Long queue of hopefuls
A proliferation of reality television shows hints at the glossing over of standards, says Ayodeji Rotinwa
There is a virtual explosion of reality shows in Nigeria’s entertainment landscape. These shows, varying content and subjects of interest, range from family dance-offs to “treasure” hunts to social experiments of a group of people being cooped up in restricted space for months. We have, indeed, seen it all.
Perhaps, the viewers owe this “invasion” of reality TV shows to the advent of satellite television and, consequently, the widespread followership of international shows on its programme lists such as American Idol, The X Factor, America’s Next Top Model and Keeping up with the Kardashians.
Local content producers in Nigeria have sought to replicate some of these shows or, in some cases, bring the franchise to the country. This is ultimately with the aim of attracting the same dedication and followership its international counterparts enjoy. Thus far, this has not always been the case. If anything, a good number of these shows have been far off the mark.
First, in terms of stage production and management (for shows with live audiences), it is safe to say that Nigeria is still a few light years behind. One cannot but notice that international shows (on the other hand) are about the whole package (stage production/management being a crucial part of it) and they always strive to establish this from the off, sparing no cost in ensuring that even before there’s a star performance or any other notable highlight billed for the day, interest is already piqued by the sheer physical presence of the show alone. Half the battle is already won as viewers won’t change the channel anytime soon. Nigerian reality shows, however, have shown a clear lack of understanding of this or they would rather not be bothered with the details.
Second, as regards the reality shows that seek to unearth prodigious singing/acting talent, one wonders at the end of the day, after having followed the show, who was responsible for selecting the contestants! Some leave you thoroughly stumped as to why they were chosen, given the highly coveted “Yes” answer. You would also be forgiven if you assumed the “judges” find talent hard to recognise. A certain reality show sponsored by an alcohol manufacturing company comes to mind. The said judges don’t stop at coming up embarrassingly short with the mandate bestowed on them. In the past, most have been found to be uncouth, unprofessional, going as far as to ridicule and bash prospective contestants.
Third and perhaps most important, (and again this has to do with talent search-based reality shows) the products of these much vaunted reality shows hardly ever live up to advertisement. After weeks of performances, training, winners at the end of the day are left high and dry as it were and promises of being mega super stars become nothing but a distant memory. We do not see them being signed to major music labels, being nurtured or mentored or groomed further after the reality show cameras have stopped rolling. At the end of the day, the true intentions of sponsors and producers of these shows are questioned as to whether discovering talent was the aim.
Jon Ogah, an alumnus of a reality television competition, winner of the first season of Naija Sings confirmed this. “Reality shows in Nigeria are flawed not because of the management but because of the industrial system. The system affects the road to superstardom, hence you get a lot of stars who after reality shows, achieve nothing either due to the fact that the promises made to them were not fulfilled or because there was generally no follow through that is, you are handed your prize and abandoned,” he told.
Yes, Nigerians have jumped on the reality show bandwagon.
However, primetime entertainment can only be referred to, celebrated and appreciated as such, only if it is of top-notch, unquestionable quality. If content producers want to gain more mileage and be regarded as successful in every sense of the word, the aforementioned loose ends must be taken care of. They must go back to the drawing board and fashion out truly world-class extravaganzas that will stay long in memory.