Sunday, April 3, 2011

Positive TV!

(In which the author makes a precipitous descent into pure hippiedom.)

Ozymandias left the following comment on my last post, and it really got me thinking:
I occasionally have daydreams of running a major TV network and creating a show called the Compliment Show.

The Compliment Show would impersonate one of those you-suck-fix-yourself shows-- the ones with the British nannies, or the your-fashion-sucks shows. They would film your life, your wardrobe, your kids, whatever, and then they would say:

"Your style is individual, yet attractive! Good job!"
"Your kids are perfectly normal for their ages. In fact, your daughter is very intelligent, and your son has such artistic skill. We're impressed."
"In general, you are a good person, and there is nothing at all wrong with you."

It would probably get cancelled very quickly.

I want to envision an entire Positive TV channel. Here's some of the shows I've come up with:

Political Collaboration Hour - Pundits from across the political spectrum discuss: which laws and candidates would benefit the country more, and how can we help more people be safer and happier? The host, whose catchphrase is "Now let's look for the common ground!" encourages the pundits to find the fundamental principles they agree on even if they believe in applying them in different ways.

Survivors - Each week, the teams must cooperate to complete an island-survival-themed challenge together. No one gets voted off, because it's important that the teams learn to work with the people they have, who are all useful in some way. At the end everyone is nicely compensated for appearing on the show. The entertainment comes from watching the lengths they have to go to and the ingenuity they apply in attacking the challenges.

Bob Loves Luisa - In this hilarious family sitcom, the husband and wife genuinely understand and want to work with each other. One of their children is very intelligent and the other is very creative, and Bob and Luisa encourage them both to do what they love! Dramatic conflict arises from temporary misunderstandings and outside challenges, and is resolved through open--but wacky--communication and teamwork! Also there is a goofy next-door neighbor.

Dirty Jobs - We'd just syndicate this. No editing required.

Nightly News Flash - Our intrepid news team reports in-depth on charity and relief projects, promising scientific research, and on the rapid spread of useful technology around the globe. There'd be special segments on dramatic rescue missions and promising young people, and exposés revealing which lawmakers are really making personal sacrifices to serve their country better.

America Does, In Fact, Have Talent - Performers demonstrate diverse skills in music, dance, comedy, magic, and other entertainment arts. Everyone who made it through the offscreen auditions is so good that the show really just exists as a venue to let people enjoy their talent. After each performance, three judges who are well-educated in theater and circus history briefly give the audience a perspective on the heritage of the art form being showcased, then discuss the ways the performer honored and diverged from tradition in their work.

Self-Esteem Makeover - People who want plastic surgery, extreme weight loss, or a total style makeover meet up with an elite team of clinical psychologists who teach them that who they are and what they do--and even the unique and human way they look right now--matters so much more. In the second half of the show, these people are taught how to eat a balanced and varied diet and engage in fun physical activities, then assisted in designing a makeup and wardrobe for themselves that fits well with their individual style.

I'm totally going to think of more when I'm at work. Add your own!

EDIT: Yep, here are some I thought of at work. There are lots of great ideas in the comments too!

This Land Is My Land - This travel show has a different host each week, as a native of the featured region gives our camera crew a tour of their homeland. Learn about their own society, history, cuisine, and landmarks from the perspective only a true insider can give! Hear moving stories of how the host's personal history and daily life tie into the unique culture of their region--first hand.

The Zombie Cure - In a world overrun by shambling, mindless monsters, a small group of human scientists holed away in a jury-rigged urban fortress have found a cure that restores the zombies back into sentient humans. This epic and darkly comic series follows them from their first successful experiment on a chained, perilously captured zombie in the fortress basement through the long hard road of un-zombifying the world. This week's episode where our heroes confront a snarling little girl zombie, then gently restrain her so she will have no injuries when she returns to consciousness, is guaranteed to thrill and chill you, then delight you when she wakes up with only minor bruises and gives her mommy a hug!

