Sunday, 2 September 2007

TV (Reality?)

Finally Big Brother is over. I've tried to avoid it, because it's just so ridiculous now. I remember watching the first couple of series when they were on seven or eight years ago, when it seemed like a genuinely interesting concept. Originally it was sold as a kind of televised social experiment, with people spending nine weeks living together, isolated from the rest of the world, and having to complete various tasks in order to earn money to buy food. Their every move is recorded and while they have to cooperate for their day to day lives they're also in competition with one another, nominating each other for eviction which is then decided by a public vote. The ultimate winner of the contest walked away with seventy thousand pounds, and the daily TV shows had psychologists giving their insights into the actions of the housemates. (I'm saying all this in case your country doesn't have Big Brother, or in case it started in a different format in your country)

Now, seven or eight years on, Big Brother is quite simply ridiculous. People apply to be on Big Brother not for the experience, or for the chance to win some money, but because they think that they're in with a chance of being a celebrity afterwards. To get ratings as high as possible Channel 4 find the most outrageous people that they can to fill the house. Gone are the daily psychologist's insights (they must all be behind the scenes selecting the freaks, geeks and weirdos who appear on the program), instead we have multiple shows, with phone-ins about who your favourite is, daily updates about what has been happening and live coverage for over twelve hours of the day on one digital channel. The show runs for over thirteen weeks, is featured prominently in newspapers and magazines, and it's literally impossible to escape from it.

Big Brother is the show (in the UK at least) which is responsible for or has lead to a myriad of "reality shows" or "Z-list celebrity talent shows" that now seasonally grip the nation. There's nothing wrong with many of these shows' concepts per se, but the media hype that surrounds them, and the fact that you can't avoid hearing about them - the rampant sensationalism of it all - just disturbs me. I'm not opposed to television shows were people are put into strange situations, but I should be able to not have anything at all to do with it if I choose. Can we not have a serious reality show which isn't about pitting people against each other so blatantly for public spectacle and ratings?

I thought such a program might be coming, starting today in fact on Channel 4. In today's eco-friendly and environmentally conscious climate a programme showing how a group of regular people cope living on a rubbish tip seemed like an interesting proposition. They rely solely on what they find for survival, and when I first heard about the programme it seemed as if it would be an interesting thing showing just how wasteful we are as a society.

Then I saw a commercial for it: "Dumped - how will they survive living on a dump? How will they cope living with EACH OTHER???"

I think I'll give it a miss.

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