15 Jan 2011

Dear Car Crash TV (Part 2)

TV shows - or car crash TV, like their detractors call (some of) them - tend to expose the vagaries of the human mind while tackling their core subject in a fly-on-the-wall format, which translate spontaneity into a certain rawness and grit: unplanned, controversial reactions or decisions, eccentricities, inflated egos, character flaws and weaknesses, often a direct result of limited show preparation/ research, time and budget constraints and/ or inappropriate candidates/ subject matter.

Yet car crash TV delivers a clear and simple message: to fill air time with a broad/ mass-appeal approach, accent on images, (wanna-sound) witty comments, a light-hearted tone from the commentators/ protagonists, with contents based more on first impressions than on deep analysis, never pretending to be educational or elevational, although you might glean the odd snippet of useful information relevant to you; whether this be next season's hot fashion trend, the latest anti-ageing injectable, a tip on building that water feature, or how to maximise your semi's kerb appeal: bonus! That's what car crash TV is about: to take you away - on the cheap maybe - from your own boring reality and banality by immersing you into someone else's, and entertain you in the process.

Subliminal? Via TV History. Click image for higher res view.
Back to my own CCTV (car crash TV) experience, what programmes were we talking about? In a no 'name-and-shame' exercise, and without passing judgement (we'll try...), let us quickly mention lifestyle shows in their broadest sense (fashion, beauty, diet, dating, travel, music, consumer issues), home design/ improvement (including the odd MTV Crib), property search, relocation, business recruitment drama series (featuring no less than our very own member of the Establishment, good old Sir Alan), down to the odd (odd being the word!), Miami Ink, motor programmes (from the sublime to the ridiculous), and further down to Ground Zero of zero glamour (Neighbours from Hell, Wife Swap), flirting on a par with reality TV at its simplest unicellular form (Big Brother, I'm a Celebrity etc.).

So you get the picture, and what a great picture you get of yours truly... Attention image management consultants, could you please head this way and salvage what's left of my dented reputation!

Charlie's water features would never compare to this one.
Hand on heart, these weren't programmes I would necessarily choose to watch in the cold light of day but they served their purpose back then, like a good old chocolate therapy session would, when my brain on overload wanted to turn off while I was still too wound up to go off to bed or even consider a more intellectual TV pursuit. Dear car crash TV, I believe that in your own simplistic way you did good to my sanity.

The car crash TV format is convenient too (so to speak) in that its regular advertising slots (every 12 to 15 minutes!) would spur me into action (most times) to put the kettle on, (un)load the washer, raid the cupboards some more, or squeeze a spot of washing-up/ delicates hand-washing/ make-up removal/ nail painting/ bill paying/ birthday card writing (frankly god knows what!).

Phil & Kirstie: two peas in C4's property pod
In conclusion, there was more that met the eye than just crashing in front of car crash TV. It kept me sane and encouraged housekeeping productivity. Yet as it was, car crash TV was no food for the soul, it had nothing to do with brain surgery (does cosmetic blepharoplasty count?) or rocket science, but it never pretended to be in the first place. It was entertaining, demanding nothing in return, was easy on the eye and on the mind, and hollow enough to distract me from my day in the office. Its voyeuristic approach about girl/ guy next door made me feel better about myself, my looks, my house, my prospects, and generally about my own problems. It subconsciously gave me some perspective, a slightly warped social benchmark nonetheless, but we'll leave that to sociologists and psychoanalysts. Sigmund Freud would have had a field day with it!

And in the process of it all, I got punked, pimped, toasted, crimped, preened, cinched and - yes - somewhat pampered by car crash TV!

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