The shape of the world a generation from now will be influenced far more by how we communicate the values of our society to others than by military or diplomatic superiority. William Fulbright, 1964

Sunday, August 21, 2005


© Duncan Graham 2005

To boost Indonesia’s kindergarten television industry and celebrate the extraordinary fare now on offer, The Jakarta Post gives YOU the chance to help select the next Indonesian Idle.

Let’s face it – creativity is hard work. It also demands wearing sunglasses in nightclubs in case there’s a police drug raid. That really deserves recognition.

This prestigious award will go on YOUR selection of the director / producer / scriptwriter / office boy / security guard who has brilliantly failed to exercise an atom of originality to produce the most ludicrous Sillitron this season.

You haven’t heard of the Sillitrons? Where have you been for the last three months? A Sillitron is a Silly Sinetron and we make the best.

So get those thumbs moving and Telkomsel profits soaring by sending your SMS vote NOW!

Still bemused? OK, here’s a brief overview of the best we’ve seen. There are three categories:

· Campus Crisis
· Family Feuding
· Moral Muslims

A Campus Crisis cast has the prettiest girls west of Merauke, and they’re all Eurasians. Just the sort of crowd you’ll find at any government school across the archipelago.

The boys aren’t bad looking either; none are plagued by the teenage curses of acne and a stumblebum approach to social intercourse.

Maybe because they’re all 20 somethings in real life and planning a third divorce. Or perhaps the skin whiteners and dandruff cures they promote between episodes really do work.

Here’s a plotline: Plain Jane is heading for a career as a deep space ethno-palaeontologist. (Actually she’s a shoe-in for the Miss World contest but disguises this by wearing spectacles favored by Bung Hatta in the 1940s.)

Secretly she lusts for the class spunk, Hunk Abs. But he squires the school bimbo Fifi Airhead. She’s always dropping things and bending over in her button-busting blouse and seam-splitting skirt.

Fickle Fifi rapidly tires of broody Hunk even though he drives a BMW to SMP. That’s because his ambition is to be an unpaid kampung doctor working in a Sulawesi swamp. He won’t join Daddy’s conglomerate PT Korupsi, so who wants a hubby like that?

Nasty Fifi knocks Jane’s glasses off her lab bench and grinds them underfoot. Just then Hunk brings back his test tube results and sees Jane’s baby blues for the first time. Can YOU guess what happens next?

Camera crews working on Family Feudings must be crash-zoom experts. That’s to emphasise the emotions of distraught stepchild who clashes with Daddy’s new wife who’s a dimple short of being two decades younger than his offspring. The number of times you can use this technique is limitless. (Crash zoom and stepmum hate.)

Daddy is busy with business and an outstanding success. Otherwise he could not afford a multi-room mansion where spending on female fashion equals the national education budget.

He’s also blind to the growing tensions of having one man and two women in his dysfunctional domain. Sorry, three. I forgot the maid who’s a secret love child of Daddy’s former wife’s cousin and therefore a half-sister to the stepdaughter, and who has the hots for the old man … No wrong again - that’s the other way around.

If you can roll your eyes, purse your mouth and stab your finger in the air, slap faces, fling yourself on a bed in tears but still keep your hair-do intact – then start auditioning now.

Different skills are required for the Moral Muslim series. The most important is a straight face. How else can you wear papier-mâché horns, a red beard and plastic claws while prowling a graveyard wreathed in blue mist?

For this role you have one line: “Ha, hah,hah-hah,ha, hah-h-h-h,” delivered into a mirror while the victim is shaving / doing make-up. In this scene the door must be locked and the key lost. A snake makes a useful prop. Sounds easy? Beware: Ham actors risk being upstaged by the flying shrouded corpse.

As the resident ghoul your prey is the gambler who gets his lucky numbers from tombstone dates, or the girl who won’t wear a headscarf. He’ll go crazy before his kind friends from the mosque exorcise his inner demons. She’ll encounter lying men with lying plans before discovering maiden modesty with the help of many holy sisters.

And only just in time: That Happy Soda from the boyfriend was really full of cocaine, not condensed milk. Who could possibly have guessed such a novel storyline?

Hollywood invented the cardboard cutout character, with black hat baddies and white hat goodies. Bollywood pioneered the all singing, all dancing scene when the crims and cops need a break from the shootout. And Jakarta? TV producers, denied any creative heritage by decades of authoritarian rule, have to start afresh. Maybe someday soon.

Look, enough is enough. We’re not going to take all the pain – you’ll have to watch the Sillitrons yourself and lodge your vote for the best Intellectual Idle.

Anything else? Of course. You’ll want to know what the winner gets. First prize - a week in Surabaya; second prize - two weeks in Surabaya.

(First published in The Jakarta Post, Thursday 25 August 05)


1 comment:

Cornie said...

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I have been doing hours of research on 'acne' and it brought me to your blog on INDONESIAN TV. Anyways, Blogger I was reading your blog and I think it is really cool. It’s really a pleasure reading your posts! Keep up the great work.

Keep blogging away :-)