Watch Out World, The Aussies Are Coming! To Israel!

I seldom watch unscripted (read: reality) TV shows, but The Amazing Race is my one true guilty pleasure: Having watched 18 full seasons of the original US version, 3 seasons of the Asian version – and zero seasons of the wretched Israeli version, I may as well admit it: I’m a fan of The Race.

And so as tomorrow begins the first ever season of The Amazing Race: Australia, including one leg of the race in Israel – you better believe I’ll be watching, and so should you:
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Fashion Faux Pas by Israel’s Channel 10 News Reporter

Channel 10 News’ reporter Shelly Tapiero (left) interviews Rinat Abergil (right) on the morning of her husband’s extradition in order to face criminal charges in the US. Notice how similarly dressed are the interviewer and the interviewee:
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I heard about crime reporters getting too familiar with the criminals they cover – but this is getting ridiculous.

Look! Everybody’s Here Again!

When it comes to television programming it seems that the pendulum is close to the edge. People have stopped watching TV, that is except for 14 year olds who are keen on buying whatever TV is selling. Whether the medium will die or correct itself in time, I guess we’ll find out sooner or later.

In this atmosphere of 57 channels and nothin’ on, the one thing that almost never disappoints is nostalgia. Israel Educational Television (IETV) has just announced that its programs, both classic and new, will be made available for online viewing on its new website. Established in 1965, IETV has produced shows that taught us English, math, and road safety, and gave us our very own sitcom in Hebrew.

Since many of these modern classics are already available on YouTube, I guess the folks at IETV figured if they can’t beat them, might as well join them and make the materials legally available for free.

Since the website will not be launched until next week, here are two teaser ads to tickle your taste buds:

Momo Talpaz Bids Adieu

Israeli entertainer Dudu Topaz admitted today of assaulting three TV executives. It is only because of our primitive brains that we tend to confuse people we recognize with people we know. There are a million zingers to tell and loads of archive footage to rehash, but at the end of the day this is just a sad and tragic story about falling in love with a reflection in a pool.

Israelis who grew up in the 1970s might remember a Sesame Street puppet who hosted “Here Is Your Life”. In the original version the character’s name is Guy Smiley but when the local Hebrew version had to pick a name they went for Momo Talpaz, a play on Dudu Topaz’s name – the only real megastar that Israeli TV ever had. This is my farewell:
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First Smart Israeli TV Ad of 2009

Israeli cable TV provider HOT has recently launched an ad campaign about its video on demand service. There are a dozen or so TV ads, but only one of them is the real McCoy: a short, smart and funny commercial that flatters the viewer’s intelligence while genuinely relating to the advertised product. Check it out:
The Hebrew caption reads: Watched an entire season of CSI

Since I usually only blog about offensive ads, I thought I would change the bitch-to-praise ratio by pointing to this rare catch. If you need your dosage of venom, go and check out one of the related posts linked below.

How New Technologies Made TV Worse

We are in the middle of a digital revolution:Twitter, YouTube, mobiles, LCD – the only sure thing about these new technologies is that we do not really know how they will affect our lives. Amidst this wonderful wave of transformation some disturbing trends have emerged. Following are a few examples from Israeli TV wherein new technologies facilitate in its change for the worse:

Distorted video proportions

Between 4:3 and 16:9, analog and HDTV, a mixture of formats that is indicative of a TV world that hasn’t decided on a new standard and has to make do. Until a universal standard is agreed upon and implemented, are we destined for years and years of stretched heads?

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That man is not this fat! Channel 10 News visually distorts an interview from UK’s Sky News.
These people are not this thin! Channel 2‘s UK reporter submits a visually distorted news item.

Web quality footage when better is available

News desks get access to virtually every other news feed in the world and record most of it for future use, but lately it seems it became too much of a hassle for them to use the recorded footage. Searching for a video on YouTube is so easy and fast that even when doing a piece about an event that happened a day earlier, news channels slack off by broadcasting pixelated videos from the web, as opposed to broadcast-level footage.

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Channel 2 News features coverage by German ARD using a compressed YouTube video.
Channel 2 News covers Bar Refaeli’s interview with Letterman on CBS using YouTube posted video.