Real Teens Out Of Control - Tania is expelled under a "zero tolerance" policy for possession of the pepper spray she carries for self defense. Alberto is charged with disorderly conduct for taking part in a political protest. Franklin is thrown out of the prom for trying to attend in a dress. Juliet is sent to the district's special "behavioral problems" school for choosing to keep her pregnancy. Hear the thrilling true-life stories of teenagers who broke all the rules... and had a pretty good point, which they will articulately explain on camera as they go through the process of challenging the system.

Exhibition Game - In this old-school game show, contestants have to use both brains and brawn: one moment answering trivia questions, the next doing physical challenges. A contestant might find themselves improvising rock lyrics, then bungee-jumping off an actual rock! At the end of the game, everyone gets nice prizes and fancy vacations from the sponsors, because all of the contestants contributed to making the show entertaining, so they should all reap the rewards. Besides, seriously, how do you even score bungee-jumping? "Best falling technique?" Whatever.

Sesame Street: Adult Edition - Short, engagingly animated adult-level lessons on science, history, math, civics and language alternate with the Muppets' lovable antics and catchy songs. Don't act like you're too cool for this. You'd so watch it. You know it.


  1. "Formulate" (a riff off off that MTV show "Made"). I'm not as good off the top of my head with this stuff (Holly always impresses on this front). But instead of trying to take teens who feel unhappy with themselves--the basic structure of the show is stuff like "Gamer to Prom King/Queen" or "Show Choir to Cheerleader/Football player"--and build groups in which the person can be both. For example, instead of just changing the individual ("the making"), the major group changes, or formulates, to be more accepting. The Gamer can stay a gamer, but is now cool. The show choir star is now "both" that and cheerleader/football player. I don't know, something like that.

  2. The Twisted Lives of Sexual Deviants. It would be stuff like kinky folks going grocery shopping, or swingers spending a day at the beach. Maybe a more mild version for super-conservative areas, where the people have perfectly vanilla sex lives but don't fit the man-woman model; gay couples buying a dog, a couple where one or both of the people don't fall on the gender binary painting the bathroom, etc. The fun part would be that the commentary would be as sarcastic and sensationalized as the title, hopefully encouraging the idea that people who enjoy unusual sexytimes are people, and thinking of them as some Exotic Species of Other is silly.

    Prolly only work for a season or two before the premise got old, but it'd still be awesome.

  3. This is brilliant. I would so, so watch this, and I never watch TV.

  4. "Real Cribs" - where people who are middle class live well below their means in order to be part of the foster care system.

    "Extreme Makeover: Neighborhood Edition" - Ty Pennington and gang come into the impoverished parts of different locations, and remodel a number of homes in the area that are falling apart for free, so that the families can own/rent a place that isn't a deathtrap.

    "Extreme Landscapers" - after finding an unsuspecting homeowner at a Wal-Mart or similar store, a group of landscapers go to a lower-income home and revive a dead yard, complete with a sustainable vegetable garden and fruit trees appropriate for the climate.

    .....I've thought of something along these lines before - it's a crying shame we will most likely never see ONE of these shows, let alone an entire network devoted to them.

  5. How We Fell In Love: couples discuss how they, well, fell in love. Based on the weddings pages in the New York Times, which I am totally addicted to, except with fewer privileged twits and more of the people who had to delay their wedding because the bride got arrested for civil disobedience.* There's a spinoff for siblings and long-term friends.

    Rock of Love: Bride of Satan: Because the Glenn Danzig Dating Show would be AMAZING, and I don't care if it doesn't fit in with the network theme.

    My Hobby Show: Ordinary people passionate about their hobbies talk about them! Discover the secret worlds of crochet, doll collecting, cosplaying or military history. I would totally watch this show all the time.

    The Kitten Show: Kittens.


  6. "Disasters!": Each week, take one human-caused disaster and examine in an objective and well-researched way, without bias or sensationalism, the complex interaction of multiple small factors which caused it. Last ten minutes dedicated to how legislation and safety policy have been changed since then to avoid it happening again.

