Sunday, May 08, 2005

It's, Like, Real...Man!

Jean-Paul Satre once said. "Hell is an eternity locked in a room with your friends."

I disagree.

Hell is an hour spent watching people locked in a room on TV.

I'm talking, of course, of 'Reality Television.'

The show that first brought this particular inane genre of television to the mainstream is, in my opinion, 'Big Brother'.

I have to admit when I watched the first series, I liked it, I really did. The reason behind this was because it was new. The viewing public had never seen anything like it before. It had novelty value. What really made it worth watching though was that no-one knew how popular it was going to be...including the contestants. They didn't know it was going to dominate the front pages of the tabloid press for its entire run, they didn't know if it was going to get cancelled half way through. For all they knew, they were going to leave the house, and no one would know who they were...except for perhaps one or two insomniacs who watched it in a super late night slot on Channel 4.

So what does this mean? It means that the only motivating factor for the contestants in the first series was the 70,000 quid prize money. No dreams of further fame of glory.

Big Brother to me was perfect 'one off' television. One series. If they'd stopped at the first, Big Brother would be fondly remembered as truly revolutionary and unique TV.

Of course, the producers didn't see it that way, meaning that a lot of people now see Big Brother as yet another reason to turn off the TV and go find a book.

I think Big Brother is now in its 5th series (I could be wrong, I stopped watching two weeks into series 3). However, all runs of the show from Big Brother 2 onwards were completely different to that first series. (IE They were the television equivalent of a bowel blockage, but not as much fun). So what is the reason behind this?

The contestants from BB2 onwards knew they were being watched by millions of people. They no longer went on the show to win 70 grand. They went on the show to get 'noticed' and saw it as the first step to fame and fortune.

Have you noticed how many people go on that show and just happen to bring a guitar along with them? "Hey everyone, why don't we listen to this song I wrote? I'm not doing this in the hope anyone in the music industry is watching, honest!"

Every series is the same:
You get the wannabe guitar player/singer;

The blonde haired, big breasted retard who's T&A just happen to accidentally pop out every time the camera is on her (cover of FHM anyone?);

The "Hey everyone! Aren't I funny? wouldn't I make a great comedy presenter?" Guy;

The gay guy... who is nothing like any gay guy I've ever met, they always seem to be John Inman on speed (Wow! Aren't I flamboyant and fun!);

The skin-head militant feminist who disagrees with everything everyone else says;

The Greenpeace hippy who gets voted out the first week every time;

Mr 'I think I'm so aloof and cool', who comes across as Mr. 'stuck-up abrasive asshole'.

And Finally Mr 'Know it all' who actually has the IQ of a half-dead ostrich, who will argue just for the sake of it, even when he knows he's wrong. "The sky is pink I tell you! It just looks blue because of (insert random, made up, big words here)"

What would make really good RealityTV would be to gather up all these people in a house... then throw a grenade in. (Or if that's too drastic, wall it up).

I apologise to all the Big Brother fans out there, but for some reason a show that requires a whole day of filming to get such great 'highlights' as 'When the bimbo said something stupid' and 'when the femenist started throwing things because she thought someone may have eaten some of her lentils....leading to a 2 hour crying session in the diary room' Just doesn't add up to riveting TV for me. Even in the first series they dedicated half a show to Craig getting his teeth looked at by a dentist.

Bridge Work TV! The next big thing!

My personal favourite part was the 24/7 coverage on E4. According to the ratings, some people actually sat and watched for days continually...including night time when the contestants were sleeping... People sleeping? Wow. What entertainment.

"Did you see the bit at 3.45am? One of them rolled over and farted! I nearly fell out of my chair with excitement!"

So... If the show is so bad, why is BB still so popular?

I think it appeals to the voyeuristic tendencies in people. The idea of watching someone 24 hours a day and sharing their secret moments. If you suddenly found out your TV set could show what your neighbours were doing 24/7... would you watch it? Probably, but that would be because they were your neighbours, you know them and have a context to set it in. You could see how they spend their day, what they talk about... and also see if the bastard still has your lawnmower...the one he swears he didn't borrow last spring, even though you know he did.

Of course, we all totally missed the point. These people know they're being watched, and in that sense were 'acting' the whole time...If you knew you were being watched by a few million people, would you act normally? No...fricking...way. Bet you wouldn't get out of bed in the morning and walk to the bathroom naked, scratching your backside while emitting a huge burp, would you? No, you wouldn't. You'd act like you do on a first date. Turn on the charm and lie through your teeth to make yourself sound attractive.

So if these people aren't acting like themselves, what's the point?

Answer: There isn't one.

