Why the drama?
Why is it that fishing shows on TV have to be either drama, competition or exaggeration – or all three?
I'm watching the first episode of BBC's fishing show The Big Catch as I'm writing this.
I'm about 10 minutes
into the first of six episodes, and I'm already tired of the tone, the way the concept is presented and the obvious lack of skill of some of the participants.
Seeing them helplessly casting with a spinning rod standing in wellingtons on a small rock on the beach isn't really the way to convince me that they have deserved a trip around the world to fish for some of the most exiting fish found.
They start out in Iceland and judging from the intro there's both tigerfish, tarpon, bonefish, sturgeon, large rainbows and much more on the tab. So apart from Iceland, Africa is on the program, BC too, most likely somewhere in the Caribbean and probably a selection of the best fishing destinations in the world. They have the renown British angler Matt Hayes as a guide and of course all the power of the BBC in their back, so no expense is spared.
Apart from the lack of skills
I have seen in the intro, the rest sounds like the recipe for an exiting show with lots of great fishing. Paired with the muscle and skill of the BBC you would think that this was bound to be a show really worth watching.
But unfortunately it's not. While I'm enjoying the Icelandic landscapes, the beautiful views over the Icelandic fjords and the great visual production, I'm cringing over the lousy premise for the whole show: a crude competition.
Oh yeah! When one of the participants cry, you know you have hit pay dirt
I feel like watching
The Great Bake Off, Dancing With The Stars, Next Top Model or Big Brother, shows which I all deplore and would never dream of watching.
Such competitions are highly popular, I know, but in my opinion they are absolutely hollow and meaningless non-events with no good narrative, no substance of any kind and a total lack of drama pumped up to appear like a thriller with really exiting content and a great storyline.
They work by pitching what's mostly a bunch of odd characters, oftentimes not nearly skilled enough to participate. The producers don't choose the best people to do what's in focus, but choose them to create the drama they are looking for: conflict, disappointment, anger and the best of all: tears! Oh yeah! When one of the participants cry, you know you have hit pay dirt. This show has eight participants, and two of them are women. I would love to see more women in fishing, but honestly: 25% of a fishing group are women? Out in the real life, the number is probably more like 0.02%. Sure, we can hope that casting two women in a show as this can lure more women to the water, but the group can hardly be said to be a representation of the anglers out there. As much as I can say that I want women in fishing, the only reason for choosing two women to compete in a show like this is some kind of misunderstood political correctness and the urge to bring a female touch to the show, maybe appealing more to a female audience. OK, so cast two women out of eight, but then at least cast some skilled angling women! There are enough to choose from.
I haven't seen anybody cry yet,
but we've had joy, disappointment, frustration and a few other feelings – all played up in the tempo, sound production and with cross cutting between the participants, creating an artificial sense of envy and conflict. Like when one angler catches a fish in the great lake Thingvellir and the others "steal" his method by starting to use the same fly as he does.
Why is that a conflict? Why does that have to lead to a section where judges and the successful angler comments negatively on it, when on a real fishing trip, the successful angler would be running around passing out his catching pattern the the rest to ensure them a good time too?
We also have the usual "experts"
mumbling in the background about how the participants do well and don't do well, and of course we also have the usual comments from the participants themselves about their situation, cut into the flow break the boredom of the fishing and adding "spice" to sequences of nothing happening.
We obviously have two "experienced" fly fishers on the team. On is said to have 30 years of practice. He looks like a windmill when he casts! The other one, a female participant, doesn't look like a windmill, but sure as *beep* can't cast worth *beep* if you'll excuse my French. Should those be the best anglers available to a show like this?
Now, we have come to the point in this episode where the judges and the experts discuss who to send home, because of course this is a competition, and we have to send someone home, don't we?
Again fake drama, long and slow cuts between the contestants waiting for the verdict, judges discussing the virtues and vices of each person, and finally.... ta-daaa! Three are in danger! Loooong pause. The one going home... (longer pause) is... (even longer pause, slow pan from contestant to contestant) Geoff.
The guy who had 30 years experience in looking like a windmill. He wasn't worse or better than any of the others, but someone has to go, and the elaborate and artificial debate between the judges led to poor Geoff being expelled. Sad faces all around, hugs to the poor fellow, empathy and sympathy for all your money.
The first episode is over
and has been a major letdown. Now the group is going to Cuba for bonefish and tarpon, and as we can see from the teaser clips and hear from the music, drama ensues. Rain, wind, trouble, chaos, conflict!
So, why is it
that these shows – be it dance, baking, fishing, singing, modeling or even design and art as one Danish show featured – have to be competitions with lots of drama, conflict, ripped up nerves and exposed feelings?
Is that really what people want? Well, it's not what I want.
The last few fishing trips
I have been on have had none of this. Nothing at all. The worst drama has been when we have run out of gin for the G&T's and that didn't lead to agony or conflict, but just a quick drive to the local supermarket to save the situation in about 10 minutes. There's no competition, but more like the opposite: everybody is helping each other and in stead of trying to catch the most or the biggest, you try to help the rest of the team catch as much and even more than you do. You share fishing spots, flies, methods and even gear and everybody is helping everybody. No one is the expert. And no one gets sent home! Quite the contrary! We try desperately to get people to stay.
Why can't a show
be built on that concept. Everybody is someone who knows what they are doing. There are no experts or judges, but a handful of skilled anglers helping each other to the best experience. Not the best catch! Not the biggest fish! The aim is to give everybody the best experience, showcasing what fishing can be and trying to convey the fantastic feeling of fishing.
Very few TV fishing shows
manage to do that. A show such as River Monsters with Jeremy Wade is a disgrace. Overly dramatic, blood and torn limps, a pseudo scientific approach to the subject, huge hooks and heavy rods and pumped up drama when Wade finally hooks his "monster". Each show is built on the exact same template, and it's literally just search and replace location and fish species to make a new show. A few blurred images from murky water, some fake research scenes, Wade taking notes under the kerosene lamp, locals telling their horror stories and the scene is set.
Robson's Extreme Fishing Challenge is a little better. At least the actor Robson Greene has a some humor and humility, which becomes the show very well, but he is still put in situations, where the aim is drama and victory – or defeat – and typically totally in frantic and wound up pace compared to a normal fishing trip. Just look at the name "Extreme Fishing Challenge". Why isn't it called "Robson's Calm and Cozy Fishing Trip".
Looking for information
on TV shows on fishing leads to descriptions such as "...a lifelong angler and world record-holding fisherman who embarks on extreme fishing expeditions to the most remote regions of the world". The show is called Fish Warrior.
Or "...shows techniques of hardcore fishing using fast-paced editing and unique camera angles". That's Extreme Angler TV.
"It is hosted by extreme angler and biologist Jeremy Wade, who travels around the globe in search of the most fearsome freshwater killers". River Monsters of course.
Why is it that the many resources invested in these shows end up in something, which is not at all representative for what fishing can be? Where is the poetry? Where is the beauty (other than in many of the pictures and places)? Where is the whole community feeling and social part of fishing? The lack of drama? The lack of pressure? The Lack of competition? The lack of stress?
I wish someone
would pitch that idea to some production company, and make a fishing program that actually showed people what fishing is really like for the far majority of us.