I just can’t get on with reality TV, it makes me cringe and want to gouge out my eyeballs with a spoon. It makes me want to hide behind the sofa far more than Doctor Who ever did, back when I was a child and it was scary. All right, that may not be strictly true and it rather depends on what you mean by “reality TV” (not to mention the fact that I could just switch it off). To me it conjurs up an excruciating image of poor deluded individuals thinking their tone deaf warbling is good enough to win them a recording contract, right up until the point where someone tramples insensitively all over their feelings. Yeah, that’s great TV. Yet millions of people mock the afflicted on X Factor week in, week out. And point and laugh at the unfortunates who think they can sing, but can’t. Not Simon Cowell any more, apparently though. He’s far too busy in his counting house, counting all the money he’s earned because of someone else’s “talent”. I’d name them but apart from Will Young I can’t think of a single one!
It all started with Big Brother. Except it didn’t really. We’ve always had talent shows, who remembers Lenny Henry winning New Faces? I actually don’t because it happened in 1975 and that’s the year I was born but looking at the list of winners and contestants from the New Faces wikipedia entry I recognise most of the names that were involved: Marti Caine, Roy Walker, the Chuckle Brothers (to me, to you), Victoria Wood and Jim Davidson, to name but a few. Although the less said about Jim Davidson the better. Back then talent shows weren’t as ridiculously prolific and it seems as though winning actually meant something. Most of those people stayed “famous” and indeed many of them still are today. It seems to me that fame is all that people crave these days. They don’t want to share their song-writing and singing skills, their ability to make people laugh or to astound them with a magic trick, no, they just want to be famous for the sake of being famous. They want fabulous riches, houses a footballer’s wife would be happy with and notoriety, without doing a scrap of hard work. I think it’s sad.
And this is where Big Brother comes in. It offers a prize of many thousands of pounds, approximately 13 weeks’ exposure on national television, if they stay the distance, all they have to do in return is be separated from their friends, family and normal life, behave like an idiot and allow people to play increasing cruel psychological tricks on them. Brilliant. It takes a special kind of person to want to be on a show like that. Very special indeed. I’ve only ever watched Big Brother once (celebrity versions excepted), and that was only because I was in prison and it represented 13 weeks of my sentence, a sizeable chunk. I must admit I was absolutely hooked, the people involved were generally pretty vile and in some ways their interactions were fascinating, as well as painful to watch, but I’m happy to say I’ve never had cause to watch it since. Big Brother wasn’t even the first show to put people together in this way, shove ‘em all in a house and set the cameras a’rolling. Nope, MTV did it first with The Real World in 1992, and amazingly it’s still going today. I have seen one series of this, Real World London and again I was hooked, but I was a teenager.
Oh, Gawd, and all the musical ones! Gah! I’m not a fan of musicals (though I love “Oliver!”) so that’s another cause to switch channels quick as you like. Uuuurgh. And they keep making them. And Andrew Lloyd Bladdy Webber (a delightfully attractive toad…I mean man, I’m sure you’d agree) can make even more bladdy money. Uuuuuurgh.
By now I’m sure you’re likening me to the Old Gits from Harry Enfield and friends. It’s true, I am quite a lot like them (nyeeeeeeeeeah) but these shows just aren’t my bag. They have nothing to offer me in my little middle class bubble where I polish my Aga (I don’t have an Aga) and pop to the shops in my Volvo to pick up a new Le Creuset (I don’t even have a Volvo any more) or a lacrosse stick for little Araminta and tennis whites for Tarquin. Oh, all right, liking reality TV has nothing to do with class, I just like making stereotypes, sue me (please don’t). And although I have recently developed a soft spot for Strictly Come Dancing, I don’t really think comes under the same category, slebs making fools of themselves is fair game in my book. So most of the time I’m forced to *gasp* turn the telly off of a Saturday evening and just maybe I just hanker back for the days of Noel’s House Party and Gladiators. I never thought I’d say that…