Panem et circenses

We have more TV channels than ever and yet have less to actually watch that is in anyway interesting. Television is now a constant cycle of reality competitions and adverts. With the odd shite soap opera thrown into the mix. Nothing else. Ever. Every time I switch on ITV or BBC I’m confronted by a pack of kids dancing to some 1980s Michael Jackson hit while juggling kitchen knives, or a roller-skating would-be opera singer belting out an aria from Samson & Delilah as he goes over a ramp, or some Granny cranking out Hendrix’s ‘Purple Haze’ on a Stylophone, or the bloke who played Arthur Fowler trying to break the world Hula Hoop record while balancing a bucket of jellied eels on his head and singing a selection of songs from Oliver! One ends, another begins. There’s no break. The X Factor. Strictly Come Dancing. Britain’s Got Talent. Dancing on ice. For the past few weeks the media have been slavering hornily over Britain’s got talent hopeful Susan Boyle. A forty-eight year old virgin from Scotland with wild hair and a big voice. SuBo – as the press have dubbed her – looks to be a bit wobbly on the personality front. The newspapers describe her issues generically as ‘learning difficulties’. She may have, she may not. It’s all part of the mystique. She failed to win the final and now she’s broken down under the pressure. Apparently. Interviews, TV appearances and the obligatory demands for her celebrity hymen from Mick Hucknall have all taken their toll. The press are gleefully reporting that SuBo’s been admitted to the Priory after a screaming match with the police in some West End hotel. The story’s writing itself. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Surely it’s only a matter of time before Max Clifford steps into the fray like a knight in shining armour and really stirs things up and generates some serious cash for all concerned. Not for SuBo’s singing mind you, no that’ll be a nice cherry on top once the notoriety’s kicked in. A secondary cash cow to be milked post the salacious tales about her freak outs and the shag and tell stories. Bloody hell, I had some graft on that night! It was like trying to snap a leather belt! says Justin, 21, from boy band Gonad of his first night between the sweaty sheets with SuBo. With this in mind, and with television at such a low ebb, don’t you feel that we need more people with fragile personalities and psychological problems put before the cameras for our amusement? There’s some TV mileage in it. I want to see youngsters with ADHD spinning plates live on The X Factor and then screaming obscenities aggressively at Simon Cowell when they smash, Downes kids playing the spoons along to ‘Rock DJ’ bringing tears to the Bambi-like eyes of love-cheat Amanda Holden. Well, uze certainly rocked my DJ! sobs the Brummie bed-hopper and former Blind Date contestant. It would create a moral chiaroscuro. An ethical hinterland of light and shade. We could cry at their plucky courage as they overcome adversity to bring their talent to the world or laugh ourselves incontinent at their latest freak show antics. It’s a winner whichever way you look at it. We could turn them into stars. Like SuBo. Then let’s see what happens when the pressures applied. Let’s turn that screw until they splinter. Splash them on the front pages. Besiege them with Paparazzi. Make their private lives intolerable by snooping and probing and never letting them rest. You wanted this and we gave it to you, now it’s time to earn your corn. So fucking dance, you weirdo freak! The public demand to know everything! Give us dirt, now! With any luck, SuBo will crack before our eyes. While singing live on TV before the shivering nation. Now that would be good entertainment. Breaking into a four-letter rant midway through the bridge of ‘Bright Eyes’. Feckin’ heil! Gi’ me sam bastard bass, yiz cants! Do you think they have webcams in the Priory? I bet SuBo’s singing even now. And swearing. And slapping herself around the head a bit like Dustin Hoffman in Rainman. We made SuBo, we have a right to see it. Pay per view anyone? Would you watch?


This week Big Brother 10 starts. Entertainment for shift workers and insomniacs. So that they can peep voyeuristically at someone else sleep. And fart. And scratch their arse. And occasionally have an argument about shredded wheat and pubes on the soap. The reality format is cheap entertainment. In every sense. No scripts needed, loads of flashing lights, a few explosions, a bit of thumbs up/thumbs down texting-in by the viewer, throw in some rib-tickling humiliation of a few extreme personalities by some endearing chuckle-tastic celebrity like former smack-rat Davina McCall or the hilarious Ant and Dec, stir in a huge dollop of hype and watch the advertising revenue roll in. It’s TV that makes itself without effort or creativity. But, that said, I’m worried about the future of ITV3, Dave and UK Gold. I mean, where will the much-loved repeats of tomorrow come from? Can you see yourself sitting down decades from hence to watch old editions of Fame Academy? Will anyone buy the box set of Celebrity Love Island in ten years time?


Anyway, I’m off. I’m going to run a search on Google and Youtube. SuBo, Priory, Webcam, cherry-pop. You never know your luck.



  1. GSmudger · June 3, 2009

    How do we discern cause from effect, chicken from egg, barrow-boy schedulers from lobotomised consumers? The purveyors of trash-TV are generally savvy, well-educated types who simply respond to consumer demand and pump out the kind of chaff they wouldn’t dream of watching at home. I don’t imagine Big Brother, microwave lasagne and Co-op lambrusco feature much in the Clifford and Cowell households. They’ve certainly done their bit to manipulate the market and mould tastes, but this can’t mask the fact that even though we could all choose to spend our evenings watching the likes of The World At War, The Office or Planet Earth on DVD, millions of us actually, positively choose to watch brain-dead, banal bilge. What can you do? Hitler was popular and don’t get me started on jury decisions. The trouble with democracy is that people just don’t know what’s good for them. Say what you like about Kim Jong Il, but how many North Koreans have heard of Jade Goody?


  2. guinnessorig · June 3, 2009

    I’m waiting for a response from ITV for my new programme format. ‘It’s a celebrity shag-out XXX’. The old ‘it’s a knockout’ formula applied to hardcore pornography and violent confrontation. Game 1 – Ye Olde Joust. Two celebrities, head to head on mechanical horses, each dressed as Knights but in nothing but tin foil. Each with a razor-tipped jousting pole. Collision course at 30mph per dobbin. Strapped in, unable to escape. Blood and entrails all over the NEC arena with Stuart Hall chuckling out a commentary. Game 2, bonus round – Friggings the Biggins. A female celebrity contestant has to go forward and attempt to ‘bring off’ Christopher Biggins (dressed up like King John) against a stop watch with an executioner in black leather mask carrying a huge axe stood nearby. Somebody’s head is going to get knocked off. Game 3, ‘Face the mace’. Wolf from the original gladiators, armed with a 10lb spiked metal mace, will take on six unarmed celebs. Ant & Dec up first.

    It combines it all. High brow history (Simon Schama could do some commentary; rattle something off about King John and the Magna Carter as Kat Deeley takes a round of Biggins to the face) and low brow entertainment. I think I’ve got a winner on my hands.


    • GSmudger · June 4, 2009

      I think we could resurrect Flaming Cross’s idea for bringing the reality of war to the masses – ‘I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of The Kessel / Burma Railway / Bataan Death March / Rape of Nanking / Dunkirk Beachhead’.
      I can picture it all.
      Ant & Dec with steel helmets and puttees opining that, “Pte Stevens will need to stop shaking if he’s going to defuse this parachute mine without turning the cast of Emmerdale into 800lbs of bully beef.”
      Roger De Courcy throwing himself on a grenade to protect Nookie Bear.
      Joanne Lumley storming a machine gun nest with nothing but a kukhri, a pout and a cry of “Aye Gurkhali”.
      The Labour cabinet quite literally falling on their letter-openers as flame-thrower toting Marines from the Daily Telegraph’s editorial department close in on their positions.
      Living history and summary justice – now that’s entertainment.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s