Monday, March 14, 2022


I wrote a TV show pitch for my TV module, and I thoroughly appreciated my professor's feedback. He really knows his TV, which I suppose is a great criterion for a media professor to fill. I'm definitely curious about the TV shows he mentions and recommended.

This is a pitch for a reality TV show about working-class people, and it will be called Proletariat Profiles. In the simplest way to conceive it, Proletariat Profiles would be like the layperson’s version of Keeping Up With The Kardashians, minus the millions of dollars. It would first launch on YouTube, financed by the producer’s (my) own savings or funds crowdsourced from a platform such as Kickstarter or similar. If it gains enough traction, it might get signed to a network television company or Netflix, but that will not be the main aim. The budget needed for the initial production would not be a big one. Unlike Keeping Up With The Kardashians, Proletariat Profiles will revolve around regular people with regular, actually relatable lives, for the average Joe and Jill, and everyone in between. 

It will be filmed over the course of a year, so that the audience can follow the “characters”/participants of the show through as many important or significant seasons in an ordinary person’s life. For example, over the course of a year, we will feature the different participants going through holidays such as Christmas, New Years’ celebrations, their respective birthdays, tax seasons, Valentine’s Day, each individual’s observed religious festivities, and so on. We will then release the episodes in the following year, coinciding with the themes of the episodes. For example, events filmed on Valentine’s Day will be released on the next Valentine’s Day. The entire year will be filmed before being released the following year so that the show will not affect, influence nor interfere with the lives of our participants, in any way, shape, nor form.

There are two options we will utilise for filming and producing the show. We will equip each of them with an iPhone or any smartphone with a camera that’s good enough to be used for vlogging (video logging). Occasionally, we will have a basic crew to film each participant, in either an interview-style, or tailing them on any event they would want to highlight, with their permission. It will be as no-frills in terms of production value and kept as close to lived reality and down-to-earth as possible for an Internet series, with no glamorous lights or sound, and no intention of making it look polished, primed nor curated. 

There will be a rotation of several “characters” or participants as part of this show. We will try to cast people who traditionally struggle more in a capitalist system. For example, we may have people in the service industry, working as waitstaff, bus drivers, cashiers and bartenders, sewage workers and janitors. We would have a sales worker who doesn’t really care about the things they are selling. One of the participants could be a college student working two jobs to afford tuition, another one a single parent supporting their kid, someone with a mental or physical disability. We would also incorporate people of color, a homeless person, someone who’s recently been incarcerated, a person struggling with substance addiction. Someone who has to sacrifice their creative side and “sells out” by having a corporate job, because it’s the only way they can survive in the economy. 

Every one of the participants would be working-class, with real bills to pay. Even while they work, they find themselves going further into debt. We will feature vulnerable moments such as having to wait for a bank transfer to go through before they can cash out their grocery purchases, among numerous other experiences most people would have gone through, yet each person feels cripplingly ashamed of. We will follow them as they take public transit, or struggle to keep up on car insurance payments. We can display the myriad of ways a capitalist system is violent toward many disenfranchised communities, who are trying their best but barely staying alive and dealing with issues such as food insecurity.

The message of this show is to directly contrast with the narrative that “if you work hard enough, you’ll make it” often used as propaganda for allowing status quo to continue. It will feature our participants working hard almost all of the time in their lives, but who still don’t make it, because the odds of capitalism are against many more people than they are for them succeeding. Proletariat Profiles aims to showcase the reality that most of us are closer to being homeless in any given year, than to becoming a millionaire or becoming rich enough to retire or live a life that’s not enslaved to capitalism. 

Traditional media (which is inherently capitalist) has not showcased people who are struggling because capitalists currently have control of society and want to maintain a facade or pretence that capitalism works well enough for everyone to prosper and make it, so as to maintain the control they have. Therefore, a subversive show like this is useful for showcasing that there are many who live below the poverty line, that those people then have nothing to be ashamed of, and that any failings that occur are inherently designed to happen within capitalism, and not somehow individual moral failings. 

