In search of new talent, ‘reality’, or relocation

Why do television executives insist on the continual development of reality re-housing and relocation programmes? Aside from the obvious answer – which is that it’s one of the cheapest ‘entertainment’ forms to produce – there really can’t be any excusable reason. No one enjoys watching other people move in real life, so what is it doing being beamed directly into our living rooms? Imagine it: crowds of excited children chasing after removal vans, adults lining the streets with flags and placards displaying heart-warming platitudes, OAPs forming street blockades with their mobility scooters so as to catch one last glimpse of the procession. There are many, many very good reasons why this doesn’t happen.

I’ve just switched on to probably the worst offender, Escape to the Country (BBC2), where factory produced presenters guide gormless, implausibly well-off couples around several examples of prime-British bucolic real-estate. Each episode concludes with Jonnie (among others) demanding the audience sacrifice still more time whilst the couple in question proceed with their tedious decision making process, which normally concludes with the pair stating their dislike for all properties involved anyway. After 45 minutes wasted everyone feels ready to “escape to the country”. Or at least a local field. With a revolver.

At least other shows of its kind proffer something in the way of variation, usually incorporating vaguely foreign locations to make tuning in worthwhile. In its absence, the Beeb aren’t really offering me much that I can’t access without sticking my head outside the window. Safe from bird faeces, admittedly, although this seems an unlikely benefit to have been discussed in pre-development meetings.

However, other than the monstrous crimes being committed against the eyes/ears/soul of any unsuspecting viewer, the most worrying factor must surely be: who are the people enjoying this, those individuals wilfully tuning to watch televised housing retail?
Come on, they must be out there, otherwise such programmes would have been discarded by now, useless in the inter-channel ratings war. Fact: if something is a waste of time, it is confined to history. Proof: the dinosaurs copped it when they got bigger and more disproportioned than is ever sensible.

And yet, only a small alteration to the name would make it the most watched thing on television. Escape the Country: a reality-tv-cum-game-show whereby contestants sell their houses and use the funds to barter passage off this squalid island. The added twist being that they must achieve such a feat whilst evading Jonnie, a psychotic android programmed to chase them with Terminator-style ruthlessness. I can already think of just one possible catchphrase at his disposal for when he finally corners, and massacres, the most hapless of contestants: “Here’s Jonnie!”

Speaking of escaping the country, Britain’s Got Talent (ITV1) is back. Amazingly, Britain is now, apparently, so full of talented people that an American is required to judge the various hopefuls. How on earth have we reached the point where there are fewer talented British people on the box than eagerly auditioning to appear on it? I imagine it has something to do with them all pissing off to the countryside.


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