Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Benefits of Content

The first part of An African Journey with Jonathan Dimbleby was screened on ABC television last night, and comes as a second television travel story to delight (Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine's Last Chance to See has also been screening recently, and also on the ABC). What the programmes share is actual content: interviews, background information, research, and insights into local cultures and environments.

I know I sound old-fashioned when I say that content seems an increasingly rare element in television. But sometimes, when a show delivers more than personality (although this is not missing in either show), you really notice what we normally go without.

And, in the context of travel writing, I think we have to be told about what's going on. Without exposition and analysis, we remain on the surface of the images that we're being shown, a surface that quickly becomes unreliable if it isn't contextualized.