Flying dogs, wimpy men and singing with the dead: the future of TV

In television future dogs will fly, people will come back from the dead and parents will choose their children's dates


Afp April 05, 2016
PHOTO: OXFORD SCIENTIFIC FILMS LTD

CANNES, FRANCE: Tired of "Big Brother", too afraid to turn on "The Apprentice" now that Donald Trump is at the gates of the White House?

Never fear. In the television future dogs will fly, people will come back from the dead and parents will choose their children's dates.

These are just some of the new reality television concepts coming to a screen near you.

A dog called Shadow that was only hours from being put down in a pound was rescued and taught to fly a light aircraft -- with the attentive aid of a co-pilot -- in "Dogs Might Fly" that aired on Britain's Sky TV on Sunday.

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The Collie-Staffordshire Bull Terrier cross was one of three dogs trained by a team of expert handlers who had previously taught another dog to drive.

But other new formats previewed this week at MIPTV, the world's biggest TV market in Cannes, France, have less happy endings, with people and technology pushed to new and sometimes unbearable limits.

"Wimps in the Wilderness" abandons a group of men with "self-esteem issues" on a desert island to see if they can "man-up" and survive long enough to build a raft on which to escape.

But the Danish show is child's play compared to the hell visited upon 20 "elite" American men and women -- including survivalists, hunters and scientists -- forced to follow the wildebeest migration on foot across the East African savannah for six weeks.

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Their unarmed "human herd" is pitted by Fox International in "Mygrations" (sic) against all the predators that lie in wait in the long grass, never mind the charging wildebeests themselves.

Dutch channel RTL4 breaks up couples in a jungle setting and forces them to compete against each other on gender lines in "SOS -- Survival of the Sexes".

In a technological twist on the genre, the BBC have thrown comedian Russell Kane into equally sticky situations in "Stupid Man, Smart Phone" to see if his mobile can save him.

If that was not enough to get the adrenaline pumping, the human jungle is explored in the terrifying "60 Days In", where A+E Networks sent seven innocent people into one of America's toughest prisons and filmed what they went through in its communal cells.

But it is from the pursuit of love, sometimes from even beyond the grave, where some of the most bizarre and emotional new television is coming.

Having already followed terminally ill people through their final days, Dutch TV has created what it calls an "afterlife" for some in "With Love From Above".

In the series, dying people record heart-rending messages to their loved ones and then get the chance to help or give them gifts from beyond the grave.

Japan's "Resurrection Makeover" goes several steps further, with Fuji TV using actors and the latest make-up techniques to "reunite" families with their dead loved ones.

In one episode a wife who lost her husband to cancer at 31 and was left to bring up their two children alone clings crying to the actor playing him when he turns up at her door, saying, "I am so happy."

There isn't a dry eye in the house when the actor then proceeds to sing the couple's favourite song.

Traditional dating shows are also likely to be shaken by a wave of new edgier, more realistic formats, said Virginia Mouseler, head of The Wit research agency, who has been studying the latest trends.

Arranged marriages may be taboo in much of the western world, she said, but that didn't stop America's Discovery putting the idea that parents know best to the test in "Married by Mom and Dad".

"In it parents get to interview and choose who they think their children should marry," she added.

But tech plays Cupid in two other new series, with contestants following prospective dates for a day in "Hear Me, Love Me, See Me".

Contestants wear a camera and potential dates see their daily interactions but not their face, which they only get to see if they choose them.

Spain's "Date My Avatar" has another twist on the same idea with actors standing in for suitors with the real contenders feeding them their lines through an earpiece.

And hope springs eternal for the middle aged virgins of Germany's "A Shot at Love", one of whom candidly declares, "I don't look like much and I've not much to offer."

Mouseler said the growing trend for animals shows in particular was a sign of people looking for comfort as technology takes over.

"People are feeling overwhelmed by technology and need to reconnect with the animals within," she said.

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