For quite a while now, I’ve been trying to gather my thoughts to write a post about Georgian TV. In the meantime, Evolutsia published an article about some of the concepts that I’ve been mulling, so I’ll just link to them and add some more ideas in (I apologize) a not particularly artistic fashion.
TV in Georgia feels inescapable sometimes. In my house the TV is almost always on, and most of my friends living with Georgian families concur that the TV is a constant presence in their lives. The news is quite popular, and my host family often watches it. Spanish-language (poorly dubbed) telenovelas are also a big hit in Georgia, as are American gameshows like Fear Factor and WipeOut. I even saw an old episode of Double Dare on one morning during the children’s programming.
Of course much of the programming is imported, but there is also lots of programming developed and produced in Georgia–more than I expected there would be. Interestingly enough, this programming almost all seems to have a nationalist, borderline propagandistic bent (and we don’t even get Sakartvelo TV, the Ministry-of-Defense-sponsored channel, anymore. Does that still exist? Their website is down). There are commercials encouraging joining the reserves or the police, and an (actually really catchy and well-produced) music video commercial for Tbilisi. There’s a reality show “Police Academy” and there are two kids’ knowledge competitions (for different ages and on different channels: Et’aloni and The Brainiest Kid) that are widely watched, at least according to my informal interview of 4th graders. Even the entertainment-centered programs have an agenda. The Georgian (and either Latvian or Lithuanian…the words sound similar in Georgian and I can never remember which is which) telenovela Ghvinis Gza (The Wine Road) offers the romance and intrigue of the Spanish-language soap operas, with the added bonus of promoting tourism in Kakheti. This isn’t to say that tourism in Kakheti isn’t worth promoting, just that it strikes me as odd to see it in a day-time soap. Even one of the most purely entertainment shows, and one of my favorites, the Georgian version of Dancing with the Stars (Go Samori and Lika and Lela and Tornike!) has a nationalistic element, featuring traditional Georgian dance as well as the ballroom dances we see on the American version.
Another thing about Georgian TV that has thrown me is how much more graphic it is than TV in America. Though there are children’s programs, there don’t seem to be any efforts to prevent children from watching “inappropriate” programming through a ratings system or limiting the hours some shows can be broadcast. The news is incredibly graphic and not at all whitewashed–if the news story is some sort of tragic accident or horrific crime, you will be seeing blood, guts, and body bags on the news. This is quite horrific, and I don’t know if ultimately it is good or not. On the one hand, I think it makes people very aware of the possible terrible consequences of their actions, which may help prevent crimes and accidents, but seeing it so often may also desensitize people to the horror. Really, though, I just avert my eyes and cringe a lot when the news is on.