By Jose A. Rodriguez
HAVANA TIMES — For almost two decades, public participation shows on Cuban TV had practically disappeared. Or they weren’t visually attractive enough (Sorpresa XL, Revelacion TV, etc.) or they didn’t capture the viewing audience’s attention because of their reductionist content (Encuentro con Clio).
They were put aside for one reason or another, because of over-used out-of-date formulas, or because of the hosts’ own conformity, being comfortable always doing the most basic.
However, over time, as a result of the Weekly package of audio visuals too, TV showmakers have recurred to using more modern visual techniques, to making better use of lights and stage and more “worldly” contents to rescue a genre which was always well-received by Cuban families.
Images of the competitions “Todo el mundo canta”, “Buscando el sonero” and “Adolfo Guzman”, which was dedicated to finding musical talent, “Para bailar”, where the art of dance was rewarded, or “Quien sabe?”, conceived to recognize general knowledge, still remain imprinted on the retinas of the oldest Cubans.
“La neurona intranquila” timidly began over five years ago, which brought people back to the small screen, via a combination of humor and knowledge, urging them to participate from their living rooms at home based on a well-thought out proposal from the very script, although it lacked the same visual power in the beginning.
The consolidation of this project made Cuban TV directors think about a variant of the same show but for intermediary level students (“La neurona juvenil”) and this opened the way for other kinds of shows.
The difference now is that instead of reducing proposals to the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television (ICRT), it has entrusted a commercial company like RTV to update the image on the TV screen.
Thanks to this initiative, which wasn’t cheap at all but was effective, Cuban TV has made a significant breakthrough with “Sonando en Cuba” and “Bailando en Cuba”, which paid a dignified tribute to their respective predecessors, although they were criticized in the beginning because they resembled foreign shows too much, which exist all over the world but with different names.
What is happening now is that a fever for public participation programs has taken over, and a new version of “Sorpresa XL” has been created, which is just as ineffective because of the time slot it was given (Saturday afternoons, on a not very traditional channel), “La ColmenaTV” and “Somos familila”, the latter is so comprehensive that nobody knows for sure what its objective is.
The Colmena show is for children, but it was put on a key time (Friday night at 8:30 PM) although it has good visual effects and the undeniable talent of the children who take part, singing, dancing and performing. However, it becomes repetitive, and there are only three programs on the air, with questions from the jurors (adults) trying to provoke nice responses from the contestants. In the majority of cases, this fails because the child doesn’t even understand what they are being asked, and then everything stops being funny.
With regard to “Somos familia”, like the name indicates, families take part in a competition which ranges from general knowledge questions to ironing clothes to shooting a goal.
It seems that any test is worth doing, it doesn’t matter whether it’s relevant or not.
It’s a known fact that participation shows have a large audience, but abusing this can exhaust TV viewers. Right now, there are many of them on Cuban airtime and from Wednesday to Sunday, there is always one on in prime times in the evening.
Generally-speaking, the handling of these shows meets the general standard for this kind of program, and as we’ve already said, visuals, camera shots, editing and sound are now of top quality, but it’s the same thing over and over again, just with different protagonists.
It would be bad not to have any shows of this type, but it’s also bad to overbear TV programming with them. The time comes when people get bored of so many contestants, juries and scores.
This is why I am putting my complaint out to those who make pertinent decisions, which is that they don’t forget the most important thing that needs to exist on any TV screen: BALANCE. Apart from specific TV channels like music, news, sports or film channels. General audience channels should have a bit of everything in the right amount, and not become loaded with one thing, like what is happening on Cubavision.
There’s no need to explain here that the TV set is an object of worship here in Cuba, where going out, as well as drilling a big hole into any pocket, is an invitation to test your patience and tolerance level because abuse, poor quality services and price alteration are commonplace.
Everything seems to point towards the fact that we are only in a situation because its summer, where it’s supposed that the most select is chosen, but if this is the idea of attractive TV for the majority, it seems to me that we are going a bit overboard.