|David Brown is a language consultant and journalist, regularly covering stories in Africa, Asia & the Middle East. He has lived in Finland for 10 years.|
According to my TV guide, there are at least five programmes showing on TV this week that feature Finnish celebrities, and another six featuring those from the USA. No doubt you have seen a couple of these shows – so-called celebrities cooking dinners for each other, ice skating, diving into swimming pools or even cleaning up someone’s summer cottage.
They are sad, desperate television from producers devoid of either the money or imagination to make anything more inspired.
Many of these concepts come from countries where celebrities abound, and where the programmes benefit from some kind of star power as a result. A list of American Idol judges includes names like Jennifer Lopez, Mariah Carey and Aerosmith’s Steve Tyler. Finland’s version has featured Kim Kuusi, who wrote the 1975 Finnish entry to the Eurovision Song Contest, and Tommi Liimatainen, band manager to several acts I’ve never heard of.
It gets worse. Most of the Finnish reality shows feature people famous only for being in reality shows. The likes of Teuvo Loman and Janne Kataja boasted CVs rich in modelling gigs and local theatre productions before suddenly finding the glittering world of television needed them.
The reason Finnish TV needs D-list celebrities is because there are only about 12 A-list celebrities in Finland, and none of them are desperate enough to accept money for judging a skating contest. A diving contest having an ex-stylist as a judge is almost as odd as Idol having judges who cannot sing, something that happens so often in Finland that it seems to be deliberate irony.
The nadir of reality TV was reached this year when assorted nobodies gathered for a talkoot, or working bee. To be fair, most of the participants grimaced through their 15 minutes of infamy with expressions usually seen only by dentists, banked their pay checks and relaxed in the knowledge that no one at all was watching.
And then there is Vain Elämä, in which fading pop stars sob ecstatically as other fading pop stars torture their songs within an inch of their lives.
This is not Finland’s problem alone – the same pattern is repeated in all small countries, where there simply are not enough ‘real’ celebrities to go around. New Zealand’s version of Top Model was hosted by a “supermodel” whose career amounted to a series of soap powder commercials.
It would be nice to think that Finland is far enough from the bright lights of London and LA to safely ignore the TV trends of elsewhere, or at least to recognise that what works in the US cannot always be replicated here. Finland needs to develop its own TV concepts, and be more than a little cautious about blindly swallowing whatever format is being sold elsewhere.
Given the only possible reason to watch most reality TV is to experience the sickening sense of horror that comes with witnessing a car accident, surely most people have something better to do?
Well, in winter, perhaps we don’t.