Right, I’m going to defend the TV show Most Haunted. I have a lot less reason to support it than most people, but I have also a little more knowledge of some of the individuals involved perhaps.
Most Haunted started with a great idea, but one which was fundamentally flawed. A live TV ghost hunt? (well pre-recorded in the case of the series, but effectively reality TV) Awesome! Yet there is a major problem with this groovy concept- spooks do not appear on demand and perform, if they even exist. In the early series we saw show after show when very little happened. It was going to pall eventually.
So the “soap opera” aspect developed – we cared because we cared about the team, and knew them, and could relate to their very human responses to the situations they found themselves in. Good locations, great stories,lots of interest – not many spooks though!
Still it was fun. I was briefly employed doing some research and finding locations, and I was pretty convinced Karl & Yvette were serious, and interested investigators. I also saw first hand the technical limitations of the MHL environment.
Then they brought out a book and I read it. I’m an experienced ghost investigator, and much of it was very sound actually – if they actually followed the advice therein then we would have a better paranormal investigation, though possibly a terrible TV show?
So what went wrong? Well the falling out with Derek, the clear signs of some fraud, the resulting paranoia among the team, and then the OFCOM or whatever it is called these days decision that Most Haunted was not a serious investigation but clearly a light entertainment programme…
Once that decision was made, the gloves came off. There was no reason now NOT to just play for entertainment, and I guess for hundreds of thousands of people who ar not remotely interested in the often technical and difficult concepts of psychical research, hey it’s still entertaining.
Yet the decision to shift to a full blown entertainment format was not the teams – it was dictated by that OFCOM decision, and the demands of ratings and realities of television. We have all seen how fragile media celebrity is, and the difficulty to keep ahead of the “build em up : knock em down” thing.
What I’d personally love to see is Yvette and Karl managing to get back in ot other non-paranormal programming, and having really successful and lucrative careers in other formats. they deserve it, and I don’t think this show brought them the fortune they deserved – and hey, they sacked me – well I assume i was sacked, one day I was working for them, the next day I phoned up and found myself talking to my replacement – so I have no reason to be nice, but I’m very honest. They DO deserve more.
I don’t think it’s Most Haunted Live in the dock, but TV, and our culture. We want instant gratification, action movies, violence, sex and Blair Witch, not documentaries on Ganzfeld ESP experiments or detailed shows on Robertson & Roy’s fascinating research on mediumship. Almost no one cares – and almost no one wants to really think through these issues. I think some people are actually frightened to seriously consider this stuff. What we as a society want is stories about tragic ghosts, sexy history and lots of ACTION! And that is precisely what we get, because TV is led by ratings, for perfectly sane commercial reasons. No audience, no adverts, no revenue.
The minority interested in “serious” paranormal stuff will read books about it or watch those dull old Discovery shows from the 90’s (that I of course like and was involved with) – but our culture wants entertainment, and excitement. And that’s what you get, because ratings mean everything in commercial TV.
Don’t blame Most Haunted for its perceived shortcomings- they had no choice if they wanted to keep on TV – instead look to yourselves. TV is what it is because that is what we, the British public want? Our criticisms of how dreadful TV is are criticisms of our own society, and our own culture. We should not blame anyone but ourselves.