I’ve moved to Amsterdam. Yesterday it got to a balmy -4 degrees and my partner Todd and I got all excited. Not so excited that we took our gloves, hats, coats, thermals, scarves or sheepskin boots off… but still.
The best part of being in a new country is watching locally-produced TV. In Japan I watched celebrities applaud women who looked young for their age. In Mongolia I’ve seen soap operas with a lot of horses in them.
In Amsterdam, I’m all about 020 Live. Imagine an entire channel where there is only one show on. A single cameraperson walks or drives around Amsterdam, constantly filming, and it is all live. They wander the streets looking for news.
Yesterday a houseboat was sinking so we got to watch the fire department pumping water out of it back into the canal. Today some youths were sweeping the ice over another canal in preparation for a speed skating race. I suspect they were not there of their own free will, as they kept hiding their faces from the camera. That’s what delinquency gets you in the Netherlands – an 8am appointment with a frozen canal.
Sometimes the camera falls over in the car. It takes a long time for the driver to notice this as he or she is busy avoiding stoned Canadians and fearless cyclists. Sometimes the car gets stuck behind a cyclist – not the lycra-clad speed freaks of Melbourne, Amsterdam cyclists sit upright and pedal gently because the world can wait. They have the right of way in every imaginable situation, including our hotel hallways and cinema aisles. They are the Hindu cows of Amsterdam.
You can call the show to tip them off about an exciting pothole situation on the Marnixstraad. Todd has been threatening to alert them to the frozen pasta salad he left on our windowsill overnight.
The Dutch invented Big Brother, so I shouldn’t have been surprised that they have again pushed the boundaries of reality TV while no one was looking. Considering the Big Brother model, it’s only a matter of time before this format takes off all over the world. Every country will have its own 020 Live.
Big Brother replicated the sensation of having friends over at your house. 020 Live replicates an ordinary life which takes place outside your apartment. Essential for the old, the frail and the woefully unprepared in minus 17 degree weather. The Dutch think of everything.
Oh, and there’s a show called Plop. If I had any doubts about the move to Amsterdam, they were silenced by Plop. I’m not going to tell you what it’s about, consider it my gift to you. Ik hou van Amsterdam. Ik hou van Plop.