The Greatest Shows on Earth TX: 8 Jul 2013, Week 28


In this new four-part series, starting on Channel 4 on June 17th, Daisy Donovan gets to grips with some of the most popular television shows on the planet to find out what makes some very different cultures tick.

From Egyptian’s love of seeing terrified celebrities kidnapped at gunpoint to India’s dancing obsession and from Brazil’s desire for the body beautiful to South Korea’s gaming addiction, Daisy sees how societies – and particularly the roles of women - are brought into sharp relief by their TV.

“Everybody loves television and no one more than me,” says Daisy. “I'm going on the trip of a lifetime, to experience some of the biggest, maddest and most controversial shows on the planet.

“I've got a theory that television is the window into the soul of a nation. But simply watching TV isn't enough - to get right to the heart of it I need to take part.”

Episode 4, South Korea, Monday 8th July at 10pm

In this new series, Daisy Donovan gets to grips with some of the most popular television shows in the world to find out what makes some very different cultures tick.

Like most people, Daisy Donovan only knows two things about South Korea: the ongoing tensions with the North and - thanks to 1.5 billion online hits – Psy's Gangnam Style horse dance, which has put the country on the global map.

Thanks to the likes of tech giants Samsung and LG, the country is one of Asia’s rising stars. Daisy is in the capital, Seoul, to find out more. It’s the most wired city in the world, with the fastest internet connection on the planet and wifi on the underground. It’s a vision of the future, where everyone is always connected, even ordering groceries from virtual supermarkets.

Only half of South Koreans watch telly on an actual TV - with over 4 million online TV channels, everyone is their own TV controller here. Daisy meets one of Korean online TV’s hottest stars: Biryong, a 25-year-old who hosts his own unique cooking show.

But the audience love to watch Biryong eat – which he does with noisy relish - as much as cook. With almost a third of people living alone, it’s a way to feel like they have company for dinner. Funded by their viewers, self-broadcasters like Biryong can earn up to $10,000 a month.

Keen to find out what South Koreans watch on ‘traditional’ television, Daisy visits the set of the country’s most popular show. On Infinite Challenge, the nation’s six most famous comedians face a variety of madcap challenges - everything from racing a speeding train to pretending to be school children.

Although universally loved in Korea, the show’s humour is hard for an outsider to understand – but Daisy wants to try and find out what makes the programme so popular. She’s invited to take part, playing the role of an English journalist visiting a South Korean show in the 1980s.

With tensions between North and South Korea higher than they’ve been in decades, Daisy goes behind the scenes on Now On My Way To Meet You, an extraordinary Loose Women-style TV talk show featuring a panel of fifteen female North Korean ‘defector beauties’ who chat, dance, share jokes and flirt with male celebrities.

But, alongside the chat and fluff, the women also reveal shocking details of their lives in the isolated dictatorship, including torture, starvation and brainwashing - and every show ends with a defector telling their heartrending story, often looking for lost family members.

Gaming has become South Korea’s leisure sport of choice. There’s an internet café - a ‘PC Bang’ - on every street corner where, as well as checking Facebook, everyone seems to be engaged in some form of digital combat.

Millions watch ‘e-sport’ on dedicated TV channels and Daisy meets members of Startale, a professional team who live and train together 24/7 in a specially-created residence. They compete in a sophisticated strategy shoot-em-up called Starcraft 2 for hundreds of thousands of pounds in prize money. Daisy will need to pick up the complicated gaming lingo fast as she’s been invited to commentate on Startale’s next big match.

And, as a last hurrah, Daisy returns to Biryong to host her own version of an English cookery show on his online channel. But, as cooking isn’t really one of her strong points, she’s serving all day breakfast in a tin and ready made custard…

Episode 3 - Arab World, Monday 1st July at 10pm

This week Daisy is exploring the TV of the Arab world - it’s a journey that sees her sucked into the darkest of Egyptian comedy and inspired by the most sublime talent show on earth.

Prank shows are hugely popular in Egypt and Daisy starts by interviewing one of the nation’s favourite old-school practical jokers, Sherif Baher - a man who recently terrified hopeful actors on a film set by threatening to blow them up with real explosives. But when Sherif collapses during the interview and a doctor and the police arrive, it’s not clear whether the joke has gone too far.

Daisy next meets the brains behind some of the cruellest pranks in television history. Ramez Galal’s latest show was the highest rating in Egypt last year, in it unsuspecting and terrified celebrities are ambushed and taken hostage at gunpoint – it’s a very real fear in the country following the bloody revolution.

“That’s the worst thing I’ve ever seen,” says Daisy, after watching a beloved Egyptian actor get the Ramez treatment. “It’s like a snuff murder movie. Inhumane. Ramez can barely contain his laughter holding a gun to his head. He has to be nuts.”

But when she tries to interview the notorious prankster, Daisy finds herself and her terrified director locked in a room by him as he releases snakes, bats and an 8-foot python. Have Ramez and his team become immune to brutality or are they just exploiting a pitch-black gallows humour that Egyptians seem to enjoy?

