Archive for January, 2007

Reality TV (Totally Vile)

Saturday, January 20th, 2007

Channel 4's has found itself in trouble over the behaviour of one of its participants in the reality TV program 'Big Brother'. Now, for those of you who don't know what Big Brother is, then let me explain. It started in 2000 with 14 or so public contestants sharing a house that had no contact with the outside world. A situation not exactly reciprocated as the outside world was able to pry into every aspect of their daily lives via a gazillion hidden cameras and microphones spewing onto various media formats, 24 excruciating hours a day. The subjects of this sociological experiment are then made to perform a series of spurious tasks in exchange for either basic necessities or to dodge humiliating forfeits. Still, it provided moderately amusing viewing as one was able to witness the bonds of genuine human relationships being constructed and dismantled with the passing of each tedious day and capricious task.

The viewing public then get to vote each week for someone to evict, at premium phone rates (cher-ching!), until there's one person left; the last looser. Or "winner". This person is then wilfully exploited in the tabloid press for, oh, days until the hacks realise that there's only so much drivel you can write about a nobody whose 15 mins are up – so back to the daily job of sensationalising other non-news for the non-news-hungry masses, of which there's a depressing number.

With each series, the producers (Endemol) devise ever more extreme scenarios and tasks, selecting ever more antagonistic contestants on the way. Eventually, what we're left with is a pile of utter fools whose only aspiration is brazen tabloid exposure.

Then Channel 4 introduced a new flavour of Big Brother where celebrities replace the civis. Not real celebrities, mind you, just a bunch of washed-up, penniless stars of old attempting to resurrect their defunct careers. For the current show these include Jermaine Jackson (of Jackson 5), "Miss UK" (bloody hell, are people still really doing that?), Ken Russell (film director), Shilpa Shetty (an Indian Bollywood star and probably the only one currently with a modicum of talent), Leo Sayer (pint-sized 70's singing icon with big hair), Donny Tourette (lead singer of punk band Towers of London and, by some disgusting coincidence, is known to have had an affair with Leo Sayer's wife. "Disgusting" is aimed at the producers for this blatant transgression).

Last week, the proceedings were spiced up with the introduction of one "Jade Goodie" who's ignominious claim to fame is that she was runner-up to the civi version of BB 3 years ago, after which she managed to scratch a TV career for herself using her greatest asset: the fact that she is astonishingly stupid. Not retarded or mentally ill in any kind of way, just unbelievably, ignorantly and shamelessly stupid. She arrives on the BB set with, of all people, her mother.

The subsequent task roles thrust upon the celebs required them to become humiliatingly subservient to the Goodies. Naturally, a number of contestants had had enough of this ridicule and promptly walked out of the house and out of the program.

Back in the house, Jade and her mum form a clique and target Shilpa with repeated and sustained playground-style jibes, innuendoes, sneers and insults, riddled with venomous, bigoted, stereotypical, racial overtones. A tirade of racial bullying of the lowest order that just kept coming and coming. I've seen a montage of this behaviour and it's pretty toe-curling. Gallingly for the Goodies, Shilpa maintains utmost dignity in the face such wanton derision.

Bingo. Well done Endemol! You've finally hit rock bottom. They've dragged public broadcast into the gutter to look straight in the eye of the lowest-common-denominator. They'll be rubbing their hands in the bucket of viewing figures – their backs will be red raw from hearty slaps – they'll be wined and dined at The Ivy by the advertisers elated at the pretty sales chart peaks and the chance of a Porche in a different colour. Won't they?

Apparently not.

30,000 members of the public are so appalled that they complain to Ofcom, the broadcaster's regulatory body.
The issue is debated on all news channels, on Question Time, Newsnight, in the tabloids and in the broadsheets.
The Indian press are similarly shocked and the issue is debated with incredulity and sadness.
Gordon Brown (on a trip to India, conveniently) discusses the issue with the diplomats and dignitaries.
It is even discussed in parliament during PMQs.

And most significantly, the program's chief sponsors, Carphone Warehouse, pull out. Ouch.

Now this is a company not normally troubled with ethical trivialities, by the way. In fact, they're a ruthless bunch of greedy, aggressive bastards who screw small supplier companies out of existence (gripe), which is probably why they have amassed an astonishing amount of cash for their empire. But this time they appear to have done the right thing. It's encouraging that commercialism has shown its ability exercise morality, but its also deeply saddening that this is such an unusual occurrence. But I tip my hat to Carphone Warehouse and hope they have pure motives.

The fact that it has been up to a commercial company to provide this judgement is nothing but absurd. No, the buck stops with the commissioners, Channel 4, an organisation that is publicly owned, privately financed, and claims to target the more intellectual/adult audience. They can make stunningly good programs. This is a public service and as such one might expect a certain obligation towards public good. It's also called responsibility. 'Bout time they acted more responsibly and took this shit off our TV sets. This type of car-crash viewing should be voted off our screens using our OFF buttons, but it seems that too many people feed off this diet of depravity.

Hopefully this debacle will stem the cancerous trend in these vacuous reality TV programs, and make the makers realise that viewing figures are not always indicative of good broadcasting.

Channel 4 should read this book. Actually, everyone should.


Thursday, January 11th, 2007

According to the BBC, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has warned that the US will take action against any country seeking to destabilise Iraq.

No irony there then.