In Brazil, positive spin spells TV success
BLUMENAU, Brazil — The host of a long-running television talk show for women, Shideh Granfar, has a simple formula for success: "Keep it positive."
She recalls the time a cockroach crawled out of some food on camera, threatening the reputation of a restaurant being featured on the program.
She quickly turned things around by making a joke of the scene and then pointing the cameras at the not-so-tidy recesses of the studio, thus showing that the cockroach wasn't the restaurateur's fault.
"I explained to the viewers that the food had been here for a long time and that studios are not the cleanest places," she recounts, "and I reassured them that the standards of cleanliness at the restaurant are really different. Then I took the cameraman on a tour of the studio, showing the viewers that even though the set looks beautiful, the studio is another story.
"The episode was a hit, and everyone was talking about it," she continues. "The restaurant people were happy, too."
Shideh - all the viewers call her by her first name - has hosted more than 500 weekly installments of "Mulheres" (Portuguese for "Women") for TV Galega, and this year she was cited by the local office of the Brazilian National Commercial Training Service for outstanding service by a woman in the field of communication and the arts.
"Shideh is one of those people that we always want to have around us: for her laughter, for her sparkle, for her manner of assuming there is a solution to everything - that the hard way is simply the 'least easy' way," said Valther Ostermann, a prominent local newspaper columnist who spoke at the ceremony where she received the recent award.
Indeed, Shideh - who is creator, producer, director and host of her program - is known for her infectious laugh and her ability to put a positive twist on whatever life puts in front of her.
Her outlook on life, she explains, comes from her practice of the Baha'i Faith.
"As Baha'is we believe in looking for the best in people. So when I have someone on the show I try to make them feel comfortable. I do not try and put them in a corner and make them look bad. We try to bring out the best of what people have to give. I think that the show serves as a model of positiveness, especially to women."
Shideh says the subjects she addresses on the show bear a direct relation to her religious belief.
"'Mulheres' relates to the Baha'i Faith through the various subjects we choose to address in the development and betterment of the quality of life for women," she says. "The Baha'i writings say a lot about this issue. We also have an editorial opening where we use thoughts, prayers, and material from the writings of the Faith which address the theme of the day." (See video).
She sees the role of the show as providing an uplifting experience for viewers, given that she thinks people tend to be unhappy about many aspects of their lives.
"When you show them good and positive things, people just love it.," she says. "They're so grateful and they tell me, 'You're always laughing!' But what they don't know is that giving them the opportunity to see good in life is what makes me happy."
She believes it was this upbeat attitude - plus her views on the equality of women and men - that led TV Galega owner Altair Carlos Pimpao to hire her 10 years ago for the show in Blumenau, a city of 300,000 people in southern Brazil.
Mr. Pimpao had watched her lead a Baha'i meeting and found her to be an articulate speaker and a natural host.
Best of all, Mr. Pimpao realized, she and other Baha'is believe strongly in the advancement of women and equality of the sexes. He is not a Baha'i, but he understood their belief and thought this was just the kind of person he needed for the new show.
Often the guests on the hourlong program are local experts in fields relating to education or health. Discussion centers on how the issues relate to women, although Shideh says surveys show that half her viewers are men.
"They (men) are interested and curious about women's subjects," she notes. "Men try to understand the world of women, our dreams and goals in life so they can have better relationships with us. It is great to see how many men are interested. ... We get men calling us while we are on air and asking questions for their wives and friends. By doing this they contribute to the development of ideas and at the same time growth in their own lives and their relationships."
"Mulheres" airs live on Tuesday evenings, and viewers may call in with questions and comments. A tape of each program is rebroadcast on Wednesdays and Sundays, and shows are available on the Internet at Jump TV.
"It has been a rewarding experience," Shideh says of hosting the show. "It's funny. I can be having the worst day of my life, and as soon as I get into the studio I am happy and laughing."
Shideh, who has been married for 26 years and has two children, travels frequently. She says that through her travels she has learned something that she tries to share on her show: "Humanity is humanity, everywhere you go," she says. "Everyone is looking for happiness."