What to say if you liked it
A contemporary Heart of Darkness where the teeming tributaries of Reality TV were traced back to their source with perspicacity worthy of Dostoyevsky.
What to say if you didn’t like it
An architectural folly to place even the Millennium Dome in the shade as a hollow edifice the size and volume of the Atlantic Ocean is constructed to hold the weightless vacuum of the sum talent and character of anyone ever to appear on Reality TV.
What was good about it?
* Geri Halliwell’s Look At Me was appropriately used as the main theme tune as nowhere in the history of television has such a mound of mediocrity achieved such an undeserved and worthless level of celebrity.
* The closing theme of Ned’s Atomic Dustbin’s Kill Your Television.
* The satisfying conclusion you draw that Reality TV is like punk in that there are a few startling originals while the rest lubricate their velocity in the of their forbears’ trail of mucus.
* The very earliest Reality TV, such as Man Alive, seemed to possess a freshness and wonder that has callously been stripped away by subsequent incarnations of the genre.
* The goals of people desiring to get on television initially seemed quite noble as the medium was forbidden to all those who didn’t attend Oxbridge.
* The clips of That’s Life made it appear a buoyant flagship consumer show before its
inevitable sinking to the bottom of the BBC1 ocean where it was picked clean by executive scavengers appropriating the moribund ideas to fuel their own tepid shows.
* Matt Bianco and Five Star being insulted on Saturday Superstore.
* John Humphrys looking about 60 years old in 1981.
* Video Nation – a series of little snippets of unusual lives around Britain such as the fisherman working in the remote waters around Scotland.
* The best “stars” of Reality TV are always those who don’t seek fame and are quite content to stay within their own little departments of interest like Fred Dibnah and Sister Wendy.
* Mark Frith’s back-handed insult to “Nasty” Nick Bateman: “For two or three weeks, he was the most famous person in Britain.”
* Margaret Thatcher being humiliated on a TV show where her amoral destruction of the General Belgrano was exposed by the endearing persistence of Diana Gould.
What was bad about it?
* The inescapable notion that the whole two hours was heralding of the vast human crop of awfulness that has been fostered on television over the past 40 years as something more vital than the mass graves of anonymity they truly are.
* While innovative, Man Alive was not averse to exploiting oddballs for its own commercial ends such as the woman who had a fear of birds and donned a cat mask to scare away pigeons.
* The hive mother of all modern Reality TV was The Family – a docusoap which followed the Wilkins family – and from which all subsequent shows have flown like queen bees before being fertilised by the droning sterility of TV executives.
* While Esther and the That’s Life team could not be wholly blamed for the pestilent epidemic of Vox Pops, they did start the torturous trend and hopefully feel the same guilt as Russian inventor Mikhail Kalashnikov.
* Danny Baker and the Daz Doorstep Challenge.
* The way in which anyone not of the cultural or political aristocracy was regarded with utter derision exemplified by Sir Robin Day on Question Time: “Dorothy Clark,” Sir Robin pauses for a haughty snort, “a housewife.”
* The Janet Street-Porter brainchild Network 7 being exposed as the root of many of the more mindless Reality TV shows such as the Castaways segment, that was a precursor of Survivor, and The Bunker, which was a gloomy 80s antecedent of Big Brother.
* Lauren (formerly James) Harries and her delusions of her own talent, even claiming that her appearances on Wogan helped along Terry’s career.
* The Hopefuls on The Word were never shocking but – rather like pornographic films and traffic lights – they were so unremittingly dull.
* Ross Lee from Couch Potatoes, who managed to swindle his way on to discussion shows in a variety of disguises (“I was like a gremlin in the works”), seems to have been in possession of as little talent as those he sought to mock.
* Those Reality shows we’d almost burned from our memories were exhumed and will once more give us nightmares such as The Living Soap.
* The commentator who pompously scorned Airport for running three concurrent narrative strands in one episode with ostensibly equal import of budgies being captured and repacked, a policewoman’s sore feet and the plight of an Albanian family being deported back to Kosovo. His opinions dismissed the viewers’ ability to discern for themselves that the obvious tragedy of the Albanians was more significant than the others.
* Many of the commentators who savaged Reality TV seemed to do so because they were jealous they didn’t come up with the ideas first.
* The illusory perceived pecking order of the disgorged contents from the stomachs of Reality TV such as when Jane McDonald assumed herself as more worthy than Big Brother contestants.
* “Nasty” Nick Bateman talking about Big Brother contestants as “they”, as if forgetting his pitiful efforts to become a celebrity (remember Channel 4 game show Trust Me?). * And for adopting a specious morality when he was front page news while the sailors trapped in the Kursk submarine were on page 25; if he really felt so contrite over his underserved fame he should have refused to give his valueless views on this show.
Jade Goody – a woman who has become an icon among idiots in the same way Hitler is idolised by fascists.
* The commentator who remarked that Big Brother marked a “cultural shift” in “the land of the stiff upper lip” as though the sum of all his knowledge about Britain was compiled from the upper classes and had only just stumbled upon the working classes like a botanist happening upon a new medicinal orchid in the deepest Amazon.
* After about one and half hours of this cheerleading of the terminally abysmal, each new show that was profiled failed to cause pain. Even Lizzie Bardsley was tolerable in this maelstrom of mediocrity.