Saturday, July 29

The Stupids Are Taking Over

Televisionreview’s youngest star, Jamie Stern-Weiner, regrets turning on last week’s television at all

I remember a time when it was possible to turn on the TV and actually watch an intelligent, stimulating programme. A programme that provoked thoughts instead of melting them dead. You know, back when Channel 4 remembered its mission statement, and when the BBC wasn’t just a big fat ratings whore, and didn’t always resort to lowest common denominator TV to try justify its existence.

Well, last week I was feeling nostalgic and, my eyes all dreamy, made the mistake of turning on the box. First up was Film Four, the movie service from Channel 4 that on Sunday became free (I guess it wasn’t doing very well). They had only been running for four nights, and so I figured they would still be pulling out all the stops to impress curious viewers. I was anticipating a classy, classic movie, perhaps a Kubrick or a Lynch. What I got was Zoolander, (Tuesday, Film 4, 9pm) which turned out to be exactly the kind of film you’d expect a movie directed by and starring Ben Stiller to be: mind-numbingly stupid. It’s basically 89 minutes of Ben Stiller dressing up in ridiculous clothes and saying stupid things in a stupid voice. Apparently, it’s a "satire of the fashion industry" – Chris Morris can rest at ease.

Disgusted, I flicked over to Film Four’s stunted sister (or ugly cousin), Channel 4. In the few seconds of blackness while the Freeview box was switching channels, I found religion. I closed my eyes and prayed. I prayed that Hollyoaks would not be on, or Big Brother, or that episode of Friends where Ross says the wrong name. I opened my eyes to be confronted with, "Most of the housemates are in the garden", and lost it again. Yes, Big Brother (Channel 4, E4, all the bloody time) is still going on – I had moved from an actor pretending to be stupid to a group of people who are the real deal. You’ve got to feel sorry for the producers – most of the big characters have gone and everyone’s getting bored. They’ve tried desperately to liven it up, but it just ain’t working – currently, they have converted the secret house-next-door into a prison, and half the housemates are dressed up as convicts and confined in there. The other half have become Prison Guards, dressed in pink and black uniforms (pictured).

Secretly, the prisoners have been shown another hidden room, filled with luxury, chocolate and booze. You can see how it might have sounded good on paper, but it’s all so yawn. What would be interesting is if it turned into a repeat of the famous Stanford Prisoner Experiment, (really pictured) when the designated prisoner guards became sadistic and authoritarian, and the prisoners became depressed and stressed out. Michael is already expressing his love of the uniform, declaring that he feels "powerful" and that he will teach the "scum" next door a lesson, "wiping the smile of Spiral’s face" for good. A slight twitch in his eye gave the impression he was only half joking. Sadly, a gory free-for-all remains unlikely in the remainder of this year’s Big Boredom.

My brain was starting to fall asleep, so I hurriedly turned over to Newsnight (BBC2, Monday-Friday, 10.30pm) . At least there I could enjoy some intellectually engaging material, right? Well, no actually. Instead what I got were more stupids, this time in suits. When I joined the fray, some Israeli official - Gideon Meir - was in the middle of saying that Israel does not want to harm civilians, and has fully cooperated with humanitarian agencies in delivering aid to Lebanese civilians. I leaned forward, anticipating the presenter’s savage reply. Surely, I reasoned, she would laugh at this ridiculous statement, and point out the fact that Israel refused to allow any aid to reach civilians for eight days, or quote some of the many statements from aid agencies deploring Israeli non-cooperation. Perhaps she might mention the fact that only that day, Israeli jets bombed a UN office 29 times, despite repeated pleas to stop. "Right", she said, and moved on.

By this point, my brain had started dripping out my ear-holes, forming a soft gloop on the floor. ‘The stupids are taking over the world’, I thought to myself, before slipping into a coma. With my last conscious action, I did the only sensible thing, and turned the bloody thing off.

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