but hardly even scratched the surface of such a passionate issue for many Singaporeans. Reading someone’s random blog post might have been more enlightening, and you probably could get more “discussion” from the comment thread.

In the end, ‘Singapore Talking’ falls prey to the same trap of the issues it wishes to address – too dictated and controlled allow room for creativity.

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