However Much You May Loathe the Fakery of Reality TV, You Cannot but Admire the Editing

You desperately want to stop watching because it’s all such a huge waste of life, but you can’t because it’s brilliant televisual soma.

The other day I had a very dispiriting conversation with a TV industry insider. It turns out that everything you see on reality TV is fake.

It’s the ‘everything’ part that really bothered me. Obviously, we all sort of know that most TV is faked: that close-ups on wildlife documentaries are sometimes filmed in zoos and that the meerkat they pretend is the same meerkat is actually three different meerkats; that the chance meetings with colourful characters and experts are all prearranged and that when they answer the door and act surprised it’s often the third or fourth take; that the glamorous parties and realistic, totally unstilted dialogue on Made in Chelsea wouldn’t happen if the cameras weren’t there; and so on. But some things I thought were sacred.

Storage Hunters, for example. It had simply never occurred to me that, when the man cuts the chain with the bolt cutter, the tarpaulin is pulled off, and the storage locker for which the successful bidders have paid just $300 contains a Riva speedboat, an original copy of the US constitution, Neil Armstrong’s space helmet and a jar of 1933 double eagle gold coins, there’s a possibility that at least one of these items might have been put there beforehand by the production crew.

Also dog training. For the past couple of years, I have been trying — without much success, it must be said — to teach our dog that I am its pack leader by always making sure to precede it through gates and doorways. Turns out, though, that this is just some complete rubbish that Cesar the alleged dog-training expert came up with on his now defunct series Dog Whisperer. Apparently — as subsequent research has shown — your dog doesn’t respect you in the slightest if you go through doorways before it does. This, certainly, tallies with my own experience.

Now we’re starting a new season of one of my favourite reality series, The Island with Bear Grylls (Sunday, Channel 4). In the past, this has got itself into trouble by helping out the struggling contestants with little cheats. One year, for example, the production crew brought on some pigs — tame domesticated ones: ergo, comfortable in a human’s presence — for the starving girls tearfully to slaughter. On another occasion, just when the group were on the verge of dying of thirst, they handily chanced upon a supply of fresh water from a rubber-lined pool such as is often found on remote, uninhabited islands.

But the danger is real enough.

Read the rest at the Spectator.


Twenty Things I Will Ban When I Am Elected Your Dictator for Life in 2016

They include students, cyclists, e-cigs, roibos and that frightful woman who does Any Answers on Radio 4.

Things I am going to ban when, by popular acclaim, I am elected your Dictator for Life in 2016.

1. Onions where the brown skin doesn’t come off easily. You know the ones: where the papery outer layer clings so tightly that you have to pick it off laboriously with a sharp knife and it takes forever. I hate these onions so much. I’m pretty sure they’re all foreign, though I may be mistaken.

2. Slimline tonic water. (See also: Diet Coke; semi-skimmed milk) ‘Oh? Is it really? Sorry about that. I think it’s all we’ve got.’

‘Aspartame? Oh, is that not good?’

‘Not sure I can tell the difference, to be honest.’

‘Don’t blame me. I don’t get any say in the shopping. She buys it because she thinks I’ll lose weight.’

Look: if you’re going to make me a gin and tonic, make it properly: ice, high-end gin, boutique tonic, lemon not lime; or not at all.

3. I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. (See also: all reality TV; everything on boxed set.) I’m sure I’ve said it before, but seriously: it is such a huge waste of life. The other day, I actually found myself cogitating over why a man called Brian — of whose existence I had been blissfully unaware until the show started — had been booted off so shockingly early. I had a brain, once, which studied stuff like Gawain and the Green Knight and the Dream of the Rood. But then, if you believe the urban myth about all your cells replacing themselves every seven years, we’re talking four incarnations ago.

4. E-cigarettes. Cowards! Take your cancer and your shivering-outside-on-the-pavement social stigma like a man.

5. People who don’t go foxhunting. Hateful, hateful people.

Read the rest in the Spectator.