    ...because honestly, the next time I have to listen to some jackass claim Chernobyl was caused by "one man who pushed the wrong button", I will scream.

  7. Colony Epsilon: Dramatic action scifi series featuring a new human colony, on an alien planet, in the far-flung future. Colonists were chosen for the mission based on their intelligence and mental health, and this reflected in the actions of the characters. Conflict comes from the life-and death struggles of terraforming an alien landscape, puzzles and intrigue involved with the science and technology they must use and improve daily for survival, and deep philosophical debates over various sociological issues. No one shoots anything. The only green skin and funny noses are found among the vibrant body modification subculture. The science displayed doesn't contradict what we currently know about the universe, and no one ever reverses the polarity.

  8. I just wanted to say that, between this post and the last one, I'm really happy to see people thinking about the world and society - and writing about it - in the way that you are. I've recently started spending a lot of time thinking about a lot of issues, and it makes me so happy to see other people discussing these things.

    I wish I had the time/my brain was being more cooperative so that I could write a more eloquent response. Maybe soon. Just know that someone out there is loving these discussions!

  9. I would watch these shows religiously. I would *purchase a TV* just to watch these shows. That's how strongly I approve of this post and these comments.

  10. This just made me smile to read. I'm glad other people think of things like this too, and I'm not the only one.

    I'm actually a cynical bastard, but underneath that chocolate, is a creamy nugat center that would like things like this.

  11. This is brilliant!

  12. I love the 'America's REALLY Got Talent' show. I would genuinely watch that. It reminds me of a show here in France called 'La Boite A Musique' (The Music Box) which is like a chat show for classical musicians. The host is a genuine concert pianist, and he'll invite performers, composers and conductors whom (you can tell) he really respects, not just ones who have a book to plug. And they'll talk about how to tackle 5/4 time, or the merits of this or that Beethoven sonata, and he'll end up doing some awesome off-the-cuff duet with one of them. Oh, and they also have an 'unusual instrument' section.

  13. You could syndicate the Rough Science series [] without any changes.

    Although following that idea, and with a touch of scrap-heap challenge, how about a series called Citizen Scientist. Each week a team of ordinary men and women, who are hobbyists and makers, have to complete a challenge using and explaining science, and whatever they can find in the homes/garages/neighbourhood.

    Hm...speaking of about a series called 'Looking for Mr Rogers' a series looking for people active in their neighbourhood, and giving them a show each to show the lessons they can teach. [and yes, Mrs as well as Mr's.]

  14. dont forget to syndicate Mythbusters, too!

  15. Charlie Brooker's "How TV Ruined Your Life" is pretty fantastic. The whole thing is fantastic, but here is the start:

  16. These are basically all the BEST THINGS.

    Activist Comedy Challenge: A show in which aspiring comics get fifteen minutes to do a stand-up routine that doesn't involve drawing on negative stereotypes or reinforcing hurtful norms. Because humour can be funny without hurting anyone!

    No Shit, There I Was: Ordinary people are given the chance to become storytellers. People from all walks of life tell tales of things that seem ludicrous, but really happened, and make us all feel better for it.

    (I actually honestly want to do this as a YouTube channel, because there are some stories that people I know have told over and over, and they're SO great.)

    Dancing with the Actual Dancers: Each week, a different form of dance would be highlighted, with experienced dancers performing several dances, teaching some of the basic steps and figures, and giving recommendations of where to find more information, if this interests you. Not performing for points or anything --just trying to look good and show off how fun different forms of dance are!

    Also, can we get Gamarjobat onto that talent show, like EVERY WEEK! I know they're not American, but look at their YouTube videos and tell me you wouldn't watch that if it were syndicated.

  17. People with different backgrounds getting along: Each week, we'll follow a different relationship (friends, coworkers, lovers, etc.) who come from different backgrounds and have different heritages, religions, political views, etc., and see how they effortlessly get along just fine, just like most of us do in real life.

    Individual confessionals will include each person discussing how meeting a person from a different background introduced them to new ideas and points of view, and how it enriched them.

