Belfast Telegraph

Lindy McDowell: Jeremy Kyle Show far from unique in this age of shaming and judging others

Jeremy Kyle whose ITV show was axed this week
Jeremy Kyle whose ITV show was axed this week

By Lindy McDowell

I think the maddest reality television show I ever watched an episode of was Naked and Afraid, the plot of which is summed up by the makers as follows: "For 21 days, one man and one woman - meeting for the first time in the nude - are paired and tasked to survive in some of the world's most extreme environments ... with no food, water or clothes."

You wonder what sort of mind thought that one up.

Anyway the show I watched began with the somewhat awkward meeting in a Florida forest between the two contestants - a wraith-like young woman and a chunky man who took much pride in listing his extensive survivalist training.

They had already disrobed but their privates were now covered in discreet pixelation which conveniently moved around as they did.

The pair had agreed that priorities were to find drinking water and light a fire. They couldn't manage either. By nightfall Survivalist Man was so dehydrated and stressed he had to be stretchered out.

Next up was a muscly guy brought in to partner the poor girl who now looked worryingly ill. They did get a fire going but they couldn't find food and had very little water.

In the end the muscly guy used his brains not his brawn to resolve the starvation issue. Out searching for saplings which could be fashioned into hunting spears or the like he spotted the production team's canteen.

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Under cover of darkness he cunningly nipped in and helped himself.

He was caught out, of course. Those darned cameras.

And as he and the now scarily weak girl were evicted from the show to be reunited with civilisation and their underwear, I was left asking myself: "What was the point of all that?"

Which, to me, pretty much sums up reality television and its audience - of which, yes, hands up, I am often part.

There is an undoubtedly exploitative side to reality TV. Some shows being more exploitative than others. (Embarrassing Bodies?) Yes, the "contestants" are adults who go into these shows voluntarily. But all too often they're stripped bare in more ways than one.

Which brings us to Jeremy Kyle.

After the death of a recent participant on Mr Kyle's show, ITV have this week quite rightly axed it.

Quite rightly too there is now to be an investigation into reality TV in general, focussing on the pressures participants face both during and, crucially, after filming.

I am not a fan of Jeremy Kyle, not by a long chalk. I hate that smug, self-satisfied, preachy, shouty way of his. Even by the often dubious standard of reality TV, the Jeremy Kyle Show was horrible viewing.

But as the debate now rages over the show itself, the alleged tactics of its production team and the question of whether it's an example of the classism inherent in much television programming devised by a public-school-educated elite sneering at the vulnerable poor, we do seem to have overlooked one small point.

It was also awfully popular.

We can sit back and pass judgment on Jezza, as he was previously famous for doing unto others, but he didn't get where he was without viewers - many, many viewers - tuning in to ogle at his hectoring and "shaming".

And shamefully such "shaming" doesn't stop with this one show - or others of its ilk.

Online, the same shaming is a hallmark of so many of those mobile phone videos piously "calling out" people who don't meet the poster's own supposedly high standards.

People being obnoxious on public transport. Road ragers. People eating/ drinking on trains. People who aren't good with apostrophes. People making eejits of themselves. People who aren't size zero. People who are size zero. People guilty of this-ism or that-ism or just poor dress sense.

People to zoom in on and to look down upon in the snooty virtue-signalling world of the judgmental, the trolls and those who feed them by clicking 'play'.

Whatever you think of the Jeremy Kyle Show it wasn't - it isn't - a one-off.

It's a genre.

One which, I fear, may be bigger and more popular than we think.

No bitter whine over costly error

Wine win of the week. The story of the waiter who mistakenly served up a bottle of Chateau Outrageously Expensive.

The restaurant bosses took it well, announcing: “To the customer who accidentally got given a bottle of Chateau le Pin Pomerol 2001, which is £4,500 on our menu, hope you enjoyed your evening! To the member of staff who accidentally gave it away... mistakes happen and we love you anyway.”

As well they might. The story went global. All that advertising for £4,500. Something to drink to there.

Heat is on with all these ovens

Never mind an island in your kitchen, the new show-off factor is ovens. Multiple ovens.

MP James Brokenshire raised eyebrows when he was photographed in his kitchen which boasts four ovens.

Why would you need four ovens? What would you put in four ovens? Who’s going to clean these ovens?

Unless he’s having the entire Coldstream Guards round for dinner this is utter oven-overkill.

Just how many pizza slices does one family need reheated?

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