Web videos as legitimate news items

The blurring of boundaries between news and entertainment is a serious issue, and part of it manifests in this trend of deeming web-content newsworthy. In this age of Context Collapse a private posting can be escalated into prime-time news:

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Channel 10 News covers a satirical YouTube video that miscaptions the Fuehrer so as to make him complain about parking spaces in Tel-Aviv.
For that extra kick, channel 10’s reporter shows said video to a Holocaust survivor who had never seen it before. Sought emotional impact achieved.

Part 2 of this post will be published during the next few months.

The Rachel Maddow Show Presents: Illegal Schmillegal

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If the law says that torture is illegal and the president wants people to be tortured anyway, then how should a president proceed? One idea is to get government lawyers to say: “Illegal schmillegal, we say it’s just fine.” – that is the cue-card version of what in the Bush Justice Department. That’s what senior Bush administration lawyers told their boss.
– – The Rachel Maddow Show, February 16, 2009

Fans of Rachel Maddow must have been googling for this since Monday, and now their prayers have been answered: I am pretty certain that the moment you heard Rachel utter the words ‘illegal-schmillegal‘ on her MSNBC show, you thought to yourself: Hey! This would be great as my new email notification sound…

Well, consider this an early gift for the Jewish holiday of Purim from me to you:

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You can download Rachel Maddow saying ‘illegal-schmillegal’ in WAV format or in MP3 format. Right-click and ‘save target as’ to your computer.

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Maggi, Pierce And E.J. – Linda’s Red Button

Artist: Maggi, Pierce And E.J.
Track: Linda’s Red Button
Album: The Red Album
Genre: Folk Rock / Soul / Indie
Label: EMPrecords
Release Date: 1998
Maggi, Pierce And E.J. - The Red Album - 1998

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Buy this MP3 track or buy the entire album.

Maggi, Pierce And E.J. aka MPE Band – Linda’s Red Button – lyrics

Sittin’ here in Linda’s bed
Tryin to listen to the things inside my head

I was gonna write a song
But I turned the TV on instead
Woke up with some ideas
Went down to make some tea
I had no strength I just had to see

Any creativity
That was once inside of me
Is now sucked away by MTV,
VH1, HBO, CNN, Cinemax
My brain melts like wax

I know it would have been a hit
If I’d have gotten down to it
But no, instead I know
That my role model’s queer
The trial’s nowhere near
Moe Lester’s skin is clear
The world will end this year

If all that matters is untrue
Hey what does this red button do?
I don’t have a clue

I was gonna write a song
But I turned the TV on instead

Sittin’ here in Linda’s bed
Tryin to listen to the things inside my head

It’s A Wonderful Country After All

Look on us,
Look on them –
Who is more similar to you?
  – – mock rapper X-Plain – Throws on you TIL

With 4 out of 5 Israelis supporting the current military campaign in Gaza, Channel 2’s popular satirical show Eretz Nehederet (A Wonderful Country) could have chosen to go on vaction so not to be controversial under fire. They could have ran old episodes for that fluffy feel-good feeling viewers might crave, and no one would have contested. But the higher-ups decided to be brave and present critical views when they can still make a difference.

Now on its sixth season and with more than 30 percent of Israelis watching, Eretz Nehederet is at the cutting edge when it comes to Israeli satire, slaughtering whatever sacred cows are left in this country, using a tongue-in-cheek approach. Check out three short examples (translated to English) from the last two weeks, the first two videos were broadcast just 3 days after the campaign had started.

Ehud Barak predicting the phases of war from euphoria to dysphoria:

The public opinion of acceptable body count:

Rapping for world understanding:

Tonight on Your Evening News: Cast Lead and Must Leather

Wars don’t happen in winter anymore
Even for us it is a bit too cold to hate
Wars don’t happen in winter anymore
Even for us it’s a bit too cold to conquer
   – – “Big Hero” by Si Himan (translated from Hebrew)

Channel 10 anchorwoman Miki Haimovich (right) and senior defense correspondent Alon Ben-David (left) modeling wartime leatherwear - December 28, 2008

I have already written on Israeli journalists playing dress-up, but that was during peacetime. Now that a new war might be imminent, it seems our journalists collectively decided to wear uniform in the form of leather jackets. I have been glued to the TV screen during the past few days, zapping between Channel One, Channel Two and Channel Ten – and it looks like one hideous leatherwear catalog from the 1990’s that magically came to life:

Leather by Gaza - Mixed Channels

We already knew soldiers have their standard operating procedures – but now we know TV newsmen have them too.
Continue reading Tonight on Your Evening News: Cast Lead and Must Leather