  18. Toronto Slut Walk!

  19. @Kat Dutton

    "No Shit, There I Was: Ordinary people are given the chance to become storytellers. People from all walks of life tell tales of things that seem ludicrous, but really happened, and make us all feel better for it."

    Check out a radio program called "This American Life".

    This is their specialty and they do it well.

  20. In the vein of the shows other have mentioned like The Twisted Lives of Sexual Deviants, my show would be a cooking show featuring regular people who cook to feed themselves and/or family while juggling work and real life. Many would be vegans, vegetarians, and people with diets restricted for other reasons, such as Kosher and Halal diets, as well as gluten-free, sugar-free, etc. It would show not only the sort of healthy meals that can be made in a reasonable amount of time by people who enjoy food and cooking but also have other things to do, but also how alternative/restricted diets can beautiful, delicious, and full of variety.

  21. I would watch ALL of these shows.

  22. I would subscribe to cable again for this channel and watch ALL the shows. These are all fantastic ideas!

  23. Dudes in Dresses: An hour with male crossdressers and feminine men on their personal style and presentation. The last fifteen minutes will follow each person interviewed as they go about their daily lives and are enthusiastically complimented and supported for their appearance.

    The Long View: A news show in which current events are given historical context and subjected to a non-alarmist future projection.

    Reparations Clearinghouse Sweepstakes: Reparations checks are delivered on camera to African American and Native families; the show also follows the lives of the families in a non-invasive way.

    I could dream these up ALL DAY.

  24. Holy crap! This is a fantastic idea...I may even watch TV again if these kinds of things were on. I'd love to tune into something positive that would make me smile at the end of a day or work (and most TV at it stands just makes me angry or depressed).

    Here's my submission for positive news that someone somewhere actually "gets it", the Canadian Ad Council's Gender Portrayal Guide for advertising, inclusive and so very common sense:

    See, that wasn't so difficult, was it?

  25. I would almost certainly buy a TV so I could watch these shows. Maybe it's a good thing they won't be made; if TV was this good I'd never get anything else done!

  26. I'd like to see a sitcom (similar to Bob Loves Luisa) about a girl happily and healthily married to a crossdressing boy (having known about the crossdressing from the start). The conflict and hilarity would mostly come from them dealing with other people, but there would also be hijinks surrounding the domestic stuff, like working out how to share clothes, makeup, mirrors, etc. on nights when both of them want to dress up fancy.

  27. I hope someone who makes TV is reading this - lots of ideas that I would watch. I suggest a new rating - namely "+++" for positive TV that is both educational and uplifting.:-) Great idea!

  28. Would you mind terribly if I linked this on my LJ? It makes me stupidly happy and I'd love to share.

  29. Unrelatedly: Holly, have you read the Cracked article on Cosmo?

  30. I wanna watch Zombie Cure!!! I think your channel would rock!

  31. Sprite - Seriously, almost the entire Discovery Channel belongs here.

    Boom de yada...

  32. I've been talking for a while about a show I want to see, called Family Recipes. It'd star some low-level celebrity chef, one of those "I just really love food" types.

    Every week, they'd go around to someone's house and film them while they cook a family recipe, and at the end everyone enjoys a big meal. This would showcase both the diversity of food in this great nation (and that's one thing Americans are really good at), and the diversity of families. You'd have big families, small families, rich, poor, gay, straight, old, young, everything, and all cooking up a storm.

    You'd see grandma's kohlpudding, dad's homemade yakisoba, the spaghetti sauce that's been progressively refined over three generations. There'd be variations: the lady who makes two sacher tortes, the one with her mother's original recipe, and the one with the modified recipe she developed for her diabetic son.

    You could do fun contrasts: one week a family making the One True Memphis Barbecue, and the next week a family making the One True Texas Barbecue. There'd be mashups, too, with families that serve dad's world-famous enchiladas with mom's German cucumber salad. The chef would always be full of effusive praise for all this tasty food, and we'd always get a little slice-of-life look at this family and how they live.

