The axing of The Jeremy Kyle Show by ITV following the tragic death of participant Steven Dymond raises questions about the future suitability of many other audience-participation, reality TV shows and the public’s seemingly insatiable desire for accident-waiting-to-happen TV.
The Jeremy Kyle Show was a ratings success not so much for the issues it discussed, but because it had the potential for the unexpected to happen, whether that be an exposed lie, a full-scale family row, or a love rival’s head-butt. Millions watched, in anticipation of the accident-waiting-to-happen.
Many other TV shows pander to this same public desire. There is little doubt that an on-air mental or physical meltdown is a ratings booster. This explains the popularity of shows such as The Island with Bear Grylls, or SAS: Who Dares Wins. People do not watch these shows to learn about survival techniques should they ever find themselves trapped on a desert island or suddenly conscripted into the SAS, they watch them to witness the physical and mental suffering of the contestants; to see how far they can be pushed before they crack. And, while all these shows will employ the strictest measures to ensure the safety of their participants, there is no way to completely mitigate against the unexpected accident-waiting-to-happen.
How many times do we read the wise-after-the-event headlines relating to TV shows where an accident or fatality has occurred at some stage during production? Often it is followed by cries of outrage from media commentators and rival production companies, demanding better standards and regulatory watchdogs, but there is a hypocrisy at work here. TV companies will continue to make increasingly sensationalist, accident-waiting-to-happen TV simply because it is what the public wants to watch.
We are all spectators at the Colosseum now.
© Stephanie Snifter
Steph Snifter has been described as an accident-waiting-to-happen herself.