I don’t really like doing ‘hot takes’ on current news stories. I prefer to take a step back, let events unfold, and then muse everything over. I suppose though, this is an ongoing news story, it’s happened before, and I imagine, it will happen again. This week it was the death of Steven Dymond after his appearance on ITV’s The Jeremy Kyle show, we’ve lost Sophie Gradon and Mike Thalassitis from Love Island too. A report in March suggested that 38 people had lost their lives after being on ‘reality’ TV. It doesn’t sound like very many – 38 out of hundreds, probably thousands of people. It’s still 38 (or 39 now) too many.
What price fame? Not that… Surely?
The thing is, I love trashy TV. If you wandered in my office during the day, you’d probably find Judge Judy, Jeremy Kyle, Judge Rinder, Don’t Tell the Bride, Love Island playing away in the background. It’s great stuff to work to; it doesn’t require much attention, you can take the essence of it away with you with minimal effort. It’s baby food for the mind, all squished up and blended, ready to be spoon-fed into my brain.
I laugh at the terrible teeth on Jeremy Kyle, the sheer stupidity on Judge Judy, the idiots on Don’t Tell the Bride and worry about the future of society during Love Island. I know it’s the worst of television, but it’s entertaining.
These people aren’t participants on the shows because they are great intellectuals – they are ticking the production team’s boxes and filling a brief to make television as shocking, mocking or as car-crash as possible.
The Jeremy Kyle show really does scrape the bottom of the barrel and has been doing so for years. Tracksuit wearing people arguing over small sums of money, or their partner’s infidelity, all watched and antagonised by a tiny, shouty, man. Lie Detector and DNA Tests are the forte of The Jeremy Kyle show. People have their lives crushed and destroyed with cameras rolling. If you watch really carefully you can see their soul evaporating when they don’t get the DNA Test result they want, or they find out along with a studio full of people that their husband kissed their sister.
Lives get destroyed on stage, and then they are hastily booted off for the next circus to begin.
So much faith is put into the almighty ‘Lie Detector’ – which of course can prove deception – in MOST cases – but not all. Despite the disclaimer that flashes screen saying similar, Jeremy always seems to infer that the Lie Detector is 100% the word of God. He sneers and screams at those branded as ‘liars’, some of them probably deserve it. However, there will be cases, perhaps more than we realise, where people are shamed on TV and they haven’t actually done anything wrong. Imagine being disowned by your family, on television, and you haven’t ACTUALLY done anything wrong? Imagine your whole life crashing down around you when you thought you’d actually be able to prove your innocence? We don’t use lie detectors in the UK to prosecute people, because they aren’t entirely accurate – however, it’s fine when we’re waiting to deal out some TV studio ‘justice’ in Manchester.
I feel it’s worse for the addicts Jeremy Kyle has on – they pretty much have to beg for their trip to rehab. Every single aspect of their life and character gets turned over by Jeremy in front of the cameras until they are beyond broken, sobbing and destroyed. Only then will Jezza whisk them off in a Mercedes to begin treatment. He even says that he ‘needs to see’ how much they ‘want it’. It feels exploitative. I get the economics of it all, rehab isn’t cheap – the production has to make a show, they have to get their money’s worth out of a participant on screen. These people are at their lowest ebb, perhaps give them the help they need without the shouting, and gloating? It’s not as entertaining – granted, but if a show is in a position to help people, then perhaps they should without stamping on them a few times first..?
We’re promised that these participants are looked after in ‘aftercare’ something overseen on the Jeremy Kyle Show by ‘Director of Aftercare’ Graham Stanier. Graham is often seen on The Jeremy Kyle Show, playing the ‘good cop’ to Jeremy’s ‘bad’, calmly trying to bring the explosive situations on the screen back down to a simmer. It can’t be easy taking care of all the guests, they seem to churn through the stories at quite a pace in each episode. Is the care of guests slipping to feed our short attention spans? Some of these people are clearly in need of a lot of help, not just after the filming, or on the day of transmission but way beyond that. Is the ‘aftercare’ comprehensive enough?
As we hurtle towards summer, it also means that Love Island will be back on our screens. Including a cast of Adonises and Goddesses whose lives will become ours for as long as the public decide. We’ll see some heroes and villains, there will be bed-hopping, deceit, silliness and plenty of ‘bits’ done. I don’t really know why Love Island is so appealing, but it is – for the past two years I’ve been sucked in, glued to the screen, tweeting along and shouting at the poor life choices. I’m not alone, it’s one of ITV’s biggest shows – a true phenomenon. The words and sayings of the contestants become part of the country’s vocabulary in the blink of an eye.
It’s made celebrities out of the contestants when the show has wrapped many of them are thrown into the limelight. So many of the press events I attend will have one or more Love Island folk strutting around like they are Hollywood’s finest, they are papped, analysed, and torn to pieces in the press and social media. It must be very hard for the ‘Islanders’ to go from being slightly famous on Insta, to having the entire country analysing your every breath. Faces from your past selling every salacious detail of your past indiscretions to the press. Every single social media update will be rummaged through, the Twitter and Facebook Kangeroo Court deciding your guilt via their keyboards.
It must be horrible.
It’s not all bad for the Love Island stars. When they come out, they’ll probably end up with a management company – negotiating deals for teeth whitening, protein powder, and worryingly, cosmetic surgery endorsements. So with the ‘rough’ of public scrutiny comes the ‘smooth’ of celebrity and money.
What happens when the phone stops ringing? The sponsorship deals run out, and the management company have gone deathly silent?
“The light that burns twice as bright burns half as long”
Would Sophie Gradon and Mike Thalassitis still be around with better aftercare from the Love Island production company? We’ll never know, and that’s a real shame. We don’t seem to be preparing these people for the instant fame they achieve, and the way it can quickly disappear when everyone is fawning over the next year’s contestants. This isn’t a new phenomenon – it’s been happening for years now. Think about all the Big Brother contestants who were plastered everywhere when their series ended and were consigned into the reality TV History books a few months later.
We haven’t lost a Big Brother contestant to suicide though..
Is it because the world is a crueller, darker place now? Does social media mean that it’s far too easy to share your disdain of a minor celebrity directly to their faces? If the internet thinks you’re a knob, they will tell you – with aplomb. It might not hurt so much with a few voices here and there – however, the trolls are cruel, persistent, and personal, I can completely understand how it could end up being too much.
What’s the answer?
We don’t know if The Jeremy Kyle Show will be back yet – I imagine it will, but with more of a focus on the aftercare elements. Rightly so. These poor, humiliated folk need a lot of love, time and care to fix their issues. If their lives are going to be judged on TV, then help them defeat their demons – don’t just pat them on the back and send them off into the world. Similarly, the Love Island beast is waking from its winter slumber, we’ll see those beautiful people ‘grafting’ in a few weeks. Hopefully, things will be different for this years Islanders, and the support when they leave the Villa will be better than ever.
I hopeso – I really bloody hopeso.
Picture credit – ITV.