    Over the closing credits of every episode, we'd see the behind-the-camera folks taking part in the feast. Wobbly camera work because the cameraman is passing the cornbread to the video-van technician, and so on. Everyone enjoys a good meal, and everyone's got some kind of family. Tell me this idea doesn't make you kinda hungry.

  33. Rev. Johnny Lemuria said: /Colonists were chosen for the mission based on their intelligence and mental health, and this reflected in the actions of the characters./

    Halfway through the season, they are peacefully invaded by representatives of those judged unintelligent and mentally ill. In a spaceship designed by autistic savants as well as physicists who happened to have depression, bipolar etc, with the grunt work done by both genuinely less intelligent people and people who had poor starts in life and/or don't do well in intelligence tests. We follow the tension created by the 'mentally superior' half of humanity's decision to leave everyone else behind, and realise that even in the future, mental health is not straightforward and intelligence is not easily measurable.

    Sorry about the rant, I love the other ideas in this thread! :)

  34. Well, there is an family (sort of) oriented channel called ION channel (or network, or something like that), but for such a "family oriented" channel, they sure do show a lot of "Criminal Minds" re-runs, which I'm sure makes great family night viewing.
    Love the ideas here.

  35. Lovely and awesome. Someone feel like starting to nibble at this problem with at YouTube-channel doing amateur versions of these? Would be cool.

    We have a public-service TV network in Sweden funded separately from state taxation and thus sort of independent from politicians (though who knows for how much longer) that generally keeps a level head and presents things in a serious and fairly researched way. I like that, still don't watch TV, sometimes stream their stuff online.

  36. @jbn i was thinking a youtube channel too. someone needs to reserve the name!

    although, would that make them google's property?

  37. yep.. totally taken as a youtube

  38. Original post: Nightly News Flash - Our intrepid news team reports in-depth on charity and relief projects, promising scientific research, and on the rapid spread of useful technology around the globe. There'd be special segments on dramatic rescue missions and promising young people, and exposés revealing which lawmakers are really making personal sacrifices to serve their country better.

    Holly in comments: Seriously, almost the entire Discovery Channel belongs here.

    Boom de yada...

    There's a show on Discovery Canada that's more or less Nightly News Flash, except maybe the lawmaker exposes. It's called Daily Planet, and I will sing its praises whenever relevant. (I don't know if the link (which allows you to watch it online, no shady website required) works outside of Canada. If not, maybe you non-Canadians could find a proxy or something, because Daily Planet is awesome and you should watch it.)

  39. I don't know how I missed this in April.

    Pundits from across the political spectrum discuss: which laws and candidates would benefit the country more, and how can we help more people be safer and happier?

    The trouble with this is that it's not a question of teams. Not only what you believe would benefit the country but even what you mean by "benefit the country" depends on whether you're a sincere liberal or a sincere conservative.

    Oh, wait, you said "pundits." But that's the opposite problem, where it is teams, and the sides are less "Democrat" and "Republican" and more "not-Republican" and "not-Democrat." I suppose they could do whatever you do at a Celtics-Sonics game.

    I'm noticing a theme here: Pervocrats seem to feel (and I agree) that too much conflict on contemporary television is of the person-versus-person variety, and there's not enough person-versus-nature and white-and-ahite/white-and-grey morality.

    I still want to see a combination quiz show/dating show, where one person volunteers to be the prize, and three people of the appropriate gender(s), screened for non-assholeishness, compete in a trivia quiz. The second half features the host interviewing the couple, where the winner of the competition comes off as an interesting person, or at least knowlegable in trivia.

  40. I actually take great joy in the America's Got Talent auditions even as they are--genuine joy, not schadenfreude that "at least I don't suck that much" or anything icky like that. Even if I might not want to see an act of a guy in a chicken suit riding around in circles on a tiny bicycle shouting, "I love you, Sharon!" over and over into a megaphone, I think it's awesome that I live in a world where something like that can exist. It gives me great heart to see the wonderful zaniness our chaotic universe can spawn. But maybe that's just me.