In recent years the time I’ve spent watching television has diminished considerably. In (large) part this can be attributed to the fact I have become busier (with increased responsibility at work comes long hours, and both fitness and writing are at the more time consuming end of the hobby scale), but the other reason is it feels to me there are fewer ‘feel-good’ programmes to watch.
By ‘feel-good’ I don’t mean comedy, sitcoms or shows featuring cuddly-looking but rip-your-head-off-dangerous animals trekking across vast ice plains with their babies in tow (though I’m rather partial to the last example, David Attenborough being my absolute hero). I mean programmes that make you see your fellow men and women in a different way, helping you to better understand their motivations, strengths and weaknesses.
Such programmes challenge stereotypes and prejudices, providing insight into others’ lives that might not be possible any other way. They are also, in my opinion, a valuable medium through which to foster empathy, an emotion many people in today’s ‘me-first’ society struggle to connect with.
Examples of programmes I would include in this category are Secret Millionaire and Undercover Boss-both versions of the same premise, where rich senior level executives step out of their lives and into the lives of ‘ordinary people,’ enabling them to get a better understanding of the challenges they face before deciding how they can best offer help.
Two different but no less relevant examples are my current favourite programmes, Supersize vs. Superskinny and The Undateables, which happen to run concurrently on Tuesday nights. Being a psychology graduate I’m fascinated by the way people perceive one another, and these programmes bring to the fore the many facets of the human spirit.
In Supersize vs. Superskinny overweight and underweight people are paired up and taught to overcome their problems with food by swapping diets. It’s amazing to see how much their attitudes change over the course of their ‘treatment,’ and truly heartening to see the strength of the bonds they form as a result of stepping into one another’s shoes.
The Undateables shows that everyone not only deserves to but can find love if they look in the right places. All too often people with disabilities are written off as not being capable of having meaningful relationships, but for me this programme has successfully challenged that misperception and shown there’s someone out there for all of us if we simply try.
To the critics I’ll admit that to some extent these programmes are contrived, some may even say patronising, but they reach the masses in a way that other media may not always manage. Maybe I’m taking it a tad too far by saying this, but I believe that if we really let the messages of such programmes sink in, they can provide a platform from which we can better ourselves.
Right, that’s quite enough time spent discussing feel-good programmes. Time to get back to the petition to bring back Spooks…