Terrestrial TV & The ‘Changing’ Audience

I was born in 1990, which I believe makes me what people call a ‘millennial’ (just). My generation grew up with computers and the internet, but we can still remember a time when there were only four terrestrial TV channels and Friends was in its original run.

Now, like many other people my age, I watch most of my shows on iPlayer, Netflix or online sub-networks like Munchies (owned by Vice). Vice and Munchies in particular have revolutionised the food and drink world with shows like The Pizza Show, Moltissimo (“Chin chin, motherfuckers!”) and particularly Fuck, That’s Delicious. Action Bronson and his entourage show the complete unpretentious side of food and drink, from eating street food in London (big up Brick Lane bagels!) to sitting down at upmarket restaurants in Venice.

I don’t watch much terrestrial television these days but when I heard ITV commissioned The Wine Show, a programme dedicated to wine, I found it pretty refreshing. Normally, the only wine segment typically shown on TV is during Saturday Kitchen (or something similar) when someone is walking down an aisle in Waitrose or Majestic, describing which wine to pair with whichever dish the guest chef that week has prepared, usually in the most annoying and over the top way possible.

It’s nice to see relatively young faces, such as Joe Fattorini & Amelia Singer, discussing wine and sharing their knowledge – I have a lot of respect for them and what they do. I also really like how they have the two novices, actors Matthew Rhys and Matthew Goode, learning along the way. However, I really think they could have done so much more with this show.

One thing The Wine Show does well is that they highlight the fun to be had with wine through their challenges and quirky presenting style. I particularly like the fact that the two Matthews are both amateurs but with a genuine interest. It’s nice to see two people learning more about wine while also teaching the viewers about it. But I believe that the show falls slightly short of appealing to a broader audience.

I obviously wasn’t consulted when the producers were discussing who their target audience should be but it seems that, despite all the quirkiness of the show, the target demographic is still the traditional stereotype of a 40-60 year old, middle class professional from Surrey or Berkshire.

One segment in particular springs to mind. Joe and Amelia are in the alps, skiing, and they are set with two tasks: one that I thought was brilliant, the other was one of the most pompous things I’ve ever seen.

The pompous task took place in an exclusive ski lodge where they both had to blind taste certain bottles of wine and determine what it was, the vintage year and who produced it. I’m sorry but watching two people sitting in a posh ski lodge, trying to name a wine from a producer you’ve most likely never heard of, and probably won’t hear of again, is just completely alienating. I love wine and I love knowing about different producers but I don’t want to watch two people compete over who knows more, which is pretty much what the task ended up boiling down to. It just came across as arrogant and self-indulgent if I’m totally honest.

Watching the segment actually reminded me of the ‘Corkmaster’ scene in Frasier where both the Crane brothers are competing against each other in a blind tasting to win the coveted title of ‘Corkmaster’ in their very elitist wine club. This is one of my favourite Frasier scenes. It’s hilarious because the audience is laughing at how silly and pretentious the situation is. The problem with The Wine Show segment is that it wasn’t a parody or a comedy sketch… it was serious! I know that it was only one section of the episode but, when watching other scenes and tasks, the whole tone of the show kind of resonated with that scene from Frasier in an ironic and slightly sad way.

Having said all this, I do think the show has a lot of potential, for example the brilliant task I mentioned earlier. Joe and Amelia both have to make vin chaud (mulled wine) for tourists in the resort and see which batch people prefer. It was fun, quirky and genuine, as neither of them had really made mulled wine before so they were going in ‘rogue’ and just using their professional instinct.

I wouldn’t turn The Wine Show off if it was on the TV but I just think it could do with being a bit less exclusive and much more accessible. The cast of the show are relatively young and the show has a 21st century feel to it but I feel that they play it safe. Everybody has this smart/casual look about them, you know, a shirt without a tie, tucked into their jeans or flamboyant chinos. It just reinforces the stereotypical image of a wine drinker.

I love wine, yet I wear trainers, skinny jeans, t-shirts, I have facial hair and a number of tattoos. When I look at the majority of people working in the most fashionable/popular restaurants in the UK, I see that the majority look similar to me – so why, when we watch something on mainstream media, is this not represented?

I don’t know, maybe I’ll stick to watching Munchies and repeats of Fuck, That’s Delicious but I hope that, in the future, the diverse and inclusive nature of the food and drink industry becomes more accurately mirrored on TV.

– James

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