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My humiliation in TV’s theatres of cruelty


PEOPLE who work in broadcasting have been busy this week giving their renditions of Casablanca’s Captain Renault.

Many bleated that they were shocked – shocked! – to find that inhuman treatment, cruelty and exploitation took place in an ITV studio.

The producers of the Jeremy Kyle Show were told to clear the room at once after it emerged that the whistle had been blown on their pound shop version of the Jerry Springer Show. ITV bosses seem to have got cold feet after a suicide which may or may not have been the result of public humiliation on their regular theatre of cruelty. Maybe they needed to sacrifice this clapped-out show in order to save the much more lucrative Love Island, which has been blamed for two suicides.

You can never know the real reason for someone else’s decision to take their own life. The Samaritans told me that. They also offer a number of guidelines for the media to observe when covering this subject, many of which are completely ignored in favour of ratings. Even Stacey Dooley fell short on this score when she took part in a documentary that dramatised suicide. 

There is a section on reporting tips that should be required reading for BBC News distorters.

Wouldn’t it be great if these sensationalists were forced to ‘think about the impact of the coverage’? Maybe they would stop telling immigrants that the majority of people hate them and stop pushing the hateful fantasy that ‘the far right’ is on the rise. Projecting illness on to others in order to exert controlling behaviour is the broadcasting strain of Munchausen’s Syndrome by Proxy.

Anyone in broadcasting who exhibits these pathologically selfish reporting behaviours should really be sectioned. But that would wipe out the entire staff of BBC News.

I’m no expert, but it appears to me that the entire TV industry is chock full of people who make 1970s tabloid bin-dippers look like Gandhi.

Researchers are on desperation wages, so they’d sell their own granny to a Mexican drugs cartel if it won them a big break. Directors are all ankle-deep in sex scandals and gin, and every single producer is in hock to a stream of alimony payments.

In fairness, I don’t actually know any producers, directors or researchers. But I’m basing my comments on what ‘people say’. And as viewers of BBC News will know, people say, sources and according to insiders are enough to stand up any prejudicial editorial line.

I have actually taken part in two TV pilot shows. Which is a risibly small survey sample. However, if we take the BBC’s AnnInsiderSez as the de facto benchmark of veracity, then my research is of a quality way above BBC standards.

The first dodgy pilot show was made by one of the giants in the independent TV production oligarchy. (There are three brutally capitalistic companies, all run by Notional Socialists – or the Herd Left.)

The show was to star Frankie Boyle as a judge and, as with so many other products on British TV, was a pound shop version of an American show. DangerMouth sets up members of the public to insult each other, with the person who can inflict the most emotional trauma on their opponent emerging as the winner. The loser of each bout, as I was to discover, is unceremoniously shown the door.

The most invidious aspect of this cruel show was that they tricked us into doing it. They selected contestants on their ability to rant on any subject. Which I was OK at in the preliminaries.

It was only on the day of recording the pilot that they told us we were going to be running each other down.

At the last minute, my opponent in the show was revealed to be a cross-dresser, who was obviously expecting a cocktail party. I’m sure they picked me for this bout because I look quite big and thuggish (I have boxed as a heavyweight) and I was quite creative at swearing about inanimate frustrations in the selection exercises. But I froze when it came to giving the tranny a kicking.

Judge Frankie Boyle was angry and disappointed. He outlined some of the physical aspects of my opponent that I could have mocked: ‘Look at his arms for a start.’ I’d much rather talk about Frankie Boyle’s hideous beard. The only insult I could think of relates to Mr Boyle-face: You can teach an ugly dog to walk backwards, but you mustn’t forget to shave its arse.

Anyway, I left the studio in disgrace and, as a result, some horrible little munchkin got brave and started lobbing insults at me. I wonder if this is the sort of inspiring show that Lord Reith would have approved of.

I took part in another theatre of cruelty pilot show, this time with Rob Brydon. Again, the curse of Booth struck, and the series never got made. Once again, the process was the same: friendly researchers, a mis-selling of the intentions of the programme, an ego monster of a presenter whom nobody was allowed to make jokes about and a game involving the ritual humiliation of a member of the public.

I think Joseph Merrick got better treatment from his circus ringmasters. In BAFTA-land, Jeremy Kyle wasn’t the Elephant Man in the Room. He was the Sam Torr figure.

But Kyle’s wasn’t the only circus in town. With a few exceptions, all TV production companies are theatres of cruelty.

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Nick Booth
Nick Booth
Nick Booth is a freelance writer.

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