Tag Archives: Martin & Olly

Halloween comes early and starts a war

Nobody told me. 

Nobody stepped up and actually said in as many words that, when you start a blog, you have to keep adding to it all the time; you can’t expect people to enjoy yesterday’s entry sooooo much that they’re prepared to read it every day for the next week, and maybe even two weeks, while you get your strength back.

Oh really?

In light of this, it’s possible that blog-writing may suck. I haven’t quite decided.

Anyway, yesterday I was in Vegas. Drove there in the morning, stayed three hours, drove back again. You do things like that when you’re a corporate lapdog and have no mind of your own. Reason for trip: to record interviews at the annual Halloween expo, a tradeshow for manufacturers of inflatable pumpkins, large piles of skulls ($79.99 each wholesale), Obi Wan Kenobi hooded robes, werewolf mannequins that shake as if they’re going over a cattle grid, gay alien masks (the latest thing!), and, for some reason I can’t put a finger on, paper-plates with pictures of steam trains on them. I even lay in a coffin that, once the lid was shut, jerked and jumped around with all kinds of noises to stimulate the fun of being buried alive, confirming what I’d already suspected: that being buried alive gives you a horrendous five-Advil headache.

The result of this torture will appear on Marketplace’s PM show at some point. Dunno when exactly. Probably around Halloween. Call me psychic.  

It wasn’t a bad show. In fact, some of the stuff on sale was v. inventive. The motorbike made completely out of bones, with a skeleton driver, was especially good.  Useless, but good. All the same, I believe the Halloween Expo was less than a stellar attraction this year.

Almost everyone I met complained about the lack of traffic. Because of a poor economy and pesky daylight savings, customers had stayed away by the busload, they said. And sure enough, when I got there the Sands Convention & Expo Center was almost empty. Business was dead. 

But of course it was. It’s  a Halloween show. What did they expect?

Others were more bold. They claimed corporate greed was behind the lull. (Rest assured, this is going to die out rapidly in the coming months and years.  The revolution hasn’t even started yet, but the American people are back in the driver’s seat and the fat cats are going to get mown down in the rush for equality and fairness.) What had been an uber-successful event in previous years was, this time, split by the organizers into three separate trade shows, no doubt thinking they’d cover more bases that way and make more money. The result, however, according to traders on the floor at least, was that one of the shows was crowded and very successful, and the other two tanked. Not surprisingly, they seemed deeply unhappy about this.

I don’t know if this is true, by the way, that it was all due to greed. But let’s just say it was. Because reasoned argument on a Monday morning is hard! It was at least worth quizzing management about it, I thought. That’s only fair, right?

But so embarrassed were they, I guess, by the lack of attendees that they a) refused to put up a spokesman, b) wanted to know in advance what the questions were, and c) would only deliver their answers from head office by phone. By phone, though.

Needless to say, I wasn’t standing for that! Oh no. I’m not getting up at 5AM to go to their wretched horror show in Las Vegas, merely to be fobbed off with interviews by phone. Result: I put my foot down, we had an argument, and I won, as the guy who’s holding the microphone and gleefully recording every word of it generally does. In the end they spoke to me. By which time, I was so exhausted that I totally forgot to ask them about the attendance figures, and stuck to general stuff that I probably won’t even play on the radio.  Ho-hum.

Trade-shows, and arguments, are always exhausting. But this one especially so. Five hours later I got home tired. Very tired. So tired that I just wanted to flop down in front of the TV and watch something entertaining. 

Alas, that wasn’t to be. I ended up with Martin & Olly again, that silly new adventure travel program. (See Friday’s post.) Strangely, it’s not as uninteresting or as bloated as the clips on YouTube originally suggested, so maybe there’s hope for it yet. All shows need time to find their feet. Having said that, it was formulaic and boring enough to send me to bed an hour earlier than planned. Strikes me, the network may have come up with a useful and practical alternative to daylight savings time here. Air this show every night at 10PM. That’ll put the whole nation to sleep so much faster, and maybe even ensure higher attendance at next year’s Halloween expo.

