When it comes to television programs on mainstream TV channels in Malaysia, it can only be described as a job put in the hands of non-professionals with nil in the commonsense department. For starters, prime time television around 6pm to about 10pm (give or take) is filled with talk shows, game shows, food shows and repeats of old serials from the 1990s, interspersed with news bulletins (in 4 languages). They’re not very big on really educational documentary stuff, although some local documentaries, mainly those in Chinese on cultural topics are worth viewing. Still, there is a sprinkling of interesting local and foreign films on some days in the week that I try to watch regularly on prime time telly.
All 6 TV channels viewed by anyone without requiring a subscription or special electronic link provided by Telecom Malaysia, like Unifi, appear planned to encourage most viewers to save electricity by shutting down their TVs, or view a good DVD instead.
News bulletins are particularly unexciting and extremely predictable. The usual menu served consists of a large portion of local crimes, criminal trials, traffic accidents,government announcements, and all praise for the current administration. The foreign news is served in superficial snippets where speeches and public statements by world leaders and other interviewees are cut-short, losing the context of what is said. The overvoice of a newscaster usually paraphrases these speeches in narration. This normally happens when the statement made is in a foreign language or even in a language most viewers may understand. Saying that, the same is often done to local speakers who speak locally understandable languages.
The sports news is treated as entertainment, but is at times inverted, seemingly aimed at promoting particular personalities over others, especially when it comes to Malaysian sports celebrities.
To increase annoyance, every program aired, including the news bulletins are broken up by numerous advertisements. A tactic to lengthen a short program to fill its time slot. The advert break is apparently also used to insert scene cuts in the movie shown. These cuts, some times, alters the storyline making complete nonsense of the plot. A recent fade hitting local television is to end an already interrupted program, 5 -10 minutes earlier. This gap gives way to public announcements, more advertisements and occasionally, music fillers.
It is quite amusing to watch the trailers of movies and tele-novella advertised, particularly the Asian ones. A film might be titled, something like, ” Happy Family”, for instance, and the first scene in the trailer will be one of men in a fist fight, women screaming or being beaten up, or children crying. How happy a family! May be they enjoy a daily brawl.
Violence seems to obsess these broadcasters, since sex is often restricted. However, the prime time slot includes a number of programs or movies needing parental guidance for those under 13 or 18 years old. Illogically, cartoons and other programs in the U class are pushed into the late night slot, televised at 12-midnight or 1 am. Would I allow my children under 12 to stay up watching TV at that hour? Definitely not, it’s bad for their health! Even teens should be in bed by 11pm.
Certain good documentaries, cookery shows and other informative and educational programs are aired in the daytime when most people are either at work or study. Lucky home-makers may watch these programs, but most have to see to their housework and other daily chores. This means that fewer viewers have any time to watch good programs on TV as prime time television is often rubbish!
Another annoyance is when time slots for programs I’ve patiently waited for all week to watch are arbitrarily altered or taken off without any notice or for no obvious reason, and replaced with some boring or substandard entertainment. This can happen when broadcasters suddenly have a patriotic urge or are attempting to cover up some bungle they made to completely upset the program schedule.
If you are one of these unfortunate viewers, incapacitated from upgrading your telly entertainment, you might decide on being more selective of the programs you feel like watching, have a DVD you’d like to see ready for TV dull days, or start reading an absorbing novel, which you can put down at intervals, and continue when there’s nothing interesting on the telly. I love books very much, especially their convenience and portability, as well as their ability to break barriers of time and space, experience and imagination. That’s what the telly doesn’t succeed in doing, it can’t fly!