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AnalysisSeptember 17, 2015

Television: Should We Ban the Snackable? Family First Launches Their Own Online Video Platform

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Everyone is churning out snackable video content these days, from SCOUT in 60 Seconds leading 3 News every night, to TVNZ announcing that short entertainment videos will be available on demand by the end of the year. Feels like we could be at snack saturation point – something which may have been confirmed with the launch of Family First’s own online television channel. 

“Ever gone to watch TV and come away uninspired?” a lewd Family First monkey wearing a shirt and no pants asks a stressed out woman standing in the kitchen. “What if it was packed full of genuinely good viewing? Stuff you knew was good for the family?” The monkey’s tail flicks around its naked genital region horrendously.

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It’s time to “feel good about the world” again, as demonstrated by a white nuclear family sitting down to watch television together. The Dad joins them, hurriedly kicking a DVD under the couch. Probably his own private copy of a gay, polyamorous, pornographic adaptation of Into the River. You won’t be needing that anymore, mate.

“You don’t need a cheeky monkey to tell you that this is a good idea” the perverted still-naked simian beams as the Dad tries to figure out how to get his porno DVD back from under the couch in the dead of the night. Well, cheeky monkey, what content makes this such an irrefutably good idea? What are these alternative eye-snacks that Family First are providing the young and hungry?

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What wide-eyed six year old wouldn’t want to sit down with their toys and watch a solid 47 minutes of Declaring the War on Binge Drinking Culture, a seminar that looks and sounds like it has been filmed on a PS2 Eye Toy? Dr Albert Makary is primarily concerned with how teenage girls can drink too much, get “taken advantage of” (raped) and can’t remember “who they slept with” (were raped by). A more dangerous, victim-blaming perspective than anything I’ve ever seen on Grand Theft Auto.

I skim past My Mummy’s a Criminal and the sequel My Mummy’s on a Mission, stopping briefly to watch the start of this throwback powerpoint prezzo from roughly 1985.

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But that’s not where the true nutritious snackage lies. The real fibre is in the educational video series called Family Matters, hosted by the commander-in-chief Bob McCroskie. Episode one is about how white girls don’t have sex, or something. He’s mad about the vaccine Gardasil, explaining that HPV is a “consequence of behaviour” rather than something that needs to be prevented beforehand. I’ll sum it up: punish the damn strumpets because it’s their fault for having sex.

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The second episode encapsulates the tired mission of the #lookup campaign, but somehow makes it even more boring. Screens are making us obese, tired and antisocial. But it’s not all bad – you can at least watch Family Matters on any device.

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What other issues does this family-friendly series tackle? There’s the euthanasia debate, fretting about how people will start killing themselves when they get stressed as work; panic about how abstinence is no longer being taught to children in schools; and the eternal classic: that marriage should remain between one man and one woman. A giant pair of scissors representing “redefining marriage” cuts through “the fabric of society”. It’s a bit on the nose for my taste.

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Kept behind the paywall of wonder, I watched the trailer for a show called Ask Chris, where our titular host talks through people’s problems in the studio. “Get real with the real issues” says Chris, as a montage shows us some of the things in-store, “I blame the parents entirely – and I also blame society” says an overly-jovial man on the Wynyard Quarter overbridge. I have something to ask Chris – why is your cameraman eight years old? I blame the parents… and I also blame society.

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Not Your Average Success Story is a series of deeply emotional, deeply vague videos. A man is talking about being stuck in a storm, I can’t tell if he’s being literal or figurative. If only there was some clear labeling like those society-slicing scissors from earlier. “You’re gonna cry yourself to sleep, you’re going to soak the pillow…” a fake Sheryl Crow whines in the background. “I learned the theology of tears” his disembodied voice says, as a shadowy figure strolls along the beach in black and white. There are so many conventions telling me to be irrevocably saddened that I don’t have the energy left to figure out what anyone is actually talking about.

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In what is surely a one-off special, the show Surprised by an Angel recounts the bizarre encounter with a possibly supernatural being. A mother describes how, with her child choking and no local doctors available (up to 111?), she was saved by an old man in a silver suit. He stroked the boy’s hair, muttered in another language, and left as breezily as he had arrived. The boy was saved, and the man never even gave his name. The silver suit could have been a clue. I’m hooked, gimme more Family First.

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The children’s content outside of euthanasia debates and binge drinking analysis is limited. A cartoon called Zoobee Zoo features the nudey monkey who welcomed us into this magical place in the first place. He or she has lost their ball, and asks some sort of Kea for help finding it. “We’ll ask the fish for your ball back, it’ll be easy” the bird says. The monkey leans towards the water to find his fish friend. The video stops, just as we are about to go down… into the river. Typical.

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Keep going!