Thursday, 12 February 2009

Quick hit: Frances Grant on Missing Pieces

Frances Grant, one of the Herald's TV reviewers, considers the scruples, or lack thereof, of new reality telly show Missing Pieces:
Family circumstances are so often complicated, messy affairs and that's why they are the eternal fodder of soaps and fictional dramas. But delving into such real life situation feels horribly like meddling in someone else's business.

Missing Pieces masquerades as feel-good telly helping out the desperate, who perhaps don't have the time and resources to do the research or hire help. The team are filmed taking a softly-softly, respectful approach to their mission and the whole show is presented as making dreams come true.

But this isn't the same as a surprise garden makeover. The potential for collateral damage, as old wounds are reopened, is huge. When people cut themselves off from their families, it is highly likely there is pain, anger and guilt involved.

In one of the show's most uncomfortable scenes, the heroic Noelene and her sons watched home video footage of the husband and father who abandoned them, frolicking with his new family. We really shouldn't have been there.
Should these storylines stay in the fictional lands of Soapdom, or are they appropriate fodder for our viewing pleasure?


stargazer said...

i guess one argument is that noelene has consented for us to watch that scene; presumably her sons have done as well. the latter raises the issue of how old the sons were, did they understand the full impact of giving consent, and might they regret it later in life? but for the adult in this situation, she's prepared to share. and sometimes sharing does help others.

it's hard to give a definitive answer on this, when there are many situations where it is appropriate and many where it wouldn't be.

Anna said...

I winced during that whole scene. It was a bit nasty of the show's producers to withhold the information about the dad leaving his first family and making no further contact - you could tell the camera was just hanging out for the daughter to ask an insensitive question (through no fault of her own). There may have been consent, but the whole thing was manipulated for the voyeuristic pleasure of the audience.

anna c said...

Yes, it's always the children in these that bothers me. Sometimes I find them distasteful, and it's sad when people can only get help they need by being on tv, but with adults I tend to let it go. And some people find being on tv cathartic or enjoyable (depending on the type of programme) and I'm okay with that.

The ones that really bother me are 'Brat Camp' and similar - there was one series a while back where a girl - who understandable problems as a result of abuse - was given the label 'hostile outsider'. I think these programmes are frequently abusive as it is - but showing them on tv is just plain wrong.

And even the seemingly harmless ones are not always immune. I saw an ep of a show where they knock down and rebuild the hous of a deserving family. I was watching this small child seeing the bulldozer go in, and whilst it was probably a good thing for the family, she was clearly distressed even though she was hiding it. It made me thoroughly uncomfortable - expecting her to be excited after, having already had much of her life turned upside down, watching her home demolished.

(I swear I don't spend as much time watching these shows as this comment implies.)