Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Last Rites For Real?

Finally, I get a chance to sit down and catch up with The Sunday Times magazine, which has laid on the sofa, alone and forlorn, the last few days. The cover story was a feature article, Are You Looking At Me?, by Rod Liddle on the decline of reality television.

Liddle trails the filming of ITV’s upcoming The Baron in which a trio of “celebrity stars” compete to win enough votes the win themselves the title of Baron of Gardenstown. Yes, it is that pointless. This is an idea that has gone through the bottom of the barrel and kept on going.

The three stars are retired actor Mike Reid, ex-pop singer Suzanne Shaw, and useless gob on legs Malcolm McLaren. Even the residents of Gardenstown, a small village on the northern coast of Aberdeenshire, think the line up is particularly piss-poor.

So far, so bad. Knowing that utter nonsense like this is coming to television makes me want to be thrown into a vat of boiling piss. But turn the page and Liddle gets to the point of why he’s there.

Overall, the genre is in merciful slow decline – a victim of public ennui as ever more facile formats are introduced to spice things up. Celebrity Love Island, where a dozen or so of the worst people in the world were invited to have sex or argue with one another, lost 2m viewers after the first show and was beaten by the lowly CSI on Five. Big Brother was recently matched by BBC’s Springwatch and ITV faced a loss of some £70m in advertising revenue after a slump in viewing figures for its flagship reality show, I’m a Celebrity... Get Me out of Here!

There’s also been a nasty knock to those other revenue streams: the telephone voting. Channel 4 was recently forced (by public outrage, as much as anything) to halve the cost of its phone-line votes for Big Brother, thus more than halving its income. And the companies have realised that there is no great appetite among the public for DVD reissues of reality shows, nor money to be made from syndication. This is a wounded and tired genre, limping haplessly towards the TV crematorium.

Yes please. These useless shows started off useless and got worse. I’m amazed that the companies may have thought that the public would be interested in “DVD reissues”, which means that they drop into the schedules like a big steaming turd and are flushed away, only ever to be seen again in cheap clip shows.

Wouldn’t it be better to put the money into some quality drama that can be sold to territories around the world and even welcomed as repeats here at home? Something that could try to reach the heights of


Or maybe even

Just make sure they don't have words like Cape and Wrath in the title.


At 10:03 pm, Blogger Jaded and Cynical said...

Please God let it be so.

Reality TV has ripped the heart out of British television.

As for Cape Wrath, my confidence in the UK channels is so low that unless there's oustanding word-of-mouth I won't waste even sixty seconds on any new programme.

And GD, if you think Birmingham is depressing, I promise you, it's like Venice compared to the places further north.

At 6:56 am, Blogger wcdixon said...

Hear hear!


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