Coming to ITV in 2020, in production in Australia as I write (break a leg David and Chris) a show described as mad in the US press after its first season debut on Fox. The Masked Singer is a Korean Format from my friends at MBC.Celebrities don masks and perform in their own voices to the ubiquitous panel of judges. The performers are paired off and the loser is eliminated and of course, unmasked. Given some of the performers are not known for their singing this could be dubbed cruelly as a murder mystery given some of the attempts are “pitchy”. That said like the best of entertainment and in the works of one of the great entertainment producers of her generation the late Jane McNaught “you have to be able to see the joke.” Or in other words don’t take it too seriously, enjoy it as a parlour game but play to win. I can’t wait to see what Australia makes of it, and I really do hope the UK version has Eamonn and Ruth masked as beauty and the beast.
Jonathan GlazierExecutive Producer & Director, Writer and Creatorformer BBC head of format entertainment.
The Great Hack is a superb watch, compelling even if you forget the implications of the story because the characters are fascinating. In particular, Brittany Kaiser, why does a Bernie Saunders voting, former green peace advocate and brilliant woman end up working for the Trump campaign through Cambridge Analytica? Was she seduced by the anarchy and power of the undoubtedly charismatic Steve Bannon, or was it her family’s dire financial circumstances? This is something the film doesn’t address in any depth. Nor does it look at how all the leading players at Cambridge Analytica have simply started up precisely the same kind of company after dissolving CA. Although we do get the impression they filed for bankruptcy to avoid their legal responsibilities. The money and power screams of an Illuminati conspiracy theory. All that said this is a must-watch show, brilliantly made. Chilling imagery of our data being collected and shots of those “innocent” quizzes we have all clicked on Facebook bring home the reality of data collection. There’s one caveat I’d add, who did anything wrong? Sure the ownership of our own data is something we should all debate. But all recent elections target the swing vote. All parties seek out the “persuadables“, why is it so shocking and called election influencing when it’s been happening since the mid-’50s. Once upon a time, it was Mr Murdoch who was the alleged kingmaker. Yes, the stories used today to target the swing voters are despicable, mostly false but very effective, why are we so surprised? I think the most insidious thought being the platforms we use to post cute cats are the ones being used to split society apart and the fact that Russia and other foreign powers are using the same techniques to subvert our democracy. Vice wrote an excellent review here, saying the great hack mostly missed the point. That point being, we are entering into surveillance capitalism, but that’s been the case for years, the powerful have been keeping the masses in their place using every trick in the book. Supermarkets have been employing psychologists for years placing impulse buys in precisely the right place in the store etc. The infamous “torches of freedom” smoking campaigns designed to get women to equate smoking with their emancipation in the late 1920s were an example of early manipulation by large wealthy corporations using Edward Bernays and the psychoanalyst A.A. Brill. So while it is a must-see “The Great Hack” is really about the modern-day techniques being used today, the fact that it’s got so much easier to farm data thanks to the large internet corporations. I think we all half expect our governments to hold data about us, perhaps our banks and medical institutions, suddenly we discover a bunch of college kids with an app have 100 times the data, and we gave it up ourselves so easily is a shock. If I am honest, I don’t know why we actually give our trust so easily to governments, medical institutions and of all places banks.
The last Alaskans is a remarkable series. We all know the pain of getting quiet reserved people to talk on camera. This is where this series really succeeds for me. Seeing these people, particularly the men open up in such an emotional way is heartwarming. These are the last 8 or 9 families living in the Alaskan wilderness, once the last children of the current permit holders die, no more permits will be issued. Contrary to popular belief is is possible to fail capturing spectacular scenery, this series does not fail, it is beautifully shot. The drone shots are lovely and the IV and cabin interiors take you right into their lives.
For me though it’s the story telling that succeeds so well and that centres on relationships. The relationships within the families and the families relationship to nature. I am no supporter of hunting or trapping, this show does help square some of those issues. For these families it is about survival and actually their relationship with nature actually does help preserve it, probably much more than most non hunters. But don’t judge me take a look at this gem of a show.
As love Island breaks ratings records in the uk it’s interesting to see the US version struggling. Is Love Island one of the many ideas that just doesn’t translate? And why is that? Certainly the US VO lacks the wit and charm of Ian’s fantastic effort here. Also the US version to me feels more like unscripted drama, or a game show with people really chasing fame at any cost. The UK version actually feels more authentic, yes I did say that! But the inmates actually seem to be searching for relationships while acknowledging the Love Island “experience.”
All this against series 2 of the rebooted Temptation Island producing solid ratings. I was at FOX for the first outing but had left by the time of the UK version. I am fascinated by cultural differences particularly between countries that share language and seemingly so many other touch points. Yet still there are major differences that polarise our cultures. It highlights the fact that cultural differences are random and often hidden. A common language helps us identify and understand. But it also shows just how much care is required when language is also a barrier.