Hypnotised by the Idiot’s Lantern

My wife watches a lot of reality TV, so, much like passive smoking, I end up absorbing a lot of it without meaning to. I’ve had some thoughts about a few shows stuck in my head for while. The one way to get the damn things out? By making you read them. Sorry.

Celebrity Big Brother

A few of the celebri…contestants on the show didn’t take to Danielle Marr (star of something called Dublin Wives). One of their criticisms of her was that she wasn’t genuine, and acted like someone looking to further her career. Most of them, presumably, are guilty of that to some extent, and I didn’t see how she was any different. Then, in a confrontation with high-kicking mincer Louie Spence, she called him “a pirouetting piranha”.

Granted, that’s quite a good line. But, my god, how artificial. A line like that doesn’t just fall out of one’s mouth. Marr had already been evicted from the show by this point, and was brought back in, well, to antagonise people by the look of it. What was she doing during her time off? Presumably working on quips she could break out when criticising other contestants.

The Big Reunion

Mammas, don’t let your kids grow up to be pop stars. A bundle of pop bands reunited, and the stars got to tell their stories. For many, that story included having a nervous breakdown or going bankrupt. Sean from Five (I can’t bring myself to spell it 5ive) spent weeks recovering after the fame, attention and insane work schedule caught up with me. His bandmate, Ritchie, left for Australia as he hated being identified as that guy from that band. Another Five member, Abz, openly admits to being skint. Duncan from Blue has just declared himself bankrupt. His band-mate, Antony, had been homeless. These are all people who made record companies a fortune. Doing so left a lot of them depressed, and many were rewarded with just a fraction of the profits.

As A Tribe Called Quest said, “Record company people are shady”.

On the plus side, Spike from 911 looks like a sweaty builder, but thanks to all the attention the Reunion tour is getting him, he’s getting mad ladies.

Big Reunion showed me my small-mindedness regarding pop music. I figured there were two kinds of people who appreciated this particular kind of cheesy pop: 15 year-old girls who enjoy the image it conveys as much as the music; and the people who sing the songs, who do so for money and fame and sex. It really never occurred to me that an adult could enjoy this kind of music. But Reunion showed that the people who make this music actually have a fondness for it. Natasha from Atomic Kitten is a great example. As the other bands practiced, she sang along, chuffed that she was getting to watch it all live. She knew the lyrics, and all the dance moves. Even when groups like B*witched are singing shit like…

“Hey boy, sittin in your tree
Mummy always wants you to come for tea
Don’t be shy, straighten up your tie
Get down from your tree house sittin in the sky”

…there’s still some grown folks who are happily singing along, possibly for reasons other than sentimentality, they actually enjoy this…nonsense.


This year, X-Factor is more interested in highlighting the talented performers who try out for the show, and less interested in showing the rubbish people. Which, for me, kills what little joy I could find in the programme. There’s the occasional good singer I take an interest in every year, but I really only watch to laugh at the awful ones They can’t all be in on the joke. How do you not know you sound like this? Who are the friends/family who said you sound good, and how should we punish them? Take the comedy element out of the show by omitting the awful performances and the show is just one generically passable performance after another.

I do like Nicole Scherzinger though. Although she performed on the show before becoming a judge and seemed every bit as moon-child as many other celebs, she’s actually fairly normal and watchable. She has that American earnestness that us damn Brits lack, a trait that made Courtney Stodden endearing on Celebrity Big Brother.

Save With Jamie

I’ve always disliked Jamie Oliver. When this show aired, it occurred to me that I’ve no idea why. As I watched him talk, I realised I’ve never seen any of his programmes before. I’d read some of one of his cook books, which was okay. Did I just hate him because I felt like I should?

But the dude’s okay, though clearly deranged. As I watched an energetic rant about pork, I noticed that this guy’s way past trying to seem enthusiastic in order to make the show entertaining. He’s clearly nuts. Look at his eyes when he gets going. There’s madness behind those see-balls of his.

What’s appealing about Save With Jamie is that it’s 30 minutes long. In a world of hourly episodes, this is a refreshing change. The show’s disposable–put it on when you’re having dinner, knowing that if you miss a part of one of the recipes you’ll find it on the website, and use it as background TV. Actually, do watch it while having dinner, otherwise you’ll end up hungry–it’s total food porn.

The product placement is hilariously overt. Jamie takes some milk from a fridge. The camera looms above the milk, focusing on a tub of Yeo Valley yoghurt behind. Jamie removes the milk. The camera stays, lingering on the delicious yoghurt. Jamie goes to a shelf full of dark-coloured cooking implements. There, glowing like the sun amidst all that black, a bright orange packet of Uncle Ben’s rice. All bow down to Uncle Ben!

The low point of every Save With Jamie episode comes at the end, where Mr Oliver makes a home-cooked ‘takeaway’ meal. Every time we meet some takeaway enthusiast who’ll try out Jamie’s grub. And, almost every time, the geezer we meet is, well, a geezer. He’s got some slick, London hair, maybe a commoner’s accent. He sits with a bottle of beer cos he’s a normal lad, just like me and you. They once allowed a woman on the segment, but she needed her man-friend to look after her.

One reason I’ve long hated TV chefs is that they feel the need to be geezery–full of wisecracks and banter and whey, I’m wacky, me antics. I wonder if Jamie is responsible for that. Maybe that’s why I disliked him.

The Great British Bake Off
There’s a fine line between making something mundane appear dramatic, and just getting carried away. Masterchef take it too far, equating herculean labours and Beowulfian victory with grilling a sausage. Bake Off lands just on the right side of that line.

You have to respect a show that can instill drama into an episode that begins with, “You have four hours…to make a cheesecake”. Bake Off does so, but never ventures into histrionics. Despite my best efforts, I find myself caring when someone worries that their scones won’t be ready on time. A big part of the show’s appeal is Sue Perkins, who delivers sarcy comments and sympathy with contestants in equal doses.

A new low in reality TV?
Despite this post, I’m still anti-most reality TV. And, this year, I think it’s hit a new nadir. Undoubtedly, I’ve said this before, but Posh Pawn? More Than Meats the Pie, about Greggs? A second season of something called The Fried Chicken Shop? We’re all doomed.

So am I. I’ve just written almost 1300 words about reality shows, which I claim to loathe. I hate me, and you should too.


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