Held hostage by TVBy Lea Salonga
Philippine Daily Inquirer
The last weekend was quite an exciting one in Tinseltown, wasn’t it?
Not that I know very much about what exactly happened or how. I was held hostage by a viral throat infection (thank goodness it left almost as quickly as it came) that kept me in bed, sleeping more than anything else. Whatever I had scheduled had to be postponed to later dates, but thank goodness I didn’t have any singing to do. As much as I know how to sing when ill, it isn’t something I enjoy.
Normally, this is the time I like turning on my television set to see what’s going on in the world. By some strange cosmic occurrence, the signal strength of my cable provider was low, so I missed a lot of what was airing. From what I’ve been hearing since, it was probably good that I did.
Meltdown boosts ratings
By all accounts, there was scandal on TV, and on more than just one channel, surrounding quite a few of our more famous citizens. It does make me wonder which meltdown translated to higher ratings and, as a result, more revenue.
Local show biz is certainly no stranger to controversy and scandal. For as long as I can remember, on any of the gossip shows, there will be that one big bit of news… that huge revelation… that one riveting piece that will send everyone hurtling into the TV room to watch the story unfold.
Over the years, we have seen a lot of these. Murders. Suicides. Surprise pregnancies. Secret relationships revealed. Sudden, messy breakups. Cryptic explanations… the token reluctance to speak up, which ends in a full-blown admission, anyway, with all the ugly, gory, details.
As a viewer, I would sit, riveted as the promised stories came through one by one, virtual opening acts for the main event. The anticipation builds with each commercial break preceded by a “Susunod na!!!” (Ooh, I can’t wait… I can’t wait!!!)
But those were the days before reality television. Before “Survivor,” “The Bachelor” or “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” Before the Osbornes and the Kardashians. Before Big Brother let the world into his house. Before real people’s intimate lives became ratings fodder. That was when gossip shows were the only way to glimpse the more tawdry side of celebrity.
Now, it seems as if this type of programming—replete with cat fights and copious tears—has become commonplace. No longer the exclusive terrain of the weekly program, which made the whole “Susunod na” phenomenon that big a deal.
Last weekend as I lay sick, I felt as if the anticipated news of the hour was about to hold me at gunpoint. I was in no condition or mood to watch.
I’m not telling anyone to not air any one story; I do understand that in this business called show, we are all cogs in the wheels that keep turning. Networks must compete, shows must scoop one another. I get it, and it’s all good.
But as a viewer, I decided to not watch. No, really, I kept my TV off all weekend (well, there was that bad cable signal) so I missed what were purported to be interviews that people would be talking about for a while.
The thing is, as someone who, like the rest of the artistas that inhabit this same business space, I’d much rather not know what’s going on in their deeply private lives because, truly, it isn’t any of my business.
I don’t want to know whose lawyer advised which client what legal action to take. I don’t want to see mothers and daughters crying over parental disapproval of a relationship. I would probably shed tears if a favorite actor of mine decided to end it all, but I wouldn’t want to see photographs of the grisly scene (that’s not a memory I wish to associate with him or her). There are things I don’t want to know if it’s not my place to know. If I want my own privacy respected, I have to first respect everyone else’s.
When reports of those incidents come out in the papers, I skip them, opting instead for a favorite Op-Ed writer, or Lifestyle piece on the latest in theater. Or I read a concert or film review, a criticism on television programming, or a listing of the films of the day in the Entertainment section. Or I take the time to do a crossword puzzle and scan the comics.
On TV, I take in documentaries of great kings and queens, or find out how those great pyramids were constructed. I watch hours and hours of cartoons, or a movie I haven’t caught, or a favorite series.
What if I catch a colleague in a compromising position—worse, if that colleague also happens to be a friend? As tempting as it is to hear the media’s take on the situation, I’d turn off the TV. I don’t like being held hostage by programming, as if it was a terrorist.
I don’t negotiate with terrorists.
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