Something changed midway through Big Brother's ten-year run. Five years in and suddenly the mood of the audience had changed. On launch night, the fans' excitement about meeting the new housemates had transmogrified into a hunger for fresh meat.
Now the characters were being booed before they'd even entered the house. It's one thing to irritate the nation over the course of six weeks, but to ignite a crowd's hatred in the space of a 50-second VT takes considerable skill. Even if that means we have to grudgingly acknowledge that these contestants do actually have a discernible talent, after all.
The same goes for The Apprentice. I have to be honest - I'm just not that gripped by this year's rabble of jargon-spouting tosspots. Sure, I'll keep watching, because it's always good for a laugh. But I've really got no interest in who stays or goes any more, because it's no longer a competition. It's just a well-cast improvised comedy show.
Just look at the dialogue: "Is this an orange?" "I don't know." "Don't tell me the sky's the limit when there's footprints on the moon." The situations are contrived, the cast are briefed and the cameras roll. It's not a reality show, it's Curb Your Enthusiasm for cunts.
Never has the old cliche "people we love to hate" been more apropos. Fifteen minutes in their company and any sane person would have ground their teeth down to the jawbone. We no longer have favourites, just the ones we'd consider allowing to die quickly. In fact, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that in the next show, Lord Sugar will announce that the winners' treat is a long weekend in Eden Lake with no mobile phone signal.
The stars might claim to know what they're getting themselves into, but they can't possibly be prepared for all the hatred that the audience is about to fling at them, like bitter handfuls of monkey feces.
Unlike other entries in the genre, The Apprentice does have one key benefit - the whole series is recorded ahead of time. So at least we never have to suffer the curse of the self-aware contestant.
There's nothing more disturbing than a reality TV star who's been afforded a brief glimpse into how they're perceived by the public. Mistakenly assuming that bigger is better, they crank everything up to such a hysterical degree that any glimmer of humour disappears in an instant.
So how are we supposed to feel about the fact that TV producers have turned our LCD screens into the HD version of village stocks? The stars might claim to know what they're getting themselves into, but they can't possibly be prepared for all the hatred that the audience is about to fling at them, like bitter handfuls of monkey feces. Maybe it's time for us to take a step back and think about why we've developed a taste for vitriol.
Don't worry if you're not comfortable with all that soul-searching - there's another reality show heading down the pipeline to do it for you. Developed for the CW network, H8R gives celebrities the opportunity to talk back to their most vocal and venomous critics. But instead of going after the TV critics and social commentators, they'll be tackling ordinary members of the audience.
Unwitting participants are invited to slate their least favourite TV stars, only for the subject of their ire to burst in and confront them on camera. #awkward. The pilot episode is already in the can and, according to the New York Post, features Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi (the tangerine rhomboid from Jersey Shore) raging into a bar to tackle a guy who'd just told a film crew that her "birth was a hate-crime to Italians."
Thankfully, the incendiary moments were short-lived, as Snooki won over her critics by making them a home-cooked Italian meal. Sadly, Kim Kardashian didn't fare quite as well. By the end of the show, her 'hater' Deena confessed that she still doesn't have much time for the reality star, although she admitted that Kim does has a "few points" in her favour. But if you've seen her sex tape, you already have a working knowledge of them.
Show insiders have revealed that the rest of the season will also feature politicians and athletes attempting to rehabilitate their public image on a one-to-one basis. So if it's a hit, we can expect a UK version to follow. I'm placing bets on Imogen Thomas, Ryan Giggs and Nick Clegg for the premiere.
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