For a change I’m not venting my spleen about Creationists or religion, tempted as I am. Instead, my venom is aimed at another growing menace, that of the vapid, exploitative, bottomless pit of tedium that is the premium rate phonecall based TV show.
I write this as I’m A Celebrity Get Me Outta Here languishes like a used piece of toilet paper upon the TV schedule toilet floor. Have I watched any of it this year? No. Do I intend to? Not unless somebody points a gun at my head and even then I’d probably have to hear the trigger start to be pulled before reaching for the remote. So little is my interest that I could not name a single ‘celebrity’ appearing in this godforsaken attempt at family entertainment. I find the very premise of this show so utterly mindnumbing that I would rather stare at a blank screen, or even check out what QVC is trying to hawk in the run up to Christmas.
My hatred is not confined to I’m a Celeb, ooooh no, you can lump in Strictly Come Dancing, too. Again, my interest stops before I even get to the stage of knowing which limelight craving nonentity is prepared to humiliate themselves in the name of show business. The only person I can name is Ann Widdecombe and my interest there extends solely to whether the vicious, mealy mouthed God bothering mooncalf manages to break her self righteous neck. If so, I’ll catch it on the BBC iPlayer (and record it for repeat enjoyment).
Try to escape Strictly Come Dancing and turn to ITV of a Saturday night and, before being bombarded with attention whores eating kangaroo balls, you’re hit smack in the face with X-Factor, or Simon Cowell’s pension fund as it should be renamed. My knowledge of this year’s contestants is courtesy of Harry Hill’s TV Burp, where frequent mention is made of Wagner. As to the rest of the line-up of substandard warblers *shrug*, not a clue.
What do each of these programs have in common? They rely upon you, yes you, the viewing public being gullible enough to pick up the phone and call a premium rate number to vote somebody out or cause somebody to face a Bush Tucker Trial. If people weren’t stupid enough to actually waste their money, in the middle of a fecking recession, on such inane pandering to the lowest common denominator, these shows would cease to exist. Then the TV companies would be forced to make something more worthwhile perhaps with, shock horror, a storyline or maybe, just maybe, proper Saturday night entertainment with real, bona fide entertainers!
Who is to blame for these vacuous shows? Well, Big Brother arguably ignited the fuse on the whole ‘who will you vote out?’ televisual timebomb but they had an excuse – though not much of one. Big Brother, before dissolving into the pile of formulaic crap it did, was an interesting experiment into human nature. Sorry, who am I kidding, it was always a pile of cack but it was at least original when it began! It featured real people, or as close to real people as the producers could find within the crowd of straitjacketed loonies that showed up at the auditions, braying for a chance to be watched sleeping at night by those who failed to make the grade.
X-Factor features real people, sure, but they quickly weed out the unintentionally entertaining ones in favour of those few who can, with some autotune assistance, actually sing a bit. What do they then do with them? They make them sing insipid, soulless cover versions, often slaughtering otherwise perfectly good songs. Oh thank you, Mr Cowell, that’s just what the music industry needs! Yes, you manage to uncover some genuine talent very occasionally but isn’t that what talent scouts are supposed to do, because they have more idea and aren’t swayed by sob stories? What we end up with is a singer or boy/girl band devoid of any musical talent other than parroting old songs to a backing track. Yippee.
The only saving grace is that, so far, no channel has had the idea of a cooking, DIY or gardening show based on the premium rate vote ‘em out format to inflict upon the British public of a weekend primetime. Doubtless it’s only a matter of time, they seem bereft of any other original ideas.
There was a time Saturday night television was dominated by Noel’s House Party; a mix of moronic pranks and a guy dressed up in a massive pink and yellow rubber suit. It was banal, yes, it was stupid, sure, it was often teeth grindingly annoying, absolutely, but it was not there purely to stick its hand into the recession hit pockets of the viewing public to snatch away money via phonelines. It was crap but it wasn’t cynical, exploitative bullshit.
I never thought I would write these words but … come back Mr Blobby, all is forgiven!