25 Jul

Matt Webb

Unless you’ve been living in a cave for several years you will know that the reality TV show is lord and master of television networks everywhere. Although soaps still have their place on television, they are no longer what my work colleagues gossip about around the coffee machine every morning. Instead, there is endless discussion on the subject of Jersey Shore, The Hills and of course The Only Way Is Essex.

Ellie has mentioned in a previous article the way masculinity is represented in various reality shows. I will leave gender issues to Ellie, seeing as she is a professional and knows way more about it than I ever will. What I hope to be able to address in this article is the subject of idiots and their portrayal in reality TV show.

Reality TV shows are popular with producers because they are cheap to make. When you think about the costs involved in making, for example, a high quality period drama or even a low quality soap opera, it’s no surprise that more and more producers seem to be saying, “Fuck it, let’s just get a bunch of idiots together and give a prize to the one that displays the greatest understanding of basic concepts.”

The first reality show to really make it big was Big Brother. It started out quite innocently, really. Channel 4 got together a bunch on fairly normal people (relative to contestants in later series) and watched them go slightly nuts for a period of weeks.  In those days there was even a regular show where actual psychiatrists would analyse the behaviour of the people in the house. Imagine that!

It turned out that after a couple of series ‘normal’ people were boring, so Channel 4 started to recruit progressively stranger people for their annual freakfest. I have no problem with strange people. Everyone likes a good old freak show. If anyone tells you otherwise, they’re liars. No, what I have a problem with are idiots.

Big Brother was the real beginning of the reality show celebrating morons. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciate that not everyone is a genius. Everyone has gaps in their knowledge. It’s when these gaps are so vast that people don’t realise that East Anglia is in England or don’t know who Shakespeare was that I get really mad. It’s not even that these people lack this knowledge that makes me angry. What really angers up my blood is the way the UK public celebrates these idiots!

The problem, as I see it, is that for every intelligent person watching a reality show there are probably several idiots. By showing these idiots the idiotic behaviour of other idiots on TV and then rewarding them with fame and fortune, you are merely perpetuating idiocy throughout the country.

What do idiots learn while watching other idiots make money through reality TV?

Let’s take the example of a show already touched upon by Ellie; Tool Academy. This was a show that attempted to rebuild crumbling relationships by explaining to the boyfriends/husbands that getting drunk, abusive and then cheating on your partner is probably not the way to go about showing that you value them and their equal contribution to your mutual journey through life.

As Ellie rightly points out, the men on the show were all horrible. Actually, pretty much everyone on the show was horrible. Rick Edwards, the presenter, obviously realised this, as his face could barely disguise the almost physical pain he was feeling towards the end of the series.

In other words, everyone on the show was an idiot and not very nice ones at that. I have to say that I didn’t watch the entire series from start to finish, but during the episodes that I did watch I did not at any point see one of the experts on the show say to anybody, “I think you should really think about whether it’s right for you two to be together” or, “You are both poisonous human beings who should avoid each other at all costs” or even, “I’m going to refer you to a specialist who will be able to oversee the necessary procedures to have you both sterilised.”

The lessons we learn from this program, as basically intelligent people (I hope I’m not wrong in making that assumption of you) would be something along the lines of:

  • Ha ha! Stupid people are stupid!
  • Steer clear of clubs and bars that play RnB music.
  • If you reach a point where you are learning valuable life lessons from a T4 presenter you have clearly made some fairly poor choices at some point in the past.

To idiots the lesson this program teaches is:

  • If we can demonstrate that we regularly behave in a way that fails to meet a basic level of respect towards others, we might be able to get on Channel 4 and win prizes.

This show would have worked better if there was not a cash prize acting as an incentive for people to treat their partners in a basically decent way. Surely the fact that Rick Edwards has helped you to gain some level of functionality in your relationship should be prize enough?

Idiots are constantly rewarded on television. Quiz shows are another prime example of this. If you’ve watched The Million Pound Drop (I know it’s difficult to take constant exposure to Davina McCall for a whole TV show, but you might be made of stronger stuff than I am) you’ll know that the only people they allow to compete on this program are semi-literate morons.

Typically, my experience of watching this show is as follows:

Davina: Ok guys, here are your category options for the fourth question; Theatre or Bears.

Contestant 1: Ooooh, well we don’t know anything about the theatre, do we?

Contestant 2: No, Dave, we don’t even not know nuffin about it neither do we?

Me: Oh, what, but you have an encyclopaedic knowledge of bears??

Contestant 2: Hold on though, Dave. What do we know about bears?

Contestant 1: (sucks air through teeth) Well….there’s….Paddington Bear…?

Contestant 2: Sorted. We’ll choose Bears, Davina.

And usually they’ll muddle through the question by sheer luck, and onto question five:

Davina: Well done on getting through that last round. Who knew that bears only bother to eat honey because it pisses off bees, huh? You learn something new every day. Anyway, onto question five. The categories are; Books or Mountains.

Contestant 1: Oooh, well we don’t know anything about books, do we Kev?


Idiots on quiz shows are always surprised at being asked questions requiring actual knowledge of a subject. If a new quiz show hit the screens that didn’t offer multiple choice answers they’d never be able to get contestants to appear on it.

Offering multiple choice means that no one just knows the answer any more. They have to reach the correct answer through a slow process of elimination. Everyone has to justify why it is that they know something. You can’t just give the answer:

Contestant 1: It’s option B, Davina. Chrysanthemum.

Davina: Ok, and why do you think chrysanthemum is the correct answer?

Contestant 1: I don’t think it’s the right answer. I know it is. It’s just the right answer to the question. Now hand over the prize money.

You can’t do that, because it smacks of gosh darn book learnin’! And if there’s anything that gets the ignorant masses watching at home steamed up it’s gosh darn academic achievers and their gosh darn book learnin’! Or so my paranoid delusions lead me to believe.

Fear not. There is a refuge for those of us who are not yet ready to wave a white flag and turn our planet over to the morons. It’s called the BBC. Try watching University Challenge or Only Connect if you want a seriously challenging quiz show! For reality TV, put on The Apprentice. Ok, they’re still idiots, but at least they’re idiots attempting clever things! You don’t actually have to watch TV at all, in fact (although it’s probably best not to risk stopping.)

Gawd bless the good old Beeb!


One Response to “Idiots”

  1. Enrique August 2, 2011 at 5:56 am #

    This was a brilliant. I’m American but your take on Reality TV is spot on – and I couldn’t stop laughing. Pure genius.

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