Thursday, 12 June 2008

Reality Show Clip Time

The title is from The Soup, the world's best tv show ever (see ) when host Joel McHale takes the piss out of the worst of America's reality shows. Well, that's the caption that pops up, but Mr McHale usually just looks into camera and screams "it's reaali'eee' hoe ipppp ime!!"

My thought today, with the meeja websites full of Apprentice bumper ratings news, Big Brother bullying rows and the like, is why... well, er, just... WHY?

Apprentice is massively popular - as well it should be, a well-produced show and a worldwide format. BB is less popular generally but hugely high-rating for that all important (to C4 and advertisers) yoot audience.

But I can't be arsed with either of them, and was wondering why.

BB first. My view is that the first series was genius - original, compelling, a good mix of people and a genuinely interesting premise. Series 2... well, fatigue set in and I thought I'd kinda seen it all before. And now it's up to series 9. Or 15 if you include the celebrity versions and that very odd thing they did last time instead of the celebrity thing.

The reason I find it unwatchable is simple. The contestants - and that's what they are, not 'housemates' - know the construct. They are aware that by being chosen to be on the show that they've made it. By the time they step out of that limo to enter the set - and that's what it is, a set, not a 'house' - they're famous. And that's what every spoddy yoot watching wants to be. Famous. Even if it's for being thick, like millionaire Jade Goody, the average young viewer watching just wants to be An Celebrity.

So there's no jeopardy at all in the format any more, as all the contestants have won. The meeja often forget or ignore the actual winner in favour of someone else (Ms Goody versus that Christian virgin man from a Scottish isle who disappeared after winning). The contestants will forever have the prefix "former Big Brother star" in front of their name. Someone somewhere will always recognise them. And that, to them and to the audience, is champion.

So what's the point of watching these people sit in a set dressing up, getting drunk, being split into groups and slavishly following the dictats of a bunch of producers in a darkened room, pretending it's all Very Important Indeed. When it's not. As the contestants in series one sang occasionally "it's only a game show". Bet that annoyed the producers no end.

Apprentice is different, in that it's all pre-recorded and the press, oddly, go along with the conceit of it happening sorta-kinda-now. The fact the Guardian do a live web blog when it's being broadcast is one of the oddest things I've ever encountered. There are preview tapes of the show available. Why watch it live and type stuff up like it's new? It's not. It's on tape.

In some ways this show is more harmful than the wannabe-Heat-cover-star mentality of BB. It encourages the idea that to succeed in business you have to be a right twat, mouthing corporate speak, destroying all others and being a sneaky, underhanded, evil arsewipe.

What a load of shite. Yes, in some businesses you need to be ruthless. But if you act like a total twunt all the time, no-one you work with will like you. And at some point in the future, when you go for an interview for a better job, the person in front of you will be someone you shafted previously. And they'll smile sweetly as they hire someone else...

The even funnier thing is Sir Alan Sugar being presented as this incredibly successful business guru. Er, right. SAS (as no-one abbreviates his name) runs a small company that doesn't really produce much of note. When did you last actually choose to buy an Amstrad product? You may have a Sky box with that brand on, but you get sent them for nowt when you subscribe. SAS runs a company no-one would actually choose to buy a product from. His brand name is worth as much as Saisho or Matsui, the two pretend names that Dixons and Currys used for their own brand rubbish cheapo tellies*

Amstrad's last products, that awful email phone and the anti-wrinkle zapper, are the sort of thing you see advertised in the back of Sunday supplements, like elasticated-waist fat pants and baths with doors in them. SAS makes lots of money, but that's from property he's accumulated - wisely and very efficiently, sure, but not exactly rocket science. Amstrad itself makes little profit.

But, oh no, working for him is like worshipping at the feet of a modern day God of business. Pffft. Loada shite.

So Apprentice doesn't work for me either as it's a bunch of over-gelled hateful sales people doing crappy challenges to get a pointless job they probably won't even take up. Where's the jeopardy? The contestants on this show are the BB contestants for a slightly upmarket and older demographic - being interviewed by Steve Wright on Radio 2 or the Mail, instead of Moylesy and the Star.

Or maybe I'm just getting old.

*Dixons and Currys purposely picked Japanese-sounding brand names for their own stuff as people liked buying Japanese brands, as they were seen as reliable and high-quality. Anyone who had the misfortune to own a Saisho tv or a Matsui hi-fi (my hand is in the air at this point) will know these were, to be frank, unreliable creap crap.


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