While our participants are not to be blamed for individual failings, there are also not exactly any individual villains on the TV show. Throughout all our narratives and situations, a thread that connects all of them is that capitalism necessarily needs to monopolize on some people’s disadvantageous situations for anyone to come out on top. The enemy is not any single person, but the enemy is the system of capitalism itself. 

Another aim of the TV show is to highlight the humanity of our participants. Traditional media has by far shone a spotlight on the glamorous, unattainable lives of celebrities and people with “success stories” in life. People like waitstaff and janitors, cashiers and sales workers have never been portrayed as having personalities. They exist only to do their jobs of providing a service, and then suddenly they are no longer relevant in our lives. This show hopes that by featuring people in professions or communities that have been long ignored, we can bring them from an invisible sphere, into the visible. 

As an alternative to the bleakness of the plights of our participants, we will feature certain ways we can all start to back away from capitalism and form other ways of existing and being. For example, mutual aid is a way for sharing with the community so that the participants don’t rely on philanthropy, nor believe in any justification for people to be rich nor poor enough that philanthropy is required. We can also feature a few participants with more environmentally-friendly lifestyles, such as those who only make purchases in closed-loop economies or supply chains, promoting sustainability. 

The audience for this show would be people who are disillusioned or are starting to question capitalist society as it is, and who want to inspire change. To gather audiences, we would start from grassroots avenues, such as putting up posters in spaces that would support such a show. This includes socialist societies/groups in different provinces and countries, liberal arts colleges, working-class-populated bars, mom-and-pop stores, and locations frequented by people with such similar ideals. I believe the audience would be attracted to watch such a show if it were produced, for several reasons. 

First, it would be very different from any other show in production and circulation, and by virtue of novelty alone, it would be entertaining or enlightening. Secondly, as mentioned, our intended primary audience are people who are already disillusioned with capitalism, and therefore they would want to seek hope by watching similar people go through similar events in their lives, and relate more to them than anyone else they’ve ever seen on TV. Thirdly, the primary intended audience members may want to persuade their peers who don’t already hold such socialist beliefs, and having such a show in production and being broadcast, would greatly enhance the possibility of that happening, using real and unfiltered portrayals of working-class people trudging through life. 

To attract revenue, we would also appeal to the socially-involved natures of such audiences, and ask for a crowdsourcing of funds for the show to be perpetuated, such that it can reach wider circulations, and hopefully spread the message to bigger audiences. 

His feedback:

In many ways this show is exactly what you describe and would have a very hard time to get 'green lit', again for exactly the reasons you describe. Yet it is an important possibility to pursue along the lines that you outline toward the end. As far as a pitch goes, you need to reorganize a bit, particularly when it comes to the 'why' questions that you answer well toward the last page or so, but for the average person listening to this pitch - most are done orally first - there will be an immediate 'poverty porn' image that harkens back to 'Good Times' or 'Welcome Back Kotter' or 'Sanford and Sons' from the 60s and 70s, or even the 'Honeymooners' from the 50s. The alternative perspective from poverty porn positions it as a fresh take and for a defined audience who, though they aren't 'rich' or constantly consuming, are what many call 'the bottom billion' who are generally ignored and are yearning for something solid. 

The one thing that I think you did well was demonstrate and describe the class struggle focus. The one thing, from a North American perspective is the issues of race, gender, and geography, though I imagine a version of this occurs in many places along similar if different social divisions. This is important because the show seeks to address an imbalance but should be mindful of creating a new one; or worse, creating a new "Honey Boo Boo" who is a poor, rural girl from the Southern US who is both famous but seemingly unaware that her fame is because people are looking at her life from a classist-urban dismissive standpoint. That level of care is hard to balance when the subjects are needed but delicate. You should look up Norman Lear’s evaluation of the unintended impact of 'All in the Family' such as we discussed in class to help solidify this. Great idea, some room for a few more nuances. 80/100