First there was Friendster, then MySpace. You could pretty much put any personal information you wanted on those social networking sites. Nobody was really ever going to read them. It was strictly for friends and was used merely for bragging rights of when you joined and to pimp out your friend’s bands. Now, there is the almighty Facebook. What started out as a University student-networking site has pretty much taken over the world.
Who doesn’t have a Facebook page? You can become a fan of pretty much anyone or anything, and it’s all taken with a grain of salt. The story of the site’s creation is a blockbuster movie, for goodness sake.
So what comes next?
When you upload a photo of friends having a great time at a party, you are prompted to tag the other Facebook users in the photo. The photo then appears on their page. It’s harmless, it’s fun, and it’s a great way to share photos with everyone. It seems that this is not enough for Facebook. Once again, they’re taking it to the next level.
There is a new, highly disconcerting, feature planned for Facebook. Facial recognition. Now, when you add those fun photos of you and your friends, you will still be prompted to tag everyone. However, if other users have already tagged those friends, Facebook will actually suggest them, by name, for tagging. Their face will have been saved into a database.
Picture this. You’re at a party and happen to be in a photo you’d rather nobody at work sees. You don’t know these people, it’s cool, nobody will ever see it, right? Wrong. As soon as it’s uploaded to Facebook, the facial recognition software will remember you and suggest tagging. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know these people, Facebook knows you.
While this feature sounds really rad to users who are totally fine with sharing every little detail of their lives over the internet, what about the users who prefer to maintain a little more anonymity when it comes to their online persona?
The whole thing is getting a little too “Big Brother is watching” for comfort, and is beginning to feel more like a Sci-Fi movie than reality.
All this discussion about television has really gotten me thinking about the formulas for success or failure of revamped TV shows. Success stories aren’t as hard to find as you might think. The first to come to mind is the Big Brother series.
Originally developed by Endemol in the Netherlands in 1999 it was an instant success. A British version was developed in 2000 that lasted right up until 2010, becoming one of the most successful shows in British history. There have been several global incarnations of the show, including a US series that is still running with high ratings. How did this show break the failure formula, and become such a hit?
In the British series, the rules of Big Brother are very strict, with the most fundamental rule being that Housemates may not speak of nominations or evictions at any time. The series is not about scheming and plotting to get rid of people from the house, but more about the development of relationships between Housemates. However, the American series is the exact opposite. It’s about competition and alliances, following well-laid plans to be rid of enemies.
The only commonalities between the shows are the premise and name. Big Brother USA was not trying to reproduce a show, but actually create something new. Maybe this tactic could have been used when developing Skins for North America? Rather than trying to make a replica of the series, take the premise of the show and build on that.
It’s not just imports that are suffering. The remake failure trend goes further. Does anyone remember the tragic remake of Beverly Hills: 90210? Was it really necessary to bring back the base storyline of a brother and sister and their trials and tribulations in Beverly Hills? Or bringing back characters from a show 10 years retired? The story would likely have thrived if it had simply been teens facing problems at West Beverly High. Let’s contrast this particular failure with the new Degrassi series. Although former characters were brought into the story line, they were not the focus of the main plot and most importantly, they were never used as a promotional tool. A new cast was created to actually connect with the new target audience.
The titles of these news shows often allude to a “next generation” or a “new class” and that’s really what it comes down to. If a series is going to be remade, the core ingredients that made the original a success have to be refashioned to appeal to a completely different audience.