TV execs need to think about what would happen if a contestant were to suffer serious psychiatric damage, die or to commit suicide.
When will the torture ever end? It’s a question we should all be asking ourselves now that I’m a Celebrity is back on the telly. And I’m not talking about the bushtucker trials.
Already one of the contestants, ex-EastEnder Elaine Lordan, has left the show after a health scare. She follows in the footsteps of Johnny Rotten, Brian Harvey, Natalie Appleton and Daniella Westbrook, who all cracked under the strain of demonstrating evidence of a personality while worrying about where to find soft toilet paper and the latest copy of Heat.
But how long are broadcasters going to wait in their quest for ratings in this 21st century version of the Victorian freak show before someone really does suffer? They may claim it’s all just innocent entertainment – just like the freak show proprietors 100 years ago – but we know it’s far more about guilty profit.
And what will happen when a contestant on one of the many UK reality shows suffers serious psychiatric damage, or dies, or commits suicide? Even the most cynical TV exec would draw the line at a celebrity suicide, but only because it would be bad PR – in reality they’d be thinking about the biggest ratings success of the year.
They need to start thinking about the consequences of what they are doing before it happens – and before the lawyers lining up like vultures to represent the “victims” of American reality shows cash in.
At least the celebs in the jungle have a support network of agents and publicists to protect them. But what about the latest herd of lambs being led to the slaughter in Space Cadets, Channel 4’s latest wheeze in the increasingly unreal world of, erm, reality TV?
This bunch of mugs – sorry, contestants – think they’ve entered a “reality” show which takes them to Russia to be trained as astronauts before blasting them into space. In reality, they’re somewhere in England and won’t be leaving terra firma at all, but will be exposed as gullible cretins for our amusement.
It’s one thing to humiliate acquiescent D-list celebs who are willing to pay the price in order to relaunch their moribund careers. It’s quite another to take nine “ordinary” people whose only crime is to share what was until recently every schoolboy’s dream of becoming an astronaut.
Now, of course, every schoolboy and schoolgirl’s dream is to be famous and this is the first step on the ladder. But unlike the celebs, whose worst fate is that they end up on a satellite game show, these wannabe astronauts are doomed to be remembered evermore as the mugs of the century. They’ll come out of there with “loser” tattooed across their foreheads and will be defined by their failure for life.
I’m all for people getting their 15 minutes of fame – I’m paid to help them! – but this is too much. It’s time the TV companies took more responsibility for the casualties they create.