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socialist melodramaticism

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You’ve heard about what is going on in Venezuela with the tv stations, yes? (The link there is not an endorsement… Too tired to sift through to find a fair report…) But did you notice this?

Radio Caracas’ soap operas such as The Ex and My Cousin Ciela are popular, regularly attracting more than 50 per cent of Venezuelan viewers.

Two opinion polls have shown that more than 70 per cent of Venezuelans, including many of Mr Chávez’s own supporters, are opposed to the decision not to renew the licence. Arturo Sarm-iento, a Caracas businessman who runs Telecaribe, an independent regional television station, and supports the government’s policy, admits the measure will “have a huge political cost”.


A public-service channel, Venezuelan Social Television (Teves), is to replace RCTV. […] Elsewhere in the world, with few exceptions public-service stations have not won a sterling reputation for slick popular programming. Lil Rodriguez, the channel’s new president, hardly encouraged optimism when she announced last week that “we don’t intend to make Teves really boring”.

Teves is planning to develop its own soap opera based on the lives of Simón Bolívar, Venezuela’s nat-ional hero, and Manuela Sáenz, one of his lovers, but until that is ready viewers will have to make do with a range of cooking, travel, music, opinion and other documentary shows, as well as an opinion programme.

One hell of an article, there waiting for someone to scoot down to Caracas and write, about the emergence of a new sector of socialist mass aesthetic form. I’d for one would love to know what comes of it, and what goes into it…

Here’s the question: say you were a socialist head of state of wherever you currently live, and had decided to pull network X off of the air and replace it with Your Own Social Television Network. What programming would you schedule as not to make it “really boring”? Mine would feature, of course, lots of ads without products, but I’m still thinking about what would provide the filler stuff, the actual shows, that folks would skip over with their TiVos to get back to the publicités

Written by adswithoutproducts

May 27, 2007 at 7:05 pm

6 Responses

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  1. Actually existing *reality* television. That is, interviews with Venezuelan workers, shopkeepers, artists, etc., portraits of their lives. Use of experimental documentary techniques to allow for self-representation.

    And: detournements of American, (or, perhaps, Latin American) television–like, *really* Desperate Housewives. *Lost* as the attempt to form a political collective, etc. Which means you need at least one Brecht. . .

    But maybe this would all be boring. How about a game show: Wheel of Economic Crisis. . .

    btw, this show–Now-Time Venezuela–was at the Berkeley Art Museum last year:

    And here’s an article about the curator’s resignation as a result of the exhibition. I’m not sure if the show went on anywhere, or what’s available in the way of documentation.


    Jasper B

    May 28, 2007 at 12:47 pm

  2. Those are good suggestions.

    Hey, through that first link:

    ” This suggests the themes of “social protagonism” and participation by individuals that are central to the popular movement that has put the Chávez government in power.”

    Wow! What is “social protagonism”? What a fantastic term!


    June 4, 2007 at 10:17 am

  3. Well, I’d give radical filmmaker Peter Watkins a show where he has free reign to explore any topic in one-hour, American Experience-style films. I’d schedule a 24-hr block of programming for the duration of the May 68 anniversary in which we ‘document’ the ‘events’ through fiction (think: Battle of Algiers). I would commission a 16-part series called “Communism,” like Ken Burns’ Baseball (only better). Also, I’d try to get reruns of Arrested Development and Freaks and Geeks as proof that capitalism doesn’t reward quality.

    Dave M

    June 11, 2007 at 1:04 am

  4. Interesting ideas, Dave. Any ideas for fictional stuff (other than the killed off American imports?)


    June 11, 2007 at 3:17 pm

  5. some historical epics:

    “Inessa,” a season-long miniseries told from the point of view of Lenin’s lover (and fellow radical) Inessa Armand. Playing up the rumors of a longstanding torrid affair, of course, but in the service of Communism.

    also, a film of the life of György Dózsa and the peasant revolt he led (an iconography used extensively by the Hungarian Communist regime).

    I wish I had more ideas for multiple-season shows. perhaps a series that follows 5 fictional dollars from a worker being paid for a crop, to the storeowner he buys a machine from, to the factory owner, who pays his raw materials supplier 1 dollar, his worker 1 dollar, and spends the rest on jewelry for his wife. well, that doesn’t really sound like a series, either; I’ll get back to you.

    Dave M

    June 11, 2007 at 10:52 pm

  6. I meant Romanian, not Hungarian (Dózsa was Transylvanian), though there are monuments to him in Budapest among other places.

    Dave M

    June 11, 2007 at 10:57 pm

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