TV Swami, he still say NO to M & O.

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Homer Simpson’s favorite travel show?

Clips are surfacing on YouTube – mainly because they were posted there by the network – of a new “adventure travel” show set in Peru, called Martin & Olly.

It’s one of those “let’s put these guys in the jungle and make it seem like they’re alone and in peril” kinds of deals, filled with shaky camera work and night-vision shots where tree-branches thrash the lens and people’s eyes are pearls in the darkness, in an attempt to give it at least the appearance of being real and dangerous and like the hosts are out there on their own and not being dogged by a crew of up to five people every step of the way. 

Not surprisingly, some youtubers aren’t convinced. Their comments on the “reality” of the show are less than forgiving, suggesting that the whole thing is set up and therefore “fiction”, forcing the network to jump in and write its own comments defending the series before it’s even hit the screen.

Problem is – and I speak as someone who’s been down this path and knows – these shows can almost never be authentic. Travel programs are by their very nature phony, and it’s the viewers’ fault. They’re idle layabouts. Fact. They can’t be bothered to travel into dangerous jungles themselves; they prefer to stay at h0me and let a TV network do it for them, Not only that but they then have the nerve to insist that the experience should feel real, like they’re walking in the host’s shoes. Jeez.

Well, to accomplish this is not easy, I need hardly tell you. 

From day one the producers are in a pickle. If the show were actually real and shot that way, it would look and sound crap, like Blair Witch mixed with a home skateboarding video. So they have to cheat. For the greater good, they compromise. They go to enormous lengths to make sure the pictures and sound, especially the sound, are vivid and professional. And the only way to do that is to have a full production crew “lost” in the jungle too. Which is where things get tricky. 

Example: in one scene, the explorers – that’s what M and O are, apparently, “explorers” –  suspect they’re being followed through the undergrowth by a mysterious stranger. Oh, and guess what, they are! Otherwise why mention or show that guy we can see lurking in the bushes? 

He comes to their camp in the night – cue night-vision cameras – and tells them in a series of easy-to-read captions that he was about to skin them alive for straying into his territory. Oh, right. Yeah, sure he was. For a start, he’s outnumbered, not only by the hosts but by their entire crew. Trust me, he wasn’t laying a finger on anyone.  But also, my experience in this genre has taught me that natives are better actors than even the host has to be. They’re completely unselfconscious when it comes to filming. All you have to do is tell them, “Walk into shot and start talking,” and have your fixer slip them a couple of bucks beforehand for their trouble, and suddenly they’re Tom Hanks, slick, word-perfect, unshakable. 

Their performance seems incredibly genuine, it’s amazing, but it is a performance, and because it is, somehow, by some invisible means, let’s call it intuition, the viewer smells a rat. Why? Because that’s not how life goes. The cameras might, might,  just happen to catch such a dangerous incident once, perhaps twice over the course of a series, but in every show?Excitement is fickle. It tends to be sporadic and seldom turns up to order.  You think those ice road truckers live in terror of their eighteen-wheelers disappearing through cracked ice into the ocean every single week? Come on!

These are early days, but Martin & Olly feels like old-style travel TV.  The kind of TV that I’d like to think is dying out slowly. Overproduced and vacuous, overplanned and clunky, hosted by dull, two-dimensional non-personalities stuck in inauthentic situations played as real. Pretend dressed up as genuine, in other words, on the premise that we are dimwits and will believe whatever we’re shown because, hey, it’s on TV, right? And TV is god, it never lies. 

Basically, Martin & Olly is the kind of travel show that Homer Simpson would love.

I like things to succeed, and so I hope the series is significantly better than the clips the network stuck on YouTube. But I won’t be setting my TiVo for it.

Rating for Martin & Olly: Two magic carpets out of five.

TV Swami – he say NO.

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