In the end, the only option is to interview Ramez on a live Egyptian TV talk show.

Daisy heads to Abu Dhabi to participate in a huge home-grown reality TV hit that celebrates a very different aspect of Arab culture. Millions Poet, the Arab world’s equivalent of X Factor, features contestants reciting poetry in ancient Arabic for an audience of 70 million – Daisy will be the first westerner to take part.

Daisy meets the only woman ever to reach the finals of the competition – a veiled housewife from Saudi Arabia called Hissa Hilal. In 2010 Hissa recited a controversial poem about "ad hoc fatwas". As a result she received death threats as well as a prize of over £500,000 – money she used to help pay for her family home in Riyadh.

Daisy is offered an opportunity to perform her own poem and she visits Hissa in Riyadh, using her as her secret weapon to prepare for her big moment in the Arab spotlight.

“There's a passion and intensity to everything in this region,” says Daisy of her time in the Arab world. And signs of the revolution are everywhere here, not only on the streets but also on their television screens. And that makes for some explosive and extraordinary programmes”.

Episode 2 - India, Monday 24th June at 10pm

This week Daisy’s exploring India, a nation obsessed by the small screen - from hard-hitting talk shows to countless talent shows and soap operas. In a country of 1.2 billion people, where almost every household rich or poor has a television, there’s no lack of choice with a staggering 800 channels.

But India is caught in a titanic struggle between modernisation and ancient tradition – and it’s a battle that is being played out on the country’s television screens.

To get to the heart of this large and eclectic nation, Daisy is getting involved in some of its biggest TV shows.

From the oldest and most traditional art forms to Bollywood, dance is a huge part of Indian culture and Daisy manages to blag an audition for one of the region’s biggest dance shows, Dance Maharashtra Dance. After stunning the judges into silence with her freestyle dance moves, Daisy’s offered a guest spot on the show and sent straight into training with India’s answer to Louis Spence.

There she meets seven-year-old Jeet Das, who became an overnight sensation after wowing judges and audiences on Dance India Dance. It’s a fast-track to fame and fortune that leads thousands of hopeful child stars to audition each year. In a country ridden with poverty, these television shows offer more than just fifteen minutes of fame.

Daisy is introduced to a world of pain by the Warriors of Goja, a Sikh group who are bringing their form of martial arts, known as Gatka, to thrilled and appalled audiences on reality TV. From eating glass to being smashed with sledgehammers and even run over by cars, it’s not for the faint-hearted – and Daisy gets the chance to become the first ever female Goja Warrior as she joins them on stage for a stunt that would horrify British Health and Safety officials.

One of last year’s smash hits on Indian TV wasn’t a talent search or a scripted drama, it was Truth Alone Prevails, a no holds barred talk show tackling the biggest issues affecting Indian society, which has now been seen by an astonishing 400 million Indians

Daisy meets Bollywood legend Aamir Khan - India’s answer to George Clooney - who hosts the show, to find out why it strikes such a chord. They watch highlights from the first series, which included episodes on female foeticide, domestic violence, honour killings and child abuse. It’s particularly shocking in a country that likes to keep its issues behind closed doors.

And before Daisy leaves India she reveals her raunchy lady-of-the-night dance routine to the judges and audience of Dance Maharashtra Dance .

“I’ve come to India at what seems a pivotal moment and can see the critical role that television is playing in change here,” says Daisy. “There are two things that are going on here, there’s a celebration of life, this explosion of joy and happiness, the dance, the music, the energy. And at the same time, there’s a real questioning of truth, honesty, who the Indian people are, what they want for their future, their aspirations. It’s a perfect storm at the moment – and it’s all happening on television.”

Episode 1 - Brazil, Monday 17th June at 10pm

From Egyptian’s love of seeing terrified celebrities kidnapped at gunpoint to India’s dancing obsession and from Brazil’s desire for the body beautiful to South Korea’s gaming addiction, Daisy sees how societies – and particularly the roles of women - are brought into sharp relief by their TV.

In the first programme of the series, Daisy is in Brazil looking backstage as the country prepares to explode onto the world stage with the World Cup and Olympics in 2016 – and she finds extremes of television, from programmes objectifying and humiliating women to a bloody version of Crimewatch.

She goes behind the scenes of Brazil’s most revealing talent show, Miss Bum Bum, where young women go cheek-to-cheek to decide who has the best backside. Although shocking to her eyes, Daisy finds that Brazilians regard the programme as a harmless celebration of the female form.

Digging deeper, Daisy discovers a darker side to the froth and frivolity of Brazilian entertainment TV when she meets an ex-member of the ‘Panicats’ - a group of bikini-clad women who are subjected to what Daisy sees as degrading challenges in the name of TV entertainment.

Brazil has one of the highest crime rates in the world, as Daisy finds out as a live guest on Na Mira, a bloody version of Crimewatch. The programme is filled with shocking footage of dead bodies on pavements and buried corpses being pulled from the ground – all the more disturbing for being scheduled at lunchtime after kids’ cartoons.

Past TX Information

13 Jul 2013, 01:05
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