‘Let’s get Grahame on the show’: this week, columnist Zak Mahinfar examines that most ubiquitous of daytime TV shows, The Jeremy Kyle Show.
Inevitably this Christmas break I found myself channel-hopping and was reunited with what has become a staple of British Television: The Jeremy Kyle Show. I can’t say this was a pleasant re-union I hasten to add.
Still going? Of course it is. Celebrating its 10th anniversary in fact; thriving in the current climate where the hunt for a scapegoat to blame economic problems on is in full swing and where better to look than the working class, or as The Jeremy Kyle Show suggests: benefit scrounging, pot smoking, promiscuous and ignorant juveniles. Unashamed demonization of the people who our society has failed to serve the most. There was a time when I could stomach an entire episode, or at least a complete segment of the show, but now merely lingering on it in passing is nauseating.
Why must we resort to such blatant snobbery? How the dwindling state of social mobility in this country can be made the butt of a joke pervades me. And The Jeremy Kyle Show is subconscious, even conscious at times, snobbery that many engage in on a daily basis. Unfortunately, watching Jeremy Kyle doesn’t make you one above, it makes you one below. Surrendering to such docile subject matter as entertainment is apish to say the least. Who are we to pass judgement on these individuals?
But it does surprise me that a show of this nature and format is still readily embraced by today’s audiences. Accepted as a concrete fixture of daytime television. Jeremy’s sidekick, Grahame (of ‘aftercare’ fame), is a household name. Aftercare is a somewhat puzzling term; making it seem like the shows participants have suffered an anaphylactic shock, and need swiftly escorting to an emergency rehabilitation unit before they can be eased back into reality. Not so inaccurate an analogy.
Enter ravenous guests, seemingly having been kept in cages and prodded with cattle sticks before their release into the amphitheatre; an onslaught of insults, accusations and volatile language ensues, culminating with a signature Jeremy style intervention in which he will perch on his step of preference and commandeer the moral high ground before throwing fresh meat into the catfight. Any conventional episode will of course climax with a Lie Detector or DNA test, and afterwards, whatever’s left of the onslaught is swept off the stage and handed over to ‘aftercare’, which probably consists of writing a cheque and a pat on the back for a brilliant performance. They’ve employed bouncers; they’re basically encouraging spontaneous violent episodes. It would be more ethical to choreograph the cat-fights prior to broadcasting, maybe even get in a few martial arts experts to spruce it up. The more punches thrown, the better. It’s hardly an inspiring portrayal of the British public, and definitely not a wonder that the show has successfully crossed the Atlantic; perhaps exposing the true transparency of the programme and its petty antics as nothing more than a jumped up Jerry Springer.
Let’s not kid ourselves, the show isn’t about solving real problems, it’s about real-life drama and cheap entertainment. Rather than providing nuggets of wisdom to life-changing effect, Jeremy’s most frequently dispensed advice is ‘put something on the end of it,’ perhaps warranted but I hardly condone his good cop bad cop delivery. There’s something about his whole demeanour which I find displeasing. Conducting himself as a moral anchor for engaging in the strenuously charitable task of passing judgement and complete humiliation.
The animated passion he displays in delivering an irate public rollicking is frankly exhausting to watch. You’re left praying that any moment Grahame will pop up and slip him a tranquiliser before wheeling him of the stage with the rest of the cohort. Whether those who partake in the show know what they’re letting themselves in for, perhaps are even excited by the prospect of appearing on TV, just because someone voluntarily complies with their own exploitation it doesn’t make it any less immoral. I can’t stand it when he proclaims ‘This is what the show is all about’ referring to the uniting of an estranged family, or the revelation that a partner has in fact been faithful; outcomes that either way Jeremy claims to have predicted as if he possesses magical psychic powers. His role is simply to stick the wooden spoon in, give it a good stir, and watch the results unfold. Ultimately, it’s a TV show and there’s one motive at play. With a live, and sniggering, audience, it may as well be Mrs Browns Boys.
My question is, at what expense does all this ‘entertainment’ come at? When people are so downtrodden by society that they are more than willing to volunteer themselves to divulge the details of their dysfunctional and turmoil-filled lives on national TV. Do the circumstances not dictate an apathetic reaction rather than one in which they’re made a mockery of? Occasionally of course the show does veer in a ‘sob story’ direction, ones to tug on the heart strings. But these are few and far between, and largely transparent. Even celebrity specials have started cropping up. Like a Piers Morgan’s Life Stories for the Z-listers who’ve washed up their careers and are now truly scraping the bottom of the barrel with good ol’ Jezza and his gang of bandits.
Maybe off-screen Jez is a good guy but the public persona and premise of this television show I just can’t get on board with, so, for now at least, he’s in the bad books.
Zak Mahinfar, Online Features Columnistbookmark me