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Published on June 24th, 2011 | by bngr


Descent into Ethics

It’s an ubiquitous phenomenon of 21st Century television but not one that appears to have been consciously documented … until now.  The transformation of television programming from entertainment to ethics.  Allow me to elaborate:

Soap Opera

Pre-dating the reality era, soap operas have long since become a conduit for social awareness. Whether the storyline involes domestic abuse, homosexuality, or eating disorders, the end credits will have the support line to call for watching sufferers.


Not the full transfer of other genres but the comedy realm will always have the annual red nose day celebration, all for the good cause of aiding the developing world. But these are ethics light compared to other transformations.


Music telly used to be Legs & Co and MTV videos, even the early music talent shows were about talent, then came the X-Factor’s sob stories, fullfilling dead relatives’ dreams and giving hope to the underclasses.  Those sob story VTs are the difference between mainstream and morals.


Stir together reality TV posibility with socially implanted male ambition and the world of cooking morphed into a myriad of genres in the last decade, not least of which is the ethical end. From Jamie Oliver’s crusades for children the world over to eat well; and more social mobilisation for the lower classes through Jamie’s and Michael Roux’s televised eduction programmes; to Gordan Ramsey’s mission to stabilise small restaurant businesses throughout Britain and America.


Make-overs have been around a while but the ethical bent of late has made the make-over more hollistic. With Trinny and Suzzanah and Gok Wan, the mission is to improve overall wellbeing and confidence through image.  Not one to let the trend pass by, Gok Wan also brought the Jamie crusade model to fashion programming by starting a national schools programme to educate young people about body image, getting political backing along the way.


Up until this decade hypnotists were consigned to making people bark like dogs on stage in the basest form of entertainment. Such was the fate of Paul McKenna until he put on his ethics hat and used his talents to became a crusader for psychological healing. He started with a recorded series of miracle cures and went onto interactive programmes to help people lose weight and eat healthily. Taking a different angle, magician Derren Browne dabbled in ethics by producing a programme highlighting the deception of US faith healers.

Reality Drama

Most of the television mentioned up to now is generally reality based, but taking the pure reality shows, they’ve gone the soap opera route into social awareness, but on a more intense scale. Take the Celebrity Big Brother racism fiasco, and Jade Goody’s cancer saga.


Even those luxury goods that pay for the programmes you watch made the ethics jumps. Computer games used to suck your brain dry and waste your imagination, now they’re all about health, making you fit (Wii) and keeping you from getting Alzheimers (Nintento braintraining). The yogurt, once a sugary dairy treat, has become a gastro digestive aid improving your physical being on the inside and out.

All this, and we haven’t even mentioned the biggest ethics fad of the noughties: the environment. That’s a whole other post.

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