Wednesday, 22 August 2012

The Great British Public and TV Shows

When I’m pottering around the house, my normal background companion is BBC Radio 4. Rarely will I watch daytime TV and when I do I find that its general vacuuity quickly renders me comatose.
Almost inevitably, sooner or later whichever channel (Dave? Yesterday? Braindead TV?) is providing my subconscious snooze-a-thon will air a rerun of a “classic” game show. The usual favourites are Wheel of Fortune, Family Fortunes, Countdown and, that old chestnut, Catchphrase. It wasn’t until recently, however, that I made the mistake of actually watching a sizable chunk of an episode of Family Fortunes over lunchtime (My excuse? It was on, I was too lazy to move as I was engrossed in my sandwich and, let's face it, sometimes pressing the remote control is just too much effort). As I watched I became entranced, nay hypnotised, by the spectacle unfolding before my eyes and I began to wonder… where on earth do they find these people?
I remember one of the questions that came up on that fateful show (this is not a joke – this is the real question and the real answers). Les Dennis was the unfortunate individual having to interact with the cretinous contestants, and he had to go along the line of family members and get a suggested answer from each of them. Here’s how it went:

Question: Name a phrase which people often use to mean "stop talking".
Answer A: "Stop shouting".
Answer B: "Stop talking".

Answer C: "Stop talking".
Answer D: "Stop shouting".

Even poor old Les was momentarily speechless after these responses.
I already have a fairly low opinion of the general public (oooh really?), but it mystifies me which particular rocks they have to search under to find people so utterly lacking in either intelligence or imagination. You might have noticed if you watch any kind of game show on British TV that all the contestants are pretty much evenly matched. Can you imagine what would happen if they got this wrong? Think of the chaos that would ensue if a Mastermind contestant somehow managed to get onto a show like Catchphrase? I reckon that there must be some kind of behind-the-scenes filtering process which sorts potential contestants into shows appropriate to their level of intellect. I imagine something along these lines:

Question: Where would you normally find a campanologist?
Answer A: In a bell tower.
Answer B: On a campsite.
Answer C: In a gay bar.
Answer D: That's not really a word. You've just made it up!

And here is where I suspect picking each of these answers would lead you:
Answer A: Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.
Answer B: Family Fortunes.
Answer C: Catchphrase.
Answer D: Big Brother.

One thing is for sure; no matter whether it's Family Fortunes, Catchphrase or Big Brother, the Great British Public will never cease to amaze, perplex and entertain me with their seemingly limitless capacity for self-induced ritual humiliation. Gold medals to all!

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