The End Of Reality TV?
It was recently announced that the next series of Big Brother would be the last and the nation let out a collective sigh of relief. No longer would our week night telly be reduced to the cultural wasteland of talentless bores stripping, laughing, crying, drinking and behaving like contemptible morons in a desperate bid to be a celeb ‘after the house’.
Reality shows like Big Brother are in telly terms a relatively new concept. Cheap to make, and requiring no brain cells to enjoy, TV couldn’t churn them out quick enough. Primarily aimed at ‘da yoof’ of today they weren’t enjoyed by everyone. Oldies would cry into their meals on wheels at the decline of their beloved box and talk misty eyed of days when British television was respected and full of ‘proper’ programmes like MASH.
Times have changed and it was out with Wildlife on BBC One and in with Wife Swap. In recent years one has only had to flick on the television to see that crazed exhibitionists exchanging privacy for celebrity have become what the public crave. Seems like every week there is some gurning, unblinking celeb trying their hand at something pointless be it farming, singing, dancing, wrestling or most disturbingly pulling, thanks to ‘Love Island’. I know, instead, for a laugh why don’t we have Celebrity Guantanamo Bay? Think about it, twelve Z-list celebs turn up thinking they are off to a luxury Spa to compete to be Cuba’s next top model and instead they are sentenced to 45 years hard labour. Or perhaps forced participation in a cage fight with a naked Piers Morgan, covered only by Vaseline. Imagine - two will enter only one will leave!
Sadly programmes such as Big Brother, The X Factor and I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here and more bizarrely Dancing on Ice, have come to dominate the TV schedules and tabloids and nation psyche.
Without even trying, you will probably have become aware of names such as “Nasty” Nick Bateman and Jade Goody. They, among others, were the epitome of vacuous and meaningless celebrity who occupied seemingly unlimited pages of Heat magazine and happily sold their sad little lives to the papers for column inches and transitory wealth.
We weren’t to blame though right? BB’s creators and Channel 4 were fully aware that the more we saw unfolding on live TV, the more we wanted like salivating dogs. Thus the more we wanted, the more they gave and reality television continually spiralled to new and breathtaking lows in a never ending depressing cycle. I think that infamous incident with the inappropriate use of the champagne bottle on BB says it all really. No idea what I’m referring to? Maybe thats for the best.
Now, with the announcement that the programme that fascinated millions, is to come to an end at the end of the next series, it is difficult to see how such nobodies once walked hand in hand with the zeitgeist. Originally deemed innocent and “cool new Britannia” in quintessence, Big Brother has revealed itself to be horrifyingly insidious and fed into a vulnerable and na´ve society and god did we just lap it up like the cretinous telly slaves we are. A decade on from its beginning, the public surely have woken up to the manufactured and contrived nature of a ‘reality’ show designed for our amusement and titillation. Surely?
Thus, as ‘Big Brother 10’ came to an end this summer and it was announced that the 11th series would be the final one, cue much crying by the detestable Davina McCall, it was accordingly met with as little interest as can be expected. Britain I assumed had moved on, we are becoming cultural elitists. In fact we even want a better class of reality TV damn it, we want to watch Kevin Federline’s journey to ditch the trans fats and become lead dancer of the Russian Ballet.
We all had naively hoped that the culmination of Big Brother marks the watershed of reality TV and of exhibitionist untalented celebrities. Somewhere along the way, it is not just them, but we, who have lost our way Britain. We have been lost in a twisted era where ‘real’ pain has meant snivelling through your sob story on national television. Whether it’s a tearful, dodgy rendition of ‘my heart will go on’ on The X Factor, (it’s Alzheimer riddled nana’s favourite) or having a mental illness that is gleefully and mercifully exploited on Big Brother, oh how we laugh as Jez microwaves apples and says his best friend is a lampshade. We hope and pray that era is coming to an end, we insist it is time to refill those wasted hours with ‘real’ entertainment. It is time for a welcome back to actual reality.
Or so we thought.
Feeling rather euphoric about the BB demise joe public came crashing to earth with the report that The Spice Girls are reportedly set to launch a reality TV show to find versions of themselves for a new musical. That’s right, a musical version of the story of the Spice Girls. If this is not excruciating enough the girls will apparently sit on a judging panel, that’s right the Spice Girls will judge you, for an Andrew Lloyd Webber-style talent programme to seek out five counterparts for the West End stage. Reassuringly we are told that although “The girls would have to work intensely on a TV show for a short period of time" they would then “launch a musical which could run for months or even years.” That’s right. Years. So it would seem friends that reality TV has not died, Big Brother bowing out has created space for a new and mutated form of reality TV, the kind of reality whereby the Spice Girls are the authority on talent.
Clearly it is time to switch off the TV.