Too much reality

Published

Tom Bonnick

Whatever terrible environmental or political apocalpyse this new decade — the teens? the tensies? I prefer, in the spirit of cultural critic Jody Rosen’s designation of the last decade as “the Beyonces”, to think of them as the Lady Gagas — will herald in, we will still always be able to find solid comfort in one fact. No matter what the hell else 2010 brings, it will still be the year Big Brother disappeared from our screens. Or, y’know, at the very least, the year it stopped being transmitted from Channel 4 but would likely still find an audience elsewhere pending negotiations with Dave. I don’t care. That’s still good enough for me.

I don’t say that because I’m some kind of awful snob. I am an awful snob, but not when it comes to reality TV, per se. This isn’t only for the reason that, without a doubt, the greatest British television invention of the last five years has been Come Dine With Me, either. Reality TV — or, as it is rather euphemistically called within the industry, “alternative programming” (alternative from what? good programming?) — exists, and has done for quite some time, and frankly, the only thing more boring than watching Stephen Baldwin endlessly proselytising to Sisqo about how he and Jesus have pet-names for one another is watching yet another episode of Newsnight Review endlessly drawing attention to what this signifies.

Still, and at the risk of hopelessly contradicting myself, Big Brother is rubbish, and its demise can only be a good thing, not least because it might put an end to those Newsnight Reviews. What’s more interesting than all the reasons why BB is a bane on our lives, though, is what its absence might do. Reading its disappearance as a sign that the genre as a whole is on the wane seems foolishly optimistic: all it indicates is that one franchise ran out of ideas and became a hopeless and grotesque parody of itself. And while alternative programming remains so cheap to produce, and original drama so expensive, the former will be irresistable to broadcasters, even more so now that Sky and the BBC are insisting that an ever greater number of shows are filmed in high-priced HD, while reality programs are created out of what is essentially a glorified combination of CCTV and home video.

Nonetheless, there does appear to be a shift — in the UK at least — towards more content-oriented reality TV; less obsessed with navel gazing non-entities or the crude exploitation of fame-starved idiots.

Whatever the end of Big Brother amounts to, I feel sure in my heart that it will mean that there will be more hours in the day during which I will be afforded the opportunity to watch strangers prepare meals for one another in a competitive, passive-aggressive environment. And of that, I am truly thankful.