However, the absolute worst thing about Big Brother, was the sheer number of bastard copycat children it spawned.

You see, any time anything even half way popular appears, the TV execs jump on it like an acrobat with a trampoline fixation. They manage to take an idea, squeeze out all of the originality, fun and entertainment, and clone it a couple million times. A few weeks later, the airwaves are crammed with nothing but reality TV shows, all of which have no entertainment value whatsoever. Each, however, promises their own 'new, fun and unique' twists, which turn out to be about as successful as a stereo salesman at a Deaf person's convention, and about as unique as a lying politician .

Some of these, pure, unadulterated, offenses to the eyeballs were:

#1 Chained : Copy of Big Brother (Even hosted by one of BB1's contestants), where the contestants could leave the house, but were all chained together! Good idea...didn't actually work of course. Watching 10 people struggle to get dressed, take a shower, sleep etc didn't work. An hour long show dedicated to how difficult it was to put your T-shirt on while chained to someone else, was interesting for about the first 5 nanoseconds.

#2 Shattered : Big brother, but they weren't allowed to sleep. This is the only show of it's kind where the contestants act like they're being forced to watch their own show. The show lost its appeal entirely when the producers realised that the contestants could get permanent brain damage through sleep deprivation, (although who would notice?) So in an effort to not get sued they started allowing them to sleep. Making the show as pointless as a hammer.

#3 I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here! : This one was slightly interesting as you got to watch celebrities being tortured. The bad part was the definition of 'celebrity'. The producers obviously thought that a singer who had a one-hit wonder over a decade ago still deserved the title, along with the spouses of people who are slightly well known (Not even a celebrity in their own right...but their husbands or wives!). Put it this way, I recognised maybe one or two names from the entire cast. Not so much "I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here" as "I'm Washed Up and Will Do Anything for Even a Sniff of Publicity. Including Making a Complete Dick of Myself."

However, the "Reality TV Copycat" Gold Medal Award has to go to the worst shows on tv. The dreaded DIY reality shows. An alien civilisation would be quite within its rights to use these shows as moral justification to wipe out the human race...and we wouldn't have a leg to stand on.

The premise isn't too bad. The show decorates a person's house while they're out, then films their reaction. However, this is only worth watching when the homeowner absolutely hates it.

The producers have managed to introduce the the odd twist, however, like neighbours decorating each other's houses, decorating on a budget, decorating with no budget at all etc.

So what's my problem with them? I actually have two. Although these two problems are really headings for about a million other ones. Here they are:

Problem #1) The weirdos who flounce in to a beautiful turn of the century house, rip everything out, decorate the whole place for a buck fifty, before flouncing out again, congratulating themselves on their new mauve and scarlet colour scheme. I actually saw one where the 'designer' tore out a 150 year old stone fireplace, and replaced it with a bright pink MDF shelf. I've also seen one where they made curtains for someone out of a length of fishing line, a shower curtain and safety pins. I'm not lying.

"See, it looks like it's floating!" They say of the shower curtain, safety pinned to a fishing line 'curtain rail' over the 19thC picture window.

Yeah, that's great, now bring back my oak curtain rail and $500 velvet curtains or I'll set fire to that frilled jacket and weird hairstyle for you.

If they ever came and did something like that to my house, pardon my French, I would shit a gold brick... then beat them to death with it.

Problem #2) The sheer bloody number of them!!!

They're not even trying anymore! They at least used to make a half-assed effort to make themselves different. We now have: Changing Rooms, Changing spaces, Trading Rooms, Trading spaces, Home Invaders, House Invaders, Space Invaders...You get the picture.

From what I can gather the TV Exec's have a pair of dice. On one is words like 'home', 'house', 'space', 'room' and the other dice has words like 'changing', 'trading' etc on it. They roll them and Hey Presto! They have a whole new show!

The premise is always the same. They go to a house, destroy it, then watch the homeowner cry.

Who is paying these people? There's no actual, bona fide, new ideas in reality TV anymore. The producers just wait for someone to make the slightest change to the already tired formula and then copy it over and over until everyone gets sick of it. Then they do it again.

RealityTV is boring.


Because it's based on Reality.

Isn't it the whole point of TV to provide an escape from the everyday, humdrum routine of life? Isn't it the point of TV to provide adventure, drama and above all entertainment?

Watching James Bond jump a running helicopter on a motorcycle is entertaining. Watching Obi-Wan Kenobi having a lightsaber duel is fun. Watching the crew of CSI solve a crime with all kinds of forensic wizardry is interesting.

Watching someone getting shouted at for not taking their turn to do the dishes is not.

After all, I just have to walk into the Kitchen when my wife is there to experience that.

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