As we have reached the end of 2017, I thought it would be a good idea to do a recap on the programmes that were broadcast by Greek television, a detailed review of the typology and quality of the televised product that was “served” to the Greek audience. As I was thinking what kind of entertainment programmes, TV series, reality shows, talent shows etc. I watched, what was new that caught my interest, what I would like to see vanished in a magical way, I realized that in 2017 Greek television really went backwards by decades! To be accurate, the typology of the TV programmes resembled that of the 1990s and the 2000s.
Type No 1: Cooking Shows
During the year of 2017, there was an overflow of cooking programmes (2 or 3 on some TV channels) even of cooking TV games which attracted the viewers’ interest so much that the viewer ratings reached very high levels. The question is: How many programmes of such a format can really fit on Greek TV? The cooking show is a trend that started at the end of the 2000’s, having as a pioneer the first edition of the well-known Master Chef, which became a television “hit”. Seven years later, having suffered from the severe economic crisis and the lack of original concepts, there is no Greek TV channel without a cooking show or a show without a cook! And the highlight is: many TV channels choose to fill their after-lunch slots with episodes full of pots and pans and, even more, some others are about to re-launch the project of Master Chef.
Type No 2: Music and Talent Shows
How many talents can Greece and the “small screen” afford? It was in 2002 when the private TV channel “Antenna” started broadcasting the first season of the wannabe singers’ talent show entitled Fame Story. At that time, no one could have imagined what the sequel would be: Fame Story 2,3,4, Super Idol, Dream Show the music, X Factor… And if you think that this was the end of such shows, you are completely wrong! Since 2015, this kind of talent shows has reappeared on Greek TV. But the most remarkable fact is that these shows seem to be “contagious” and they are spread from one channel to the next. The Voice of Greece, Rising Star, X Factor are back in order to fill the gaps in the entertainment slot (that derived from the 7-year financial crisis in Greece) as a low-cost programme in an attempt to gain high audience ratings.
Type No 3: TV Game Show
The “re-invasion” of “refurbished” TV game shows that culminated during the 90s is a characteristic of a “tired” television format. Old concepts that flourished 20 or 25 years ago are back on the TV sets. Why is that? Why do the TV channels’ programme makers not find new attractive formats that can really appeal to the viewers and can give a notion of freshness in Greek television? Why don’t they try new recipes for the entertainment section?
Type No 4: Re-runs of previous TV series
What happened with the production of new TV series? Although during the last years directors and script writers have been engaged in the production of Greek and Greek-Cypriot (of origin) TV series, the TV landscape is full of repetitions of previous series that had made big splash at the time of their first showing. The impressive thing is that these repetitions gain higher shares in the audiovisual measurements charts than the shares of the “new entries”. This proves that there is a poverty of imaginative ideas, lack of inspiration and “smart” dialogues.
Type No 5: The come-back of low-quality entertainment programmes and “gossip TV shows”
It seemed that the golden era of gossip TV (or the “social comment TV shows” as they are widely known in Greece) had disappeared for good. Gossip programmes that focused on the private lives of the celebrities (their marriages, pregnancies, separations, other family matters, paparazzi photos and other events) had been put aside until 2016 when they made an impressive come back. From the early morning slot until late night, the majority of the nationwide private TV stations dedicate much of their time to programmes dealing with Greek showbiz news. Between commercials about various heterogeneous products that pop-up during these programmes, there are panels of discussants commenting on unsavoury issues regarding details of the lives of the “rich and famous” of Greece.
Type No 6: Reality Shows
And last but not least, the phenomenon of Greek TV, the “ultimate success of the year”, a television phenomenon, which not only has no historical precedent in our country but tends to be an international case study, the so-called The Survivor (a reality show where a group of contestants are stranded in a remote location with no facilities, trying to survive).
The Survivor project is not just “the success of the year 2017”, but there is no programme in the history of private television in Greece (which was launched in November 1989) that managed to reach such a peak of the audiovisual ratings and be the first on the list of top-rated programmes for the last 28 years.
Although this is the second version of Survivor appearing on Greek TV, the production company (of Turkish origin) and the private TV station SKAI succeeded in creating a “super weapon” that broke all the ratings of the audiovisual measurement climax, making even the production company not believe this unexpected triumph. Representative of that is the fact that an average of 2.5 million viewers (in a country of 10.75 million inhabitants) watched The Survivor every night for almost a period of 6 months, from February 2017 until July 2017. Such high audience TV shares are very rare on Greek TV and are marked once or twice a year i.e. when the National Football Team play or during the final of the Eurovision contest. And it is worth to mention that The Survivor occupied 3 hours of every night’s prime time slot.
What makes this reality show an international case study is the fact that the same project did not reach similar ratings anywhere in the world, where it was broadcast, even in the United States when it was first launched in 2000. Believe it or not, there is no other example worldwide of a TV product having been watched by the 2/3 of the viewers on a daily basis. And that is a world record for Greek TV!
In order to realize the magnitude of the success, even the parent production company assigned its staff to find the component of the “Greek Survivor Success” that turned out to be the TV phenomenon of the year.
Many explanations arose:
- One of them is that Greek Television is characterized by a lack of interesting programmes. As a result, the audience does not have any other choice, so it ends up watching that kind of reality shows.
- Others support that as The Survivor had been absent from Greek television for 15 years, the 2nd incarnation reached high ratings due to the fact that many young people – new viewers – were addicted to this “new entry” as they found themselves having common characteristics with the contestants, considering them as if they were their next-door neighbors.
- Other people believe that the survival tests the contestants go through during the game appeal to the viewers. And due to the fact that they are obliged to go through these tests, which have a small degree of difficulty, the majority of the viewers identifies with the contestants and imagine themselves being in the contestants’ shoes. And the main thought that comes to viewers’ minds is that this procedure is a very easy way to reach the coveted trophy.
- Finally, others claim that they are attracted to the programme because they enjoy the gossip that finds a fertile ground on the programme. As the contestants reveal their real characters, they like or dislike one another, are divided into smaller groups according to their interests. This aspect of the reality show is what catapults The Survivor high into the audience measurement ratings.
No matter what from the aforementioned arguments is valid (maybe all of them), the conclusion is that the “Survivor phenomenon” cannot be explained through simple television terms. All the people who are engaged in the audiovisual field agree on the following argument: that the unprecedented resonance of the show in a paradoxical way is related to the economic crisis and, in particular, to our collective mentality in Greece.
I personally believe that the unexpected success of this type of reality programme derives from the severe economic situation in Greece and the bad psychological condition of the Greek people. If we lived in times of prosperity and economic growth, it would seem paranoid to watch a group of young contestants every night, fighting until the final fall to eat a croissant and not just break out in laughter. Might the Greek audience potentially feel unconsciously satisfied with the fact that, unlike the survivors, it does not have to roll in the mud and it does not (yet) face the threat of eating coconuts only? Does that make us (viewers) feel better, seeing on our TV sets other people living in worse conditions than our everyday life situation? And does this phenomenon make it easier for the television programme producers and makers to stick to old-fashioned projects instead of moving forward?
Katerina Serafeim holds a PhD in Journalism and Mass Media, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, and is a journalist in the Press Office of the Regional Local Government of Central Macedonia,